JAMES Atkins has the kind of day job most serious golfers can only dream of – he is the purchasing manager at Wentworth – and has the opportunity to get out and play on the West Course, which is home to the BMW PGA Championship on the DP World Tour.

But over the weekend, the North Hants Golf Club member came close to writing some very big golf headlines of his own as he just came up short in the semi-finals of the Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Championship, at Blackmoor GC.

He lost at the first extra hole against Stoneham’s Ryan Henley, the most successful player in the county championship’s modern history.

The Southampton veteran of the Hampshire first-team was bidding to become the first player to win the Sloane-Stanley Challenge Cup back-to-back since Hockley’s Brian Winteridge in 1982.

Henley was also bidding for a fifth title that would have moved him up to joint second in the all-time list, level with Hayling’s Ian Patey, and one behind Stoneham’s former R&A captain David Harrison.

Green Cup James Atkins

North Hants GC’s James Atkins took the Green Cup for the best nett score in qualifying. Picture by ANDREW GRIFFIN / AMG PICTURES

Atkins had the consolation of winning the Green Cup for the best handicap score in Friday’s 36-hole qualifier, winning with a level-par nett total of 138 courtesy of two 69s.

The plus-one handicapper’s gross total of 136 was just one behind Pechell Salver winner Sam West, from Liphook GC.

Victory in the men’s final would also have given Henley five county crowns, putting him second in the all-time list, level with Hayling legend Ian Patey, and just one behind former R&A captain David Harrison, who won 12 finals between 1965 and 1976.

Atkins could not make par at the first extra hole after a see-saw match in which he had gone two-up after three, but then threw in back-to-back bogeys to let Henley back in.

The 32-year-old, from Camberley, had to ride a roller-coaster after going two-up after winning the 11th and 12th, but lost the 16th to Henley’s birdie three – only to win the 17th with a par to edge in front again.

Then Henley made birdie from eight feet on the notorious 18th to take the match into sudden-death and eventual defeat.

James Atkins said: “This is probably the busiest week of the year at Wentworth for the members and apart from the BMW.

“We have our club championship and a big international tournament, where top clubs from all over the world come and play the West Course.

“I was playing in a supplier’s golf day on Thursday and didn’t get home until midnight on Thursday, and then had to be at Blackmoor for an early start on Friday.

“I spoke to a friend and said I really could not think why I had bothered to enter this year.

North Hants GC’s James Atkins

James Atkins, who works at Wentworth, was playing in his fifth county championship. Picture by ANDREW GRIFFIN / AMG PICTURES

“This was my fifth county championship – my first was at North Hants in 2019. I never play well at Blackmoor – I have played in the Selborne Salver, but don’t play in the Hampshire Order of Merit event, the Blackmoor Bowl because I struggle there.

“I was very tired in qualifying but finished second in the Pechell Salver, the qualifying competition over 36 holes. I also played well against Darren Wright in the first round of the matchplay.”

Atkins beat the former Great Britain and Ireland amateur international – one of just 10 players to have won both the English Boys and Men’s Amateur Strokeplay Championship – 2&1.

James added: “I guess it proves my expectations were a lot lower this week. I played with Ryan in qualifying and we all know how good he can be, and how well he plays at Blackmoor.”

Against the 2021 champion, who won the title at North Hants, par golf was good enough to give Hacker three holes early on in the quarter-final.

James Atkins said: “Jo looked very comfortable and I thought I was in trouble.”

But he fought back making three birdies between the eighth and 15th before sinking a 20-footer for par on the par-three 17th to win 3&1 and make it to the last four.


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