HAMPSHIRE were crowned South Division champions for the first time since 2018 – without hitting a single shot on Sunday.
Kent beat Surrey in the final league match of the season 9-3 at Rochester & Cobham – leaving all three teams tied at the top of the table with four points after two wins and a defeat.
And crucially for Lawrence Cherry, in his first season after becoming the youngest captain in Hampshire Golf’s history aged just 26, earlier this year, his team had the better game points total over Kent – by just half a point.
North Hants’ Robert Wheeler was the toast of the county team after hanging on for a vital win in the defeat at the hands of Surrey, two weeks ago, at Blackmoor GC.
Basingstoke’s former English Mid-Amateur Champion also held out for a half against Surrey captain David Corben, who took Stuart’s Logan Trophy winner’s title last month – and that half, made all the difference in the end.
It means Hampshire will now face the North Division champions in the South East League Final at Kent’s Wildernersse GC, on October 8.
A delighted Cherry, who led Hampshire Colts to the South East title last season, said: “We were all watching our phones for any information about the score at Rochester.
“When we found out Kent won the foursomes 4-0 we realised that if they won six of the eight singles, they would overtake us because of a better points difference.
“There were some What’s App messages going backwards and forwards between the players from both teams who know each other, before it was confirmed they had won 9-3, giving us the title by just half a point.
“We were all feeling very flat in the afternoon singles against Surrey a couple of weeks ago.
“We needed to get some blue on the board but we were down in the top three matches, and only up in the fourth and fifth and last game.
“Any hope of even getting a draw after losing the foursomes 3-1 had virtually gone – but those last three matches out on the course, were all vital in the event Surrey did not beat Kent.
“Robert was one-up playing the last so it was vital he held on, and he hit a fantastic shot into a really difficult sloping green to four feet for a winning birdie.
“And Stuart had been two-down at the turn after Corben chipped in on the par-three ninth, so for him to claw that back over the last nine holes was absolutely crucial in the end.”
COUNTY captain Cherry faces another busy month in a hectic season, where he has captained the first-team and the team competing in the new Challenge League, which has replaced the Colts competition.
This weekend, he leads Hampshire against Kent in the final Challenge League match, knowing a draw at Chislehurst GC will be enough to put them into the South East Final.
The Challenge final is the week after the men’s team will attempt to win the Daily Telegraph Salver for the first time since 2012.
Hampshire have lost in two men’s finals since – in 2014 and 2018 – and Cherry will be keen to claim the trophy for the 10th time in the competition’s 59th final.
They claimed the trophy three years” runnning from 2000-02 when Stoneham”s Clive Cole was Hampshire president and the team were led by North Hants GC’s Lionel Smith (pictured top).
Hampshire claimed the Colts title nine times over the 54 years the competition ran – firstly for U21s and over the last few years with an U25 format – being crowned South Division champions 18 times in total before last year’s switch to one league made up of Essex, Sussex, Kent, Bedfordshire and the eventual champions.