THE first-ever winner of the Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Championship was Scotland’s Freddie Tait back in April 1894 – some 27 years before the champion received the Sloane-Stanley Challenge Cup for the first time.
The tall Scotsman, who would die in the Second Boer War, aged just 30 in February 1900, quickly became one of the game’s legendary figures.
His father was an Edinburgh physicist who did pioneering work on the flight of the golf ball and predicted the gutty ball would only travel around 250 yards in a paper written in 1891.
Then Freddie, playing at St Andrews in the winter of 1893, saw his drive land on a frozen Old Course at the 250-mark – and then bound down the fairway until it came to rest some 341 yards from the 13th tee.
The average drive was around 180 yards at the time and Tait’s best was one of the first recorded long drives.
The Lieutenant in the Black Watch played golf at Aldershot Command while stationed down south – and claimed the first ever Hampshire and Isle of Wight Championship at Royal Winchster, shooting rounds of 83 and 78.
His 36-hole total of 161 would stand as the championship record until 1905, when it was bettered by United Services Major C Collins, who carded rounds of 78 and 81 at Hayling GC, to lower the record by two shots.
Tait would go on to win two British Amateur titles in the 1890s, having returned north of the border. He reached his first semi-final in the R&A’s Amateur Championship in 1893, and again in 1894 and 1895 before finally claiming the crown at Royal St George’s in 1896.
Ironically it would be another 121 years before Meon Valley G&CC’s Harry Ellis would claim the record of being the youngest golfer to win both the English and British titles, also at Royal St George’s, having broken Sir Nick Faldo’s record as the youngest-ever English Amateur Champion by two years, aged 16, in 2012.
Tait also finished third in the Open Championship as an amateur in 1896 and 1897 claiming the Amateur title again in 1898 – in a career that saw him win 28 championships and hold the Old Course record three times.
The Freddie Tait Cup is awarded to the best amateur in the European Tour’s South African Open to this day.
The Sloane-Stanley Challenge Cup was donated by Major Ron Sloane-Stanley, the president of the Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Golf Union, in 1921, when the competition became a 36-hole qualifier, followed by four rounds of matchplay.
Hockley’s Paddy Hine set the bar as the youngest-ever Hampshire, IoW & CI Amateur Champion when it was played at Stoneham, in 1949.
Four months later, the 17-year-old claimed the Brabazon Trophy when the English Amateur Strokeplay Championship was held at the same Southampton course, having added the Carris Trophy at the English Boys Strokeplay at Moor Park in between, to became the first-ever Hampshire winner of both the Brabazon and Carris.
Only 10 players have won both men’s and boys’ English Amateur Strokeplay events in their careers – including Rowlands Castle’s Darren Wright, the only other Hampshire player to do the double.
Justin Rose, who shot to fame as a 14-year-old winning the Hampshire Hog at his home club at North Hants, in 1995, enjoyed a memorable summer by claiming the English U16 title when winning the McGregor Trophy in early July that year, before claiming the Carris at Burnham & Berrow, just a fortnight later.
But getting his hands on the Sloane-Stanley Challenge Cup eluded Rose – he lost in the 1997 final to Scott Stanley, from South Winchester.
And changes in the amateur calendar meant that none of the Hampshire players picked to play for England in the 21st century would be crowned county champion.
That includes Walker Cup players Sam Hutsby (Lee-on-Solent) and Corhampton’s Neil Raymond – the first player to win the Brabazon back-to-back in 50 years – and the last two British Amateur Champions, Scott Gregory, also from Corhampton, and Meon Valley G&CC’s Harry Ellis.
Romsey’s 2018 winner Owen Grimes was just 19 – a year older than Brokenhurst’s Jordan Ainley, who is still the only player to have won the Hampshire men’s and boys’ titles in the same season, which he did aged 18 at Shanklin and Sandown, in 2012.
Another New Forest teenager to have come close to making history was Mike Smith, a precocious talent in the late 1980s, who won the Hampshire crown at Shanklin and Sandown in 1989. The England junior international – who was crowned British Youths Champion in 1988, was tragically killed in a car crash in 1990.
He had been by tipped by many to follow the rapid rise of Lee-on-Solent’s Steve Richardson, who claimed the English Amateur Championship at Royal St George’s, also in 1989. Rico headed to the European Tour after winning a card at the Qualifying School, and won as a rookie in 1990.
The record for the most county titles is held by Stoneham’s David Harrison, who claimed six in the late 1960s and ’70s, while Hayling’s England international Ian Patey won five, including four in a row in the 1930s.
Squadron Leader Cecil Hayward, who played at Shanklin and Sandown, won four in the 1920s, and won a record nine RAF Championships, as well as reaching the second-ever English Amateur Championship final in 1927.
Stoneham’s David Harrison became the first county captain to win the championship while in post, at Blackmoor GC in 1970.
Former clubmate Brian Winteridge became the second to win the Sloane-Stanley while county captain, at Army Golf Club in 1981, and then again at Royal Jersey, a year later.
Winteridge’s fourth victory in a final was also the last time anyone successfully defended the title. Brian was crowned champion as a Stoneham member in 1975, but had moved to Hockley for his other three wins.
In the modern era, former county captain Martin Young, from Brokenhurst Manor, has won three times since 2011. He was the first player to win the trophy at Hockley, which hosted the championship to mark its centenary in 2014.
Two years later, in his first year as county captain, won his last Sloane-Stanley at Hayling – he had won the Logan Trophy at the English Mid-Amateur Championship (over 35s) in 2006.
His total was matched by Stoneham’s Ryan Henley, who beat Young in 2005, and claimed two more 2008 and 2013.
Ryan, whose brother Darren also claimed the Sloane-Stanley twice before turning pro in 2002, also lost to the host’s Christy MacLaughlin in the 2000 final at Royal Jersey, and again to Young at Aldershot’s Army GC in 2011.
The only other player to win three county championships was Royal Winchester’s E Buckland, who claimed his titles back-to-back in the fourth, fifth and sixth county championships between 1897-99, when the competition was held at Lyndhurst, Haslar and Bembridge on the Isle of Wight, respectively.
Legendary five-time Open winner J H Taylor, who was the professional at Royal Winchster, wrote in 1943 that he had never met a golfer who hit the ball so hard as Mr Buckland.
He was club captain when the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Golf Union was founded in November 1893, at a meeting held at Winchester Golf Club, becoming the first such union in England. Mr Buckland served on the original county committee.
A Master at Winchester College, he had played cricket for both Oxford University and Hampshire, and hit a century at The Oval, in 1888, as an undergraduate, who earned a double blue. He was also a good racquets player and clearly had excellent hand-to-eye co-ordination, excelling in three sports involving striking a ball.
Last year’s champion James Freeman, a student at Birmingham University where he is studying for the PGA degree, claimed the 2023 title on his home course at Stoneham, having won the Boys’ title in 2018 and 2020.