HAMPSHIRE’S young guns are bidding for glory at the Berkshire Trophy – one of the country’s most famous and historic amateur competitions – which gets under way at The Berkshire Golf Club on Saturday morning.

Rowlands Castle’s Billy McKenzie became just the third Hampshire winner of one of England’s most prestigious strokeplay tournaments, which ranks only behind the Brabazon Trophy on the domestic calendar, with his victory in 2015, while on a golf scholarship in the States.

Stoneham’s recently-crowned county champion James Freeman, heads the Hampshire contingent, and is joined at the Ascot club by his best friend, Joe Buenfeld, from Bramshaw, who lost in the final, having shot 15-under between them for 21 holes.

Joining the pair, are North Hants’ reigning Hampshire Boys champion Charlie Forster, fresh from a successful first year at Southeastern Louisiana University, and George Saunders.

The former England U16 international from Lee-on-the-Solent GC, qualified for the Amateur Championship, at Royal Lytham, earlier this week, but failed to make the knockout matchplay.

Also teeing it up on the Ascot heathland courses, are Corhampton’s Hampshire Youth Champion Jamie Markwick, whowon the South East Junior Championship in 2018, Stoneham’s former Hampshire Boys Champion Alex Talbot, and former England U16s Schools Champion Sam West from Liphook, who finished his first season at Miami University last month.

2015 Berkshire Trophy winner Billy McKenzie

Rowlands Castle’s Billy McKenzie winner of the Berkshire Trophy in 2015

The first Hampshire winner of the Berkshire Trophy was Sandford Springs’ James Knight, who tied with Andrew Marshall, on 14-under par in 1994 – there is no play-off for the Berkshire title.

Henley was surprise second winner

Stoneham’s Darren Henley claimed the trophy for Hampshire five years later, shooting 13-under in 1999, just three years after taking up the game seriously with his older brother Ryan, winning five Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Championships between them.

His shock win by five shots in front of the England selectors saw him beat two-time winner Wolstenholme by seven shots.

In 2004, Surrey’s Sam Osborne, Fisher’s Wentworth, Surrey and England team-mate, equalled the record score of 20-under set by England’s most capped amateur Gary Wolstenholme, set two years earlier.

Wolstenholme, who now plays on the European Seniors Tour, is one of six players over the last 76 years to have successfully defended the title. With his father Guy, the Wolstenholmes have claimed the Berkshire six times, while Bonallack, who also claimed six Amateur Championships in his distinguished career before becoming secretary of the R&A, holds the record with six.

The Berkshire Trophy has been held on the Red and Blue courses since 1946. The Red Course, which hosts both rounds played on Sunday after the field play 18 holes on each on Saturday, has six par-fives and six par-threes, amid the tall pines close to Sunningdale, guaranteeing plenty of birdies.

Famous amateurs including Laddie Lucas, Philip Scrutton, Gerald Micklem, Guy Wolstenholme, Joe Carr and Michael Bonallack among the post-war winners

Since the 1970s, the likes of Walker Cup stars John Davies, from Surrey, and Kent’s Peter Hedges, became multiple winners, while Nick Faldo and Sandy Lyle went on to win Majors and help Europe win the Ryder Cup.

In more recent times, Ross Fisher and Eddie Pepperell have won on the European Tour after claiming the gold-plated Berkshire Trophy. Defending champion Zachary Chegwidden (pictured at top of page), from Orsett, in Essex, will attempt to become the seventh player to win it back-to-back.

The Philip Scrutton Jug – donated in memory of the Surrey amateur who was killed in a car crash on the A30 at Hartley Wintney in the late 1950s – is awarded to the player with the best 144-hole score in the Brabazon and Berkshire trophies.

For live scoring visit the Berkshire Trophy website. You can see the start sheet for R1 by clicking here.

6 – Michael Bonallack
3 – Philip Scrutton; Guy Wolstenholme; Peter Hedges; Gary Wolstenholme
2 – Laddie Lucas; John Davies; Van Phillips; Farren Keenan, Josh White

James Knight

Sandford Springs GC’s James Knight became the first Hampshire player to win the Berkshire Trophy in 1994. Picture by ANDREW GRIFFIN / AMG PICTURES

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