CHARLIE Forster is bidding to become the first Hampshire player to land the Amateur Championship since Harry Ellis seven years ago, after knocking out one of the favourites at Ballyliffin, on Thursday morning.

The 21-year old from Basingstoke GC came through the first round of the matchplay in Ireland, on Wednesday, by knocking out European Amateur Champion Jose Luis Ballester Barrio, from Spain.

Forster moved to California’s Long Beach State University a year ago after two very successful seasons at Southeastern Louisiana University, where he claimed his maiden victory in the Southland Conference, in September 2022, and was voted its Player of the Year in 2023.

After a steady first season playing for the 105th ranked NCAA team – Long Beach State won the Big West Championship in April – Forster has quietly gone about his business since returning to the UK a month ago, after finishing in fourth place in his final event of the US college season as Long Beach recorded their best-ever finish in the NCAA Regional Finals, in May.

Having helped Hampshire to victory against Kent in the opening South East League match of the season at the end of May, Forster began his preparation for the Amateur Championship in earnest, finishing ninth in the Scottish Amateur Strokeplay Championship, at Muirfield.

Two years ago, he came within a whisker of becoming the first Hampshire player to reach the English Amateur Championship final since Scott Gregory in 2014, when he lost to Yorkshire’s George Ash in the semi-finals at Lindrick.

Two years later, Gregory, from Corhampton, became the first-ever Hampshire-born amateur to win the world’s oldest Amateur Championship – earning a place in the 2016 Open at Royal Troon, followed by invites to the 2017 Augusta Masters and the 2017 US Open.

He earned this career changing invites after beating Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre in the 36-hole final at Royal Portchcawl, but has since struggled in the professional ranks while the left-hander he beat by one-hole has flourished, helping Europe to victory in the Ryder Cup, in Italy, in September, and recording his first victory on the PGA Tour at the RBC Canadian Open last month.

Now Forster is edging closer with the England selectors out in force on the North West Ireland coast, seeing for themselves who the 2021 Hampshire Junior Champion’s game has matured on the West Coast, having been a very late starter.


Hampshire Junior Champion Charlie Forster

Charlie Forster became the fifth player from North Hants GC to win the Hampshire Junior Championship in 2021. Picture by ANDREW GRIFFIN / AMG PICTURES

Charlie – the former South of England Boys Open winner – booked his place in the last 16 with a crushing 5&4 win over Royal Dublin’s Max Kennedy, the only surviving Irish hope in the last 32 who clashed on Ballyliffin’s 7,542-yard Glashedy Course, after the famous Old Links was used in the 36-hole qualifiers on Monday and Tuesday.

Kennedy lost the second with a bogey and Forster doubled his lead by claiming the third with his first birdie of the day. The next seven holes were halved in pars, but Charlie produced fireworks from the 11th with back-to-back birdies to double his lead.

The Dubliner needed spectacular golf of his own to stand any chance of extending the match beyond the 18th to test Forster’s stamina after his previous day’s exertions.

But Kennedy made a damaging bogey at the par-five 14th, but Forster’s birdie-four was enough to set up victory at the next, as the 200-yard hole was parred in threes.

Knocking out last year’s European Amateur Champion – currently ranked No. 14 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings – is the biggest scalp Forster has claimed so far at international level,

The Spaniard is following in Masters and US Open winner Jon Rahm footsteps, as a player at Arizona State, where Surrey’s Paul Casey also made his reputation in US college golf, breaking several of Tiger Woods’ records.

The highly rated Spaniard was a runner-up in the 2019 Boys’ Amateur Championship, shot a five-under par 65 on Ballyliffin’s Old Links to take second seed in the matchplay draw.

Sergio Garcia won The Amateur Championship in 1998 and 20-year-old Ballester Barrio, who is coached by Garcia’s father Victor, was hoping to take another giant step toward matching his hero’s exploits winning the R&A’s blue riband event, which dates back to 1893 – the same year that the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Golf Union – the oldest in England– was formed.

Charlie Forster

Forster reached the semi-finals of the English Amateur Championship in 2022. PIcture by ANDREW GRIFFIN / AMG PICTURES

Forster faces Germany’s Schiergen Laurenz with a place in Friday’s quarter-finals up for grabs.

The Kansas State University player is ranked 2,054 in the world – Forster is currently No. 403 having reached a peak of 387th, having also finished eighth in the Big West Championship, his Conference championship back in April.

Last year Charlie finished third in The Berkshire Trophy – one of England’s most prestigious 72-hole strokeplay tournaments – and claimed victory in the Peter Alliss Memorial at Hindhead GC, in July.

He was knocked out of the Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Championship by Darren Walkley, who played on the Challenge Tour and Germany’s Pro Tour, before returning to the amateur ranks last season but missed this year’s event as he was playing in the St Andrews Links Trophy, which was won by Justin Rose in 1997, shortly before his Walker Cup debut.

Wright missed out on playing Walker Cup at his peak – he is still one of only 10 players to have won both the English Boys’ and Men’s Amateur Strokeplay titles in their career.

EuroPro Tour winner Wright said after losing to Forster at the 21st hole in the quarter-finals a year ago: “That is some the longest and straightest hitting I have witnessed in my time as an amateur and pro.

“There has been a lot of talk about Charlie after his run to the semis in the English Amateur – but I was very impressed,” added Darren, who beat a very young Jon Rahm when claiming the Brabazon Trophy at the English Amateur Strokeplay, at Royal Liverpool, in 2010, four years after winning the Carris Trophy.

Forster is now poised to add to his growing reputation on both sides of the Atlantic in one of the top two amateur championships in the world.

Long Beach State Big West Championship

Charlie Forster (fourth from right) celebrates Long Beach State’s win in the Big West Championship in April. PIcture LONG BEACH STATE UNIVERSITY

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