HOPES of Ryan Henley writing even more pages in the 130-year-old county championship record books were undone by Blackmoor’s Sam Parsons, who piled on the pressure on the defending champion down the back nine in the final to secure a 3&1 victory.

Parsons put his first putt from 20 feet stone dead on the 17th after a clearly tired Henley found the front bunker on the 163-yard hole.

He splashed out to some 20 feet, but facing a snaking putt across the saucer-shaped green, the classy four-time Sloane-Stanley Challenge Cup winner graciously walked over and shook the local hero’s hand to give Blackmoor just their second champion since the club was formed in 1913.

Henley had gone two-up after three, but some scrappy golf saw par winning the short sixth for Parsons before a birdie at the seventh got the Pompey supporter level.

With a bit of football banter going on throughout the knockout stages, the Southampton fan was celebrating a birdie at the eighth, only for Parsons to convert his birdie two from seven-feet on the uphill ninth.

Four of the next five were halved but Parsons was crucially in front thanks to a par on 11 after both players made mistakes. And he doubled his lead with another par after Henley missed the raised green on the long par-three 15th.

Both made birdies at the 16th – Henley’s a clutch effort from 15 feet to keep the match alive. But there was no escape once he found the sand off the tee on the penultimate hole.

Henley was the champion 11 years ago when Blackmoor hosted the Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Championship for the ninth time since 1932.

Ryan Henley

Ryan Henley reacts after his tee-shot misses the 15th green in the final of the county championship. Picture by ANDREW GRIFFIN / AMG PICTURES

Ryan – who had appeared in seven finals since 2000 after his 4&3 victory over Liphook’s former mini-pro tour player Darren Walkley a year ago at Hockley – was bidding to become the first player to ever win the county crown three times at the same venue.

And for good measure, no defending champion had mounted a successful defence since Hockley and Stoneham member Brian Winteridge back in 1982, when he was the county captain.

Henley admitted he had doubted if he would be well enough to compete earlier in the week, having been ill in the build-up to the 119th county championship staged since 1894, making it the oldest in the country.

He said: “I felt terrible earlier in the week. I didn’t do a test, but I would not be surprised if I actually had COVID. I was that weak and just wanted to lie down all the time.

“Sam deserved his win, it’s not an excuse. He played very well,” added 46-year-old Ryan.

Parsons Sloane-Stanley

Blackmoor’s Sam Parsons beat Henley 3&1 in the final of the 119th Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Championshp. Picture by ANDREW GRIFFIN / AMG PICTURES

Henley found a way again to negotiate the stresses of Friday’s 36-hole qualifier – finishing in 14th place with rounds of 74 and 70 – only to find himself up against long-standing county foursomes partner Martin Young in the first round in a repeat of that 2005 final.

Young, who will be eligible to play in next year’s British Seniors Amateur Championship when he turns 55, was bidding to match Henley’s total of four Sloane-Stanleys.

He raced into a four-hole lead at the turn before his putter went cold and a couple of uncharacteristic three-putts – including one on the 17th – let Henley back in the game.

That bogey on the penultimate hole meant Henley was in the lead for the first time in the match, and he booked his place in the quarter-finals with a par at the notoriously tricky 18th.

That brought Henley up against Royal Guernsey’s teenage prodigy Conor McKenna, the newly-crowned Island Men’s Champion.

Luckily for Henley, the occasion proved a bit too much as the winner of the county championship the last time it was held at L’Ancresse in 2007, romped to a 6&4 win – making five birdies in six holes.

North Hants’ James Atkins stood between Ryan and an eighth final appearance – Stoneham honorary member David Harrison, played in nine between 1956 and 1976, and holds the record with six victories.

In another see-saw match, Henley had to drain an eight-footer on the tricky 18th green to take the match down the 19th, and held his nerve as Atkins missed his par putt on the first to send the older brother of two-time county champion Darren into the second final in a row.

Stoneham clubmate Mat Thomas crept in to the matchplay knockout on countback, edging out last year’s Pechell Salver and Hampshire Colts Championship winner Joe Buenfeld, the Bramshaw member who lives in Romsey.

Buenfeld dropped seven shots on his front nine after lunch, but three birdies, including two at the last two holes gave Thomas and Henley a shove up the leaderboard.

He was helped by former Hampshire Boys Champion Alex Talbot also taking 77 after a one-under par before lunch had given him a chance of taking the strokeplay honours, only to miss the cut by one.

Thomas lost 5&4 to Pechell Salver winner Sam West, Liphook’s former South of England Boys Open winner, but will have boosted his chances of a recall to the Hampshire Channel League side.

•For full matchplay results click here – strokeplay results here

Mat Thomas

Stoneham’s Matt Thomas took the last place in the matchplay knockout on countback. Picture by ANDREW GRIFFIN / AMG PICTURES

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