HAMPSHIRE’S new first-team coach Kevin Flynn has spelt out what he believes the county’s best amateurs need to regain their crown as South East Champions.
It is more than 10 years since Hampshire last claimed the South East League title – and it is nearly six years since they last won the region’s six-man qualifier to reach the English County Finals.
They went on to claim the English County Championship under Martin Young in 2017, for only the second time since 1924 – Justin Rose was a 16-year-old member of the winning team at Woodhall Spa, the home of England Golf.
Both Colin Roope, who succeeded Young in 2018, and North Hants’ Neil Dawson, who took on the captaincy in 2020, had spelled out a league win as their priority, given how tough the 11-strong South East Qualifier is to win – even though Hampshire have won it seven times since 2001.
Flynn was asked to join the coaching set up before Christmas given he already coached four regular members of last season’s squad, and now works with another three members of this season’s squad selected by new captain Lawrence Cherry, who succeeded Dawson.
The Stoneham member – who at 26 is the youngest Hampshire captain since at least 1939 – has indicated time is approaching when the older members that have served the county so well over the last 20 years, will hand over to a younger group of players.
While some of those younger players inevitably turn pro, Hampshire have benefitted from several players coming back into the amateur ranks – namely Hayling’s Toby Burden, Test Valley’s Stuart Archibald, and Rowlands Castle’s Darren Wright and Colin Roope.
Meanwhile, Young has played on for two more captains, and is celebrating 30 years of playing for the county in 2023, having also completed the first Hampshire Slam, holding the main four men’s titles at once, and then winning them all in the same calendar year.
Flynn previously had a spell coaching Hampshire’s U16s but over the last decade he was coached the Hampshire Girls team, and the national junior teams in Estonia and Latvia, helping them to win titles at the European Golf Association’s international championships.
He has also worked with Toby Burden during his renaissance as an amateur, which has seen him reach three county finals in a row, from 2019 when he won his first Sloane-Stanley Challenge Cup, having lost in the 2006 and 2009 finals.
Burden has identified his relationship with his coach as key in winning the Hampshire Order of Merit back-to-back in 2021 and 2022, along with successfully defending the Courage Trophy in September.
He also became the first player to reach three Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Island Amateur Championship finals in a row since Richard Bland, when he was beaten by La Moye”s Jo Hacker in an exciting finish at North Hants GC, in 2021, two years after winning his first Sloane-Stanley Challenge Cup, topping that off by becoming the first Hampshire player to be crowned English Champion of Champions.
Kevin said: “I think the reason why Toby has been winning so consistently over the last four years is because he has carried on working to the standards he set in the pro game.
“While he had a few injuries as a pro, he now knows his game and his body so well, and when he goes out on the course to practice, or to play, he is properly prepared.
“He knows the yardages he can hit to with each club and does his prep so he knows the carries to avoid bunkers and any other hazards, plus fairway widths, contours of the green – where to miss them – and more importantly where not to miss them with his irons or woods on par-fives he can reach in two, or the best place to lay up to.
“You need to do that every time you step up to play competitively – whether that is for yourself, or Hampshire, if you want to be successful.
“We have some great players in the county, and for whatever reason we finished last in the league last season, for the first time in a very long time. So the only way is up for the team.
“There is going to be a handover to the younger players at some point – that’s inevitable as Toby and other mid-ams we are lucky to have cannot play-on at this level forever.
“So it is important that the younger players now coming into the squad understand the importance of proper preparation.
“I did a presentation to the squad at the start of the year and that was what I tried to drum into everyone.
“All those details, and keeping accurate stats of their rounds so we can identify what they are doing well, and not so well, are key to helping them improve.
“Toby is still massively competitive and having him around to guide the younger players is going to be instrumental in any ‘changing of the guard’.”
Kevin’s success during a coaching career that started at Crookhorn Golf Club – before he hooked up with the highly-regarding Jim Hardy, and then ex-European Tour founder, John Jacobs, the father of modern golf coaching – has taught him the importance of having a good team around you.
Flynn, who has been based at Hayling’s Tournerbury GC for the past 13 years, revealed: “I was asked who I wanted to assist me in my new role.
“I said that Simon Andrews, who has been the long game coach for the last four or five years, should carry on.
“He has coached the likes of Scott Gregory and Billy McKenzie, when they were key members of the county side, and has a good relationship with the players from Colin Roope and Neil Dawson’s time as captain.
“So for me, it was important to keep some continuity and not undo what has worked well in the past,” added Flynn.
“We are in the business of wanting to win – that is Lawrence’s aim and mine too. Surrounding yourself with good people is key to having a successful squad, and that starts with the captain.
“But success for me as a coach, and for Simon as well, is to see that we are having a positive influence on the players – in terms of keeping stats, eating, sleeping, hydrating and preparing properly for events.”
That process starts with the first South Division match in the South East League against Kent at Liphook GC, on Sunday (May 28). The foursomes get under way from 9am with eight singles in the afternoon.
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