DARREN Walkley suffered heartbreak on countback for the second time in a year, as he missed out on the biggest win of his amateur career by a whisker.

Liphook GC’s former player on Europe’s mini-pro tours lost out by virtue of a worse score in the Hampshire Hog, as Essex’s Jackson Garnett claimed the Hampshire Salver.

The Five Lakes GC member shot an excellent 67 in the second round at Fleet’s North Hants GC, on Sunday, to pip Walkley – last year’s beaten finalist in the Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Championship.

A dejected Darren revealed how gutted he was to miss out after Sunday’s presentation – delayed by a four-hole play-off in the gloom to decide the Hog winner.

He said: “I don’t like losing on countback. In the professional ranks you always have a play-off when two or more are tied at the top.

“I have no problem if I lose in a play-off – I just think it’s a fairer way of deciding the big titles, not who had the best score over the last three, six, nine, 12, or 18 holes, whatever.

“It was the same at the county champs last summer. I know I have said I play to enjoy myself, but when I am out there, I am trying to win – nothing else,” added Darren, who regained his amateur status two years ago

Walkley was also denied the Pechell Salver – for the best qualifying score in the county championship at Hockley, in June – again by virtue of a countback.

Darren, who says that while golf is nowhere near as important as when he had to provide for his young family as an aspiring pro, he admits he can’t kick his competitive habit.

Darren Walkley Selborne Salver

Liphook’s Darren Walkley was left frustrated after missing out on the Hampshrie Salver on countback on Sunday. Picture by ANDREW GRIFFIN / AMG PICTURES

Three-putts prove costly in Selborne Salver

He finished fourth at Blackmoor in the Selborne Salver on Saturday, with a level-par total after shooting 68, 70. That was three behind St Neot’s GC’s England junior squad member Oliver Toyer, who became the first Cambridgeshire winner in the competition’s 47-year history.

While insisting he now plays for fun, Walkley would love to join the likes of Ryder Cup players Ross Fisher, Gordon Brand Junior, Andy Sullivan and Matt Fitzpatrick on that Selborne honours board.

Having lost a play-off to another England junior Zac Little, the son of a European Challenge Tour winner 12 months ago – Walkley also played that level after turning pro in 2015 – was confident he could go one better this year.

The former Hayling, Crookhorn and Southsea GC member trailed by three shots at lunch – having made four birdies and three bogeys in the first round over the East Hampshire heathland track.

Toyer Selborne Salver

St Neots’ England junior Oliver Toyer became the first Cambridgeshire player to win the Selborne Salver. LEFT Blackmoor GC captain Andrew Cornwell. Picture by ANDREW GRIFFIN / AMG PICTURES

But the putts didn’t drop before or after lunch and approached the turn having made eight pars in a row in round two.

The frustration got to him as he made three bogeys in a row from the ninth, only to bounce back brilliantly with a two at the short 12th followed by a birdie at the par-five 13th.

He parred home to lose out to an England youngster for the second year in a row as Toyer made three birdies to go with three dropped shots in his level-par 69.

Darren added: “I hit it really well in the morning and was really happy with a 68 – I thought I could do it after lunch, but the putts just did not drop.

“I had four, three-putts – two in each round. I could not make anything. I thought I could shoot 67, which would have been another play-off. I was putting from the fringe quite a lot, making it hard to judge the speed.”

On Sunday, Walkley had a triple and a double in the Hog which hurt his total for the Hampshire Salver.

Those five dropped shots were the difference between finishing fifth at North Hants, and catching Hog winner Connor Bell, from Kent, who beat Garnett and Felixstowe Ferry’s Daniel Nicholls in the three-man play-off.

“I have to be happy to make 15 birdies over the four rounds,” added Darren, the three-time Hampshire Order of Merit champion who got his defence of the Cullen Quaich off to a great start.

Former England U16 cap George Saunders, who swtiched from Lee-on-the-Solent Golf Club earlier this year, made it two Liphook members in the top 10 for the Hampshire Salver.

The former Hampshire U14 and U16 Champion was sixth at Blackmoor and seventh at North Hants 24 hours later having called time on his golf scholarships in the States, which were badly affected by COVID, in the autumn.

Next year will be the 30th anniversary of Justin Rose’s famous Hog win as a 14 year old that propelled him into the England ranks.


Hampshire Salver Garnett Jackson

Five Lakes GC’s Jackson Garnett who took the Hampshire Salver on countback from Liphook’s Darren Walkley. Picture by ANDREW GRIFFIN / AMG PICTURES

Hollis’ hopes of second-ever Blackmoor winner

At lunch, Blackmoor’s hopes of only a second-ever win since the trophy was first played for in 1976 rose as former Nottinghamshire player James Hollis shot a superb 65 to lead Toyer and Royal Lytham’s Jamie Van Wyk by a shot.

Mark Burgess was the only home winner back in 2009, but Hollis had to settle for ninth place on countback after a 74 in the afternoon.

“I hit the ball just as well in the second round, but the putts just didn’t drop,” revealed Hollis, from Liss, an AI expert, who works for bookmakers Betfair and Paddy Power’s owners.                                            

The numbers in his first round were very impressive as he eagled the eighth to get to the turn at one-under before reeling off four birdies in five holes from the 10th.

His only dropped shots came at the fourth and 15th, the tricky long par-three, which has wrecked many a good card in the Salver.

Hampshire Challenge League player Sam Parsons was the next highest placed Blackmoor player in 27th after an 11-shot swing from his opening 78, the joint best round of the afternoon.

Fellow Challenge League squad member Robbie Boxall carded a 72 and a 75 to end up 33rd, with Ryan Bone in 54th in the 72-strong field.

Past winners include amateur greats Peter McEvoy, Gary Wolstenholme, and Ryder Cup players Brand Jnr, Ross Fisher (2004), Andy Sullivan (2011) and US Open winner Matt Fitzpatrick (2012).

James Hollis Selborne Salver

Blackmoor’s former Nottinghamshire player James Hollis (right) led after the first round in the Selborne Salver. Picture by ANDREW GRIFFIN / AMG PICTURES

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