Lawrence Cherry county captain

Stoneham’s Lawrence Cherry will send his team out to face Kent at Liphook GC, in his first league match as captain, on Sunday. Picture by ANDREW GRIFFIN / AMG PICTURES

COUNTY captain Lawrence Cherry will attempt to improve on Hampshire’s recent record against Kent when the two teams clash at Liphook, on Sunday.

The stakes are high this season after Dorset pulled out of the South East League after a 27-year stay, opting to join the England Golf’s South West Channel League.

The switch leaves just Hampshire, Sussex, Kent and Surrey to fight it out for the South Division title – and a place in October’s South East League Final – while five counties battle it out to win the North Division.

One less fixture each season means that every other year, Hampshire will have two home games – starting in 2023 – and one away, while they face two away next season, with that pattern repeating going forward.

Whereas three wins and one defeat could be enough to win the South Division in the past, the new format means every individual game point could be critical if two counties end up with two wins and a defeat or a draw.

Cherry, who became the youngest player to captain the Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands team in at last 75 years, back in February, might see starting his period in post with two home games as an advantage.

But having lost their annual first fixture against Dorset just four times in 26 matches since 1992, their percentage win-ratio against Kent is lower at 52 per cent since 1999.

Hamphire have won 12 out of the last 23 matches against Kent, with eight of those victories coming at home, and the visitors winning three times.

Two years ago, with the country still coming out of the first lockdown during the pandemic, Hampshire faced Kent at Hockley with matches reduced to just eight singles games to reduce the need for overnight stays.

Captain Neil Dawson was left to sweat for his second win of the season as Lee-on-the-Solent’s George Saunders produced the winning point at a breezy Hockley after eagling the last.

Cherry will send out his team to face Kent on the glassy greens at Liphook having had his planning disrupted by the English Amateur Strokeplay taking place at Sunningdale, this weekend, which has deprived him of three players who would have been instrumental in his selections.

Former Great Britain and Ireland international Darren Wright claimed the Brabazon Trophy in 2010, beating the likes of Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrell Hatton and a very young John Rahm at Hoylake.

The former EuroPro Tour winner, who returned to the amateur ranks in 2018, was granted an exemption for this year’s Brabazon as a past winner.

The ex-England international is still one of only 10 players to land theCarris and Brabazon double in their career, as England Boys and Men’s Strokeplay champion, having claimed the U18s title in 2006, at Sherwood Forest.

None of the five Hampshire squad members who entered last week’s Brabazon South Qualifier at Golf of Goodwood earned a spot at Sunningdale.

But Saunders got in as a last-minute replacement from the reserve list after missing out by a shot on one of 18 automatic spots available at the West Sussex club.

Before Cherry picked his squad to face Kent – who have two England internationals playing at Sunningdale – he agreed that both Wright, from Rowlands Castle, and Test Valley’s English Mid-Amateur Champion Stuart Archibald, who was exempt as the Logan Trophy winner, would not feature in the league match – even if they missed the cut at Sunningdale, on Friday.

Instead, another of Hampshire’s mid-am veterans returns to the squad to face Kent in the shape of Rowlands Castle’s Colin Roope, who was a member of the 2017 English County Championship-winning team, before succeeding Young as captain.

A long-term shoulder injury limited his playing opportunities in his second year as captain, and he last turned out for Dawson in 2021 against his old county Surrey.

Last year’s English Amateur semi-finalist Charlie Forster, who is now playing out of Basingstoke having been a member at North Hants since he was 16, was the last of the county’s US college kids to return home earlier this week.

Having made his debut in the home defeat against Sussex, at Hayling, last summer – before his run to the last four at Lindrick – the 2021 South of England Boys Open winner will be keen to show the form that brought his first win for Southeastern Louisiana in September.

Bramshaw’s former European Junior Open winner Joe Buenfeld and Jersey’s 2021 county champion Jo Hacker – who play at Texas’ Incarnate Word and Florida’s Jacksonville Dolphins respectively – return a year older and wiser with two seasons of county golf and NCAA experience in the States under their belts.

Vice-captain Toby Burden, from Hayling will be Cherry’s leader out on the course, particularly in the critical morning foursomes, playing on his favourite course, where he lost in the 2009 county final.

Meanwhile Martin Young (Brokenhurst Manor) will again defy age, having turned 53, to bring nearly 25 years’ experience at county level to the fairways, having suffered a painful leg injury during the winter.

Cherry was keeping his foursomes pairings close to his chest, but Young partnered North Hants’ Robert Wheeler in the pre-season friendly against the Channel Islands.

The 21-year-old, from Aldershot, who has spent two years at Cornwall’s Tournament Golf College, is in line for his league debut on Sunday, when they play Kent in four foursomes and eight singles matches.

Hockley’s Luke Hodgetts, winner of Blackmoor’s Selborne Salver, last year. who was a member of the Hampshire Colts team led by Cherry that won the 2022 South East League for the first time since 2016, and Stoneham’s Harrison Pake, make up the rest of the squad.

The latter also made his first-team debut against the Channel Islands, last month having reached the last four of the 2022 county championship, ending Burden’s run to what could have been a fourth final in a row.

SQUAD – HAMPSHIRE V KENT (Liphook GC, May 28): Toby Burden (Hayling); Colin Roope (Rowlands Castle); Martin Young (Brokenhurst Manor); Charlie Forster (Basingstoke); Joe Buenfeld (Bramshaw); Jo Hacker (La Moye); Robert Wheeler (North Hants); Luke Hodgetts (Hockley); Harrison Pake (Stoneham);

•South East League Tables

Kent Luke Hodgetts

Last year’s Selborne Salver Luke Hodgetts, from Hockley GC, is set to play in his second league match. Picture by ANDREW GRIFFIN / AMG PICTURES





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