HAMPSHIRE reached their second South East Final in a week as Lawrence Cherry led his team to the South Division title in the Challenge League, with a comfortable win away to Kent on Sunday.
Hampshire only needed a draw to reach October’s South East Challenge League Final – where they will now face old North Division foes Essex, at North London’s Mill Hill Golf Club, on October 15.
Kent’s first-team victory over Surrey last week handed Hampshire the men’s South Division title and a place in October’s South East Final, where they will face either Essex or Berks, Bucks and Oxfordshire (BB&O) a week before the Challenge League decider.
Having taken a 3-1 lead in the morning foursomes at Chislehurst GC, Hampshire faced a fight-back by Kent before eventually taking the singles session by a point – to seal a 7½-4½ win and book their final spot.
Cherry, who is the assistant manager at North Hants GC, paired himself with the Fleet club’s Robert Wheeler (pictured above), one of two players with recent first team league experience in his eight-strong line-up.
The Harry Colt-designed course was very short for Challenge League standard players at 5,095 yards – its sloping greens and sloping fairway lies are its normal defences.
But in reality the match was a putting contest, and Hampshire’s infinitely more experienced team prevailed on the par-66 course, which has eight par-threes and two short par-fives.
Wheeler and Cherry won three holes in a row from the ninth to go two-up against Kent’s Dickie Moxham and Joe Hooper. Having made birdie on the 11th, Cherry then holed a par putt from 12 feet on the 12th to keep the momentum going their way.
Both pairs made bogey fours on the short 13th before halving the par-five 14th in five. They both had putts from the back of the 16th with Cherry’s birdie effort from 30 feet coming up some five-feet short as Kent rolled theirs to “gimme” range.
Wheeler confidently holed the par putt to clinch a 3&2 win in the top match, and Hampshire won three of the four foursomes to make lunch taste all the sweeter.
Cherry sent himself out second, sandwiched by past Hampshire Junior Champions Jack Warren, from Stoneham, and Lee-on-the-Solent’s Aman Uddin.
Both players have been on golf scholarships in the States after winning the Hampshire Boys title in 2017 and 2019 respectively. Warren won 4&2 against Moxham, while Cherry closed out a two-hole win over Hooper to put Hampshire within a point of their target.
It was left to Wheeler to claim the sixth point beating Mustafa Hassan on the last to ensure their place in the final. Robert said: “Lawrence asked me to play in the fifth game as he thought it could be the pivotal point.
“As it turned out although we won the two top singles, I spoke to the county secretary Richard Arnold coming off the 14th, who told me we were behind in another three.
“I was one-down with three to play so knew I had to be quite aggressive off the tee. I nearly drove the green on the 16th and got up-and-down for birdie.
“Mustafa went out-of-bounds on the par-three 17th, leaving me two putts from 50 feet to go one-up. I had another crack at the green on the last and got it pin high while Mustafa put his second into the greenside trap, giving me a couple of putts to win by two holes.
“It was very satisfying to secure that point and be greeted by Lawrence who told me we had definitely won the league as a result.”
Blackmoor’s Sam Parsons – who denied Wheeler the Blackmoor Bowl in the latest Hampshire Order of Merit event on Friday – picked up the seventh point in the anchor match, leaving another Stoneham player in Elliot Thomas to halve his match.
•The Challenge League replaced the Colts U26 league – which Cherry led Hampshire to victory in 12 months ago – at the start of this season.
Cherry, who was playing captain, was unbeaten in the singles in 2022, with victory away to Bedfordshire securing the Colts trophy for the ninth time.