HAMPSHIRE Golf will kick-off the new season by taking on Alresford GC in a special match to mark 50 years of the annual club v county fixture.
The 50th anniversary fell back in 2020 but the match had to be shelved – firstly because of bad weather, and then when the pandemic prevented the match being played a year later.
Now with the golf calendar fully restored, the match will go ahead on Sunday – with Hampshire fielding a representative team of current and former players and captains, to reflect the match’s history.
North Hants’ GC’s Neil Dawson has stepped down as Hampshire captain having completed three years in the post – although his first year as captain saw all competitive inter-county matches and tournaments scrapped because of coronavirus restrictions – including the annual Alresford match.
David Harrison, an honorary Alresford member, and former captain of the R&A, is set to take to the course in Hampshire colours once again in the historic match, leading the county off in the top pairing.
Hampshire Golf are the oldest county golf union in England and first played competitively in 1894, taking on on Yorkshire in the first inter-county clash ever recorded.
Harrison, who was awarded the OBE in 2009 during his year as R&A captain, still holds the record for the most wins in the Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Championship, claiming six Sloane-Stanley Challenge Cups in the final between 1965 and 1976.
And it was the highly accomplished golf administrator who played a key role in creating the annual match against Alresford.
David, who was president of the English Golf Union in 1992, explained: “I became county captain in 1970, and had married Gloria, who was an Alresford girl, and a member at the club.
“In those days, Alresford was just a nine-hole course, so was not used for Hampshire matches or competitions. My wife and I were living in the village, but I played all my golf as a member at Stoneham, as I had from my junior days.
“I was talking to the club’s secretary Bob Hedges about ways in which we could improve links with the county during my captaincy. Back then the first game of the season was the Past, Present and Future match, at Hayling, which is still played today.
“That was the first opportunity the first-team squad, and the juniors got to play some serious golf back in those days. There was not quite the winter training programmes the county now arranges back in the late ’60s.
“Bob suggested we could hold a pre-season match between the club and the county. Being based on chalk downland the course has always drained well and had good winter greens.
“I agreed it was a good idea, so I contacted my squad and they were equally keen on the idea, and the fixture went ahead. The original game was two Alresford members against a county player in a better-ball format.
“When Brian Winteridge became captain some years later it was expanded to two club members against a county player partnered by another Alresford player, in a better-ball match.
“I am delighted the match has continued down the years – it was quickly followed by a fixture against the Hampshire Juniors, and the Hampshire Schools Golf Association quickly followed suit.
Harrison, who also won the Courage Trophy a record seven times as the Hampshire, IoW & CI Strokeplay Champion, gave up playing for Hampshire when he turned 40, to concentrate on the county’s junior development plans.
David added: “With a bit of luck the weather will be much kinder this weekend then it was in 2020, and we can celebrate the 50th playing of the fixture.”
County secretary Richard Arnold, who took over from David Wheeler during the 2021 season, said: “The weather and the pandemic claimed the match three times during David’s tenure, and it was not possible to fit the match in last season.
“It is great the Alresford match can be played this year in it’s traditional slot.”
•You can see the full teams here.