HAMPSHIRE will blood two members of the county’s U18 team for their second match in the new Challenge League, when captain Lawrence Cherry’s team travel to Sussex on Sunday.
The new Hampshire first-team captain – who is combining the role with the Challenge team, which has replaced the South East Colts League for 2023 – sat out the first game, which ended in a 9-3 defeat against Sussex at Aldershot’s Army GC, last month.
Cherry, who was getting over the effects of jet-lag having just returned from his honeymoon, watched from the sidelines a Sussex team sprinkled with players with regular first-team experienced ran away with the match.
At 26, the youngest Hampshire captain in at least 70 years, and possibly in the county’s 129-year history, was unbeaten as a playing-captain in the Hampshire U26s team that claimed the league title in 2022.
He is back in the line-up for the trip to the weekend trip to Willingdon GC – a second defeat with just two more matches against South Division rivals Kent to come, will almost certainly end any hopes of reaching the first final of the new format competition.
Cherry said on his appointment that he would look to use the Challenge League to give experience to younger players in the county squads. So into the team comes Hartley Wintney’s Charlie Preston and Stoneham’s Harrison Price.
In the past few years, players under 18 were prevented from appearing in the Colts league after the maximum age was raised from 21 to 23, and then to 26, since Hampshire reached three finals in a row up until 2016.
Five players who made their Challenge League debuts against Sussex, keep their places in the team. Stoneham’s Harrison Pake – who made his first-team debut against the Channel Islands, at Royal Jersey GC, in April, comes into the side, replacing Lee-on-the-Solent’s Aman Uddin, who picked up his team’s sole point in the singles last month.
Royal Jersey’s James Draisfield, who impressed playing against Hampshire in the pre-season friendly, travels to the mainland again, joining Stoneham’s Mat Thomas, Rowlands Castle’s Harry Fairclough and Blackmoor’s Robbie Boxall, who all faced Sussex in the home match.
Lawrence said: “Obviously it was disappointing to lose like that in the first game, but whether Sussex were using the match to warm up for their first men’s team match or not, I am not sure, but they certainly went with a very experienced line-up.
“We made a couple of mistakes along the way, and six points might have been a bigger winning margin than it should have been, but the Challenge League was always going to be about learning and gaining experience for the future.
“Charlie and Harrison have done well over the last couple of years in junior golf, so they have earned the right to step up and find out how they cope with the men’s golf.”
Cherry’s options were reduced by the fixture clashing with this weekend’s Berkshire Trophy, with Hodgetts, who led the team last time out, travelling to The Berkshire GC.
Lee-on-the-Solent’s Will Green who has enjoyed a successful first season at University of New Mexico, playing junior college golf in the NCJGAA, is playing in England’s most historic 72-hole strokeplay event after the Brabazon.
Hampshire first-team squad members Charlie Forster, who has switched from North Hants to Basingstoke GC, and Bramshaw’s Joe Buenfeld – last weekend’s Pechell Salver and Hampshire Youths (U21) winner at the county championships – is also at the Ascot club.
After Sussex, Hampshire entertain Kent at Paulton’s GC, on July 23, with the return fixture at Chiselhurst GC, on August 27.