HAMPSHIRE’S crop of elite junior players have just returned from their first overseas training trip, having enjoyed three days‘ intense competition in Portugal.
At the end of his first season in charge of the U18 and U16 squads Hampshire Golf junior manager Dave Matthews flew out with three teams of four to the Algarve’s Boavista Golf Resort.
And the players took every advantage of the opportunity of two medal rounds on the hilly Boavista course which tested the teenagers‘ games to the full.
Stoneham‘s Harvey Denham led the way with a superb first-round 65 – breaking the course record with that six-under score – on his way to a magnificent eight-under total after adding a 68 in round two.
Denham broke European Tour player Jack Singh-Brar’s record as the youngest-ever winner of the qualifying event at the Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Championship in 2021, aged just 16.
And with one more year in junior golf, Denham showed his potential again with some flawless golf in the balmy Mediterranean weather.
That was enough to give Denham, who is also a member at South Winchester, the first prize of £150 and a share of the £100 team prize given to his team after they finished five points ahead of their nearest challengers.
Denham, who helped Stoneham’s men’s team win the Beckford Bowl at Ferndown, in September, also came out on top with 11 birdies – three more than Royal Winchester’s Mark Matthews, while Charlie Preston, from Hartley Wintney, picked up seven.
The latter pair also finished second and third respectively overall, after shooting level-par.
There were also prizes for the best front and back nines on each round, as well as a nearest the pin competition and one for the most birdies across the weekend.
There was plenty of effort required by all 12 players, with each day starting with a 7.30am run before hitting the course.
Accompanying the party was Hampshire Boys‘ PGA coach Chris Farr, who led the teams‘ warm-ups and warm downs with time for a soak in the resort’s swimming pool.
Manager Dave Matthews said: “It was fantastic to be able to take the boys on such a trip. It was the first time Hampshire Golf have sent a junior squad overseas.
“Our plan is to have an annual winter training trip going forward with the aim of broadening the boys‘ experiences and education, while encouraging team-building.“
Coach Chris Farr, who co-ordinates a total of 24 training days each year for Hampshire’s U12, U14, U16 and U18 squads, said: “We want the Hampshire Junior coaching programme to offer the best practices in county golf, including an overseas trip once a year.
“That’s the best way to give our best players the chance to develop their skills and achieve their goals.
“No matter what path they chose, our goal is to equip them with the support, experience and knowledge required to help them realise their ambitions – whether that‘s in the professional or amateur game, or wider golf industry, or if they decide to enter further education in the UK or USA, and not only on golf scholarships.“
The 12 players chose their own team name – copying the format chosen by the controversial Saudi-backed LIV tour which has split the world’s leading golfers.
But with no other divisions in the camp, everyone agreed it was a fantastic first experience of playing in Europe.
Their manager added: “We hope the bond we are building between the players will help us in our U16 and U18 league matches in 2023, and in the county’s bid to reach the English County Finals for the first time since 2015.”
U18s SQUAD: Harvey Denham and Harrison Price (Stoneham), Charlie Preston (Hartley Wintney), Rory McKenna (Royal Guernsey), Josh Randall (Barton On Sea) and Freddie Wilson (Royal Winchester).
U16s SQUAD: Mark Matthews and Alex Estridge (Royal Winchester), Ray Sanmathy (Basingstoke), Thomas Conquest (Sherfield Oaks), Connor McKenna (Royal Guernsey) and James Troop (La Grande Mare).