HARRISON Pake is targeting going one better than his predecessor after taking over the reins of Hampshire’s Challenge League side, which now acts as the feeder to the county men’s team.

Last year county captain Lawrence Cherry, from Stoneham GC, became the youngest-ever captain in Hampshire’s history aged just 26, and agreed to lead both teams.

But after the North Hants GC assistant manager was offered a career-changing opportunity to manage Dubai’s exclusive Montgomerie Golf Club, the former Hampshire Boys captain stood down last month.

While Cherry’s vice-captain Hayilng’s Toby Burden has stepped up to run the first-team, Pake, who 12 months ago was pushing for a place in the South East League team, has agreed to take over Hampshire’s “development” team.

Cherry’s final act was to lead the team to an 81/2-31/2 victory over Sussex at Waterlooville GC – just days before he flew to the Middle East to start his new life.

Lawrence Cherry

County captain Lawrence Cherry stood down in May after securing a dream job in Dubai. Picture by HAMPSHIRE GOLF

Pake, who works in media advertising, determined the standards set last season – when Cherry, who had lifted the South East Colts League title in 2022, took Hampshire to the first final in the new replacement format for the U26s league.

Stoneham member Harrison played in two of the four South Division matches last season, and also the final when he won his foursomes match with Hockley’s Luke Hodgetts, but was beaten on the last hole in the crucial singles session.

After mulling over his options for this year’s return fixture against Sussex on Sunday – having spent the weekend playing in and observing at the 119th Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Championship – Harrison said : “Communication is going to be the key.

“I have had a conversation with every player that is under consideration to play this season. I have spelled out what the standards are that I expect and want from everyone in the team.

“It’s crazy how strong the pool of talent at our disposal,” Harrison added. “I want to match what Lawrence achieved last season – by winning the South Division to reach the final – but this time, go one better and lift the trophy.

“I intend to be a playing captain, but that does not mean that I am not prepared to drop myself if it’s the right decision for the team – in any fixture – whether that is a question of form, or my game not suiting a certain course.

“My game has been coming round in the last few weeks. It’s very close to where I was at the start of last season when I played against the Channel Islands in the first-team pre-season warm-up.”

But Pake is equally sure about what he expects from his players as well as his own commitment to pulling on the Hampshire blue shirt.

He stressed: “I want players who are committed to the team ethos and spirit that Lawrence and our county coach Kev Flynn did so much to encourage last year.

“For people to be selected, I expect them to attend the practice round the day before the league matches – home and away. I have spelled that out to everyone.”

But picking just eight players for the remaining three matches against Sussex and Kent will be the biggest challenge for those Challenge League matches, Pake admitted.

“I have already spoken to 20 players and there are another 10 on my spreadsheet that I am monitoring right now,” he revealed.

One thing he has learned from his predecessor is to keep his cards close to his chest when it comes to naming his team in advance.

“I have picked a side after Sunday’s county final, but I am going to keep Sussex guessing. They will be keen to avenge that defeat at Waterlooville, when we travel to Lewes GC,” Pake added.

The venue is a true download test, which brings its own challenge, with the uplands course open to the wind, as well as having fast, firm fairways thanks to the chalkland grasses.

The county championship saw a number of players pushing their claims to break into the Hampshire Golf team – which is coached by Tournerbury-based Kevin Flynn – this weekend.

Harrison added: “Players like James Atkins, who played his only first-team game for Hampshire two years ago, and Royal Guernsey’s Conor McKenna, who is just 17 and already their Island Men’s Champion, certainly caught the eye.

“Hartley Wintney’s Charlie Preston, who played in last year’s Challenge final, just keeps getting better and better – we saw that at Blackmoor at the county champs.

“There are at least a dozen players with strong claims for the eight places in Toby’s team, but you can only play in the Challenge final if you have not played more than twice for the full county side in either the league, or the six-man South East Qualifier.

“So I have to pick my team with that in mind, but we have the players to reach our goal, no question. There are a lot of factors that come into play when selecting a team – current form, previous match performance, availability and keeping a good team spirit.

“I am very conscious the Challenge League is now a team to help develop the up-and-coming players, as well as mixing that with players on the verge of the first team.

“It’s about finding the right mix of experienced players to help develop the young players,” Harrison stressed.

After Sussex, Pake’s side will face Kent at North Hants on July 21 before travelling to Chislehurst on August 25, where Hampshire won 71/2-41/2 to reach the 2023 final against Essex at Mill Hill, in North London, which they lost narrowly.

Pake Channel League

The Hampshire team that won their opening Challenge League match 81/2-31/2 against Sussex in the South Division, at Waterlooville GC, last month. Picture by ANDREW GRIFFIN / AMG PICTURES

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