PETERSFIELD are dreaming of being crowned County Sevens champions for the first time in the competition’s 58-year history, having reached the last four with a resounding 7-0 win over Weybrook Park in the quarter-finals.

The East Hampshire team put any disappointment from finishing in fourth place last year at Royal Winchester behind them, by marching to the last four less than 12 months later.

They will face New Forest GC – the second oldest club in the county – in the semi-finals at Lee-on-the-Solent GC on Sunday. The Lyndhurst club are also looking for their first County Sevens title – only Waterlooville are on the list of past winners having been champions in 1969 and 1998.

Twelve months down the line, Petersfield’s team is very much a family affair – with three of the Haywards in the club’s Sevens squad this season.

Father Richard (pictured top) was the junior organiser at Meon Valley in the decade that saw the Shedfield club have one of the strongest junior set-ups in the county – boasting youngest-ever English Amateur Champion Harry Ellis, and England U16 international George Saunders.

His sons Jack and George were part of that group who also did well in the county junior leagues while he was in the men’s team that reached the Sevens final back in 2016 at Stoneham, when heavy rain forced Hampshire Golf to play one medal round to decide the semis and final.

George has taken over the Sevens captaincy at Petersfield this year, with last year’s captain Steve Ford playing in the matches up until the quarter-final, when he was unavailable, leaving Hayward with a selection headache after their whitewash victory over Weybrook Park.

In the other semi-final, Channel Island minnows Les Mielles will look to pull off another shock by knocking out Waterlooville, who have also made it back to the finals day for a second-year running.

Les Mielles have never won the Sevens before and may be considered the poor relations of Jersey golf having been formed back in 1990, sandwiched between the island’s two historic clubs – Royal Jersey and La Moye.

Les Mielles Sevens

The winning Les Mielles team who beat La Moye to progess into the last eight of the 2023 County Sevens

Yet Jersey’s David slayed both the island’s Goliaths on their way to the last four – Les Mielles took the scalp of three-time winners Royal Jersey, before adding La Moye, who have been crowned Sevens champions twice in the competition’s six decades as Hampshire’s Inter-Club Knockout.

And not only did Les Mielles end Jersey’s big two’s hopes of making another finals day, they did so by winning their island final by beating La Moye on their home course, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

Les Mielles, also based on land overlooking Jersey’s west coast, kicked off their Sevens campaign with a 5-2 win over Wheatlands GC. They then welcomed Guernsey’s St Pierre Park to Jersey’s west coast for the Channel Islands final last month.

The home side ran out winners by 4½-2½. After nine-handicapper Peter Roscouet had won his top match 2&1, debutant Steve Inman, off 15, romped to a 5&4 win, only for the hosts’13-handicapper Daniel Brannan to lose on the last to make it 2-1 to Les Mielles.

In the fifth match Allan Lawson, playing off 13, beat St Pierre Park’s Thomas Muir, on the 12th, winning by seven against the 12-handicapper to make it 3-1 to the hosts.

But the fourth match between Les Mielles’ Richard Wilson and John Riley, both off 15, was tied after 18 – thanks to a birdie on the last by the Guernsey man.

While they headed up the 19th and 20th, six-handicapper Bobby Stirling – who had been a key figure in the win over La Moye – had been in control of his match against St Pierre’s Martin Ireland, playing off seven.

But from three-up at the turn, Stirling found himself pegged back to just a one-hole lead with one to play. He then put his approach into the last into the water to give Ireland a lifeline. Ireland squared the match and then won the first extra hole with a par as the nerves gripped.

That left Les Mielles’ nine-handicapper James O’Hara to face another nerve-racking finale – having been cruising to victory with a four-hole lead after just seven.

St Pierre’s four-handicapper Zac Harris won the 10th, 13th and 16th to reduce his arrears to one – only to miss a birdie putt on the left edge.

It left O’Hara with a birdie of his own. His downhill putt came up a few inches short, but the tap-in par gave him a one-hole win and left the captains to call Wilson and Riley in from the 21st hole for an honourable half.

It gave Les Mielles a 4½-2½ victory, but the superbly contested match had turned on some very fine margins. The new Jersey champions are now left with a chance of making even more history this month.

County Sevens Waterlooville

The Waterlooville team – led by captain James Pinhorn (second from left) – who finished third after beating Petersfield at Royal Winchester last summer. Picture by ANDREW GRIFFIN / AMG PICTURES

For Waterlooville – again captained by James Pinhorn – the Race to Lee-on-the-Solent began with a 4-3 win over Wickham Park, before knocking out Liphook by the same scoreline.

Cowes were the last team from the Isle of Wight to win back in 2003, but Newport were hoping to follow Ryde, the runners-up in 2017 by reaching the last four having been crowned the island’s Sevens champions in July.

But they needed to beat Waterlooville and it was last year’s East and IoW section winners who came through again, winning 6-1.

In the South Section, New Forest  beat Boundary Lakes 4-3 in the first round, before knocking out Corhampton with a 5-2 victory.

That set up the quarter-final clash with Bramshaw, another club yet to lift the trophy but it was the Lyndhurst club – where ponies can be more common than birdies – who won 4-3.

New Forest GC was founded back in 1888 as a nine-hole course – they had an agreement with Bramshaw to play the back nine some five miles away on their Forest course under the New Forest GC name until 1913, when the clubs went their separate ways.

No doubt, the New Forest members would love to see their name finally engraved on the trophy.

Bramshott Hill County Sevens

Bramshott Hill Sevens captain Stuart Davison (left) after their win a year ago. Picture by ANDREW GRIFFIN / AMG PICTURES

Higher handicappers have better record in Sevens

THE nature of the Hampshire Sevens’ handicap format – with a maximum handicap of 15 – means that teams considered to have a particular home advantage can pull off big shocks, particularly if they have players who are receiving half a dozen shots, or sometimes more, in any individual game.

In recent years, teams packed with players off single-figure handicaps have managed to overcome the handicap and reach the final. But giving up more than a couple of shots can still be one hurdle too far to overcome given the pressures of playing in the finals, usually on an unfamiliar course.

As a result, the County Sevens have been won in recent years by the likes of less fashionable clubs including Oak Park, Cams Hill and last year’s winners Bramshott Hill., from Dibden, near Southampton, although the latter had also won back in 1981.

Indeed, despite several close calls in the last decade, Stoneham, who boast more category one players than any other club in Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and Channel Islands who compete in the Sevens, have never won the trophy.

Blackmoor have only one win to their name, although their Artisans were the second-ever winners in 1967, while Hayling – the county’s only true links club – also have just one win.

Brokenhurst Manor and Liphook, whose courses are considered two of the most difficult on the county circuit, are also without a Sevens win to their name, after nearly 60 years.

Rowlands Castles, with four wins since 2000, and Aldershot’s Army GC – the first winners in 1966 when it was called Army Command GC – hold the record with six wins each.

Rowlands beat Royal Jersey six years ago at Barton-on-Sea to record their sixth win – and fifth in 18 years – only to be matched by Army GC 12 months later, who beat Lee-on-the-Solent in the final, at Petersfield.

Boscombe reeled off four wins in a row from 1985-1988 before moving across to play under the Dorset Golf Union in the 1990s, along with Bournemouth’s other winner Meyrick Park (1974).

The county’s four Royal golf courses have been very successful with Jersey’s three wins, complemented by two for Guernsey and Winchester.

So is another big upset on the cards this weekend? You can follow the action online here, or are welcome to watch the finals day at Lee-on-the-Solent GC, famous for having prodcued Ryder Cup star Steve Richardson, and recent European Challenge Tour winner Sam Hutsby.

•The semi-final matches will get under way at 8am, with the final and third and fourth-place play-off due to commence around 1.30pm. Full details of the day here.

Steve Richardson

Ryder Cup star Steve Richardson grew up playing as a junior at Lee-on-the-Solent GC, which hosts the County Sevens finals on Sunday. Picture by ANDREW GRIFFIN / AMG PICTURES

error: Content is protected !!