FIVE past champions who have claimed the Sloane-Stanley Challenge Cup made it through to the quarter-finals of the 118th Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Championship, at Hockley GC, on Saturday.
That stat had Hampshire Golf officials looking through the archives to see if that many past winners had ever made it through to the last eight before – it’s almost certainly the first time in what is England’s oldest county championship, dating back to 1894.
Brokenhurst Manor’s Martin Young – the last winner when Hockley hosted the 109th renewal of the county championship back in 2014, the Twyford club’s centenary year – beat Stoneham’s George Daniels 2&1 to book his place in the last eight.
Young, the oldest player in the field at 53, has won the final three times since 2010, but admitted in the build-up, reaching the final would be an achievement for any of the 66-strong field who entered Friday’s 36-hole qualifier, because of the sheer physical challenge of playing six rounds over three days.
Young set up his clash with 2020 county champion Richard Harris, from Hayling GC. The former Portsmouth FC academy prospect who had to give up a promising career with the then FA Premiership team because of injuries to both hips, which he had replaced before he was in his 20s.
The last Channel Islands player to win the title was Jo Hacker in 2021 and the Jacksonville University student, who is set to return to Florida for his fifth season plays college golf in the States, in September, is due to play for Jersey in the Island Games, in July.
He reached the last eight for the second time by beating Number One seed Joe Buenfeld, who had become the first Bramshaw player to win the Pechell Salver, as the leading qualifier with a total of two-over par, having carded rounds of 74 and 70, on Friday.
Hacker was three-up at the turn, having made a birdie two at the short eighth, but gave a hole back at the 11th with a bogey five. Another two at the par-three 15th secured a 3&2 win to move into the last eight.
His opponent – Stoneham’s Ryan Henley, who won the championship in 2005, 2008 and 2013, had beaten Hockley qualifier Jack Irwin 4&3 in the first round on Saturday morning – and has the advantage of having won six Delhi Cups at the host club.
In the bottom half of the draw, Liphook’s Darren Walkley romped to a 6&5 win over Lee-on-the-Solent’s Will Green, who has enjoyed a successful first season at University of New Mexico.
Walkley, who played on the German-based ProTour with many of the European Tour’s current up-and-coming players faces Stoneham’s Elliot Groves, who had nearly a decade as a Hampshire PGA pro, before his return to the amateur game last summer.
Groves claimed the Delhi Cup – Hockley’s 36-hole men’s open which is traditionally the first Hampshire Order of Merit event – in April, but Walkley won the Delhi back-to-back in 2014 and 2015 – going on to claim the county championship in the second of those years.
And only an inspired putting display by Army GC’s Haydn Reay ended his run to the semi-finals in 2014, so both players will relish the challenge of Hockley’s steep fairways – which are playing very firm and fast with temperatures touching 30 degrees Centigrade.
Groves beat North Hants’ former Hampshire Boys captain Christian LIndgreen 5&3 – that was the score former North Hants junior Charlie Forster beat Hayling’s Toby Burden by in the seventh match in the first round draw.
Burden, who made three finals in a row, after picking up his first title four years ago, had struggled in the qualifier, taking the 14th spot. The 2019 English Champion of Champions winner – who claimed the county Order of Merit in 2021 and 2022 – watched Forster roll in a 40 footer on the 12th to go three-up, having birdied both the 10th and 11th.
Last year’s English Amateur Championship semi-finalist, who was named Southland Conference Player of the Year last month after his season season at Southeastern Louisiana, is playing former Great Britain & Ireland amateur international Darren Wright, from Rowlands Castle, in the fourth of the second round ties.
Wright, one of just 10 players to have ever won the Brabazon and Carris Trophy as English men’s and boys’ strokeplay champion, missed playing in the Hampshire, IoW & CI Amateur Championship at his peak, because the event clashed with the St Andrews LInks Trophy, Europe’s second biggest strokeplay event.
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