HAMPSHIRE’S youngest captain in more than 75 years will send his first team out into action against the Channel Islands at Royal Jersey, on Saturday.
Stoneham’s 26-year-old Lawrence Cherry, who took over from Neil Dawson back in February, will blood three debutants in Stoneham’s Harrison Pake, Aman Uddin, from Lee-on-the-Solent GC, and North Hants’ Robert Wheeler, fresh off the back of his fourth-place finish in the Hampshire Hog, on Sunday.
That was the best finish by a North Hants player since Justin Rose won the Hog as a 14-year-old back in 1995.
Meanwhile last year’s Selborne Salver winner Luke Hodgetts, from Hockley GC, will also feature, having made his South East League debut in the heavy defeat against Surrey, which brought the curtain down on Dawson’s three-year tenure, in August.
Cherry is without two of his most experienced campaigners in vice-captain Toby Burden, from Hayling, and Rowlands Castle’s former Great Britain and Ireland international Darren Wright, who finished seventh in last weekend’s Hampshire Hog after a sparking 67 in his second round.
But Brokenhurst Manor’s three-time Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Champion Martin Young, who led the county to their first English County Championship in 21 years back in 2017, is on the plane heading from Southampton to Jersey for the Channel Islands clash.
And that is very significant because in 2017, Young came up just short in his bid to win a fourth Sloane-Stanley Challenge Cup when he lost to Shanklin & Sandown’s Jordan Sundborg, in the county championship final, played at Royal Jersey, overlooking the island’s east cost.
Lawrence, who led the Hampshire Colts to the South East League title for the first time in six years last season, said: “Obviously, it’s a big learning curve sending out my first team this weekend.
“We won’t get to play a practice round but Martin has share his yardage books from the 2017 county final to give everyone a look at the course features they need to be aware of for the Channel Islands match.
“The group are all part of the squad I selected back in January to work together towards our aim to try and win the South East League for the first time since 2012.
“This friendly against the Channel Islands is our first competitive fixture – it might be a friendly, but they can put out a side that is as strong as some counties we could face, so this is a great chance for the newcomers to make their mark and make my selection choices even harder going forwards.
“It is still early in the year, but I will be looking at the foursomes partnerships I put out, to see if people are well suited.
“Obviously we have three or four guys at college in the States who have played for Neil over the past two years and they are very much in my thoughts for our first league match against Kent at the end of May.”
But Cherry may be forgiven for still not being too focused on that first league game of 2023 – now that Dorset have pulled out of the South Division of the league, to move into the South West Channel League, leaving Hampshire with just three matches against Kent, Sussex and Surrey.
Before the former Hampshire Boys captain picks his team to take on Kent at Liphook, on May 28, there is the slight matter of his forthcoming marriage and honeymoon.
Lawrence laughed: “Oh yes, I am getting married next weekend – and Izzie and I are off on honeymoon in Mauritius after that.
“She has been very understanding about me taking on the county captaincy, having changed jobs from Stoneham to North Hants as well in the past eight months, it has all been a bit of a whirlwind.
“I will be back a couple of weeks before the Kent match, and I will, of course, be talking to Toby and our new county coach Kev Flynn – who already works with a number of our players – to assess who is playing well between Jersey and the Kent team being picked.
“There is the Brabazon South Qualifier at Goodwood on May 20 – but if any of our players do well there, and make it to the English Strokeplay, at Sunningdale, it clashes with the Kent game so they would miss out.”
The date of the English Amateur Strokeplay has moved around in recent years, and the swtich to the Whitsun Bank Holiday weekend, means that Wright, the winner at Hoylake back in 2010, will miss Cherry’s first league game because of the exemption England Golf have given the former EuroPro Tour winner.
Cherry was keen to stress that his picks this weekend, will not necessarily influence his thoughts come the end of May – and that equally applies to the players from Jersey and Guernsey who line up against them in Saturday afternoon’s foursomes, before the eight singles matches on Sunday morning.
Lawrence added: “This is just as much a chance for the Channel Island players to impress me. They are part of our golf union and are equally eligible to play for the county in the league matches.
“Obviously Joe Hacker, from La Moye, won the county championship in 2021, but is still out at Florida’s Jacksonville University. There is nothing to stop other Islanders following him into the county side.”
Cherry can also count on the experience of Test Valley’s English Mid-Amateur Champion Stuart Archibald, who missed the Selborne Salver through injury.
The 2006 county champion – who had more than 10 years playing and winning on the EuroPro and MENA Tours after turning pro in 2009 – is joined by county veteran Mark Burgess, who has played in the three English County Finals.
The 6ft 7ins tall mid-amateur has won the Courage Trophy – Hampshire’s Strokepay Championship – twice, as well as being the only Blackmoor player to have won the Selborne Salver in nearly 50 years.
He was also a member of the 2009 Hampshire team that shared the Daily Telegraph Salver with Hertfordshire after the league final ended in a tie, and has been a regular in the eight-man team ever since his debut that year.
•You can follow live scoring on both days here.
Hampshire team: Lawrence Cherry (Stoneham, capt); Martin Young (Brokenhurst Manor); Stuart Archibald (Test Valley); Mark Burgess (Blackmoor); Luke Hodgetts (Hockley); Harrison Pake (Stoneham); Aman Uddin (Lee-on-the-Solent); Robert Wheeler (North Hants);
Channel Islands: Danny and Jamie Blondel, Tom Pattimore (L’Ancresse); James Draisey, Josh Ozard, Matthew Parkman (Royal Jersey); Jeremy Nicolle (Royal Guernsey); Richard Ramskill (La Moye).