HELPING Hampshire’s leading amateurs get back to the levels they performed at – before the pandemic wiped out most of the 2020 season – will be the key challenge for new captain Neil Dawson in the coming weeks.

And captain Dawson, who successfully managed the Hampshire Colts teams to three South East Finals between 2015 and 2017, will have his immediate predecessors Martin Young and Colin Roope in his eight-man team for the new league campaign.

The latter has only just returned after a long-term shoulder injury nearly two years ago. Dawson said: “Getting Colin Roope back is a huge bonus. As a former county captain who has also loads of experience from his Surrey days it’s a big boost to get him back in the team.

“He has not played any competitive golf of note since reaching the county final in June 2019. But his shoulder injury is now healed, and he is fit and playing some great golf considering the length of his lay-off, regardless of COVID.

We have a nice little group working at Rowlands Castle now that Colin has joined there. He’s been playing with Tom Robson, and Darren Wright, Ben Lobacz and Billy McKenzie, who is now a pro, making up some pretty good fourballs.”

“I have waited a long time to send out my first team, but I believe we have a great squad capable of achieving the goals we have talked about as a group.Players like Martin Young – who will mark four decades of playing in the league on Sunday, a fantastic achievement in itself, Mark Burgess and Matt Wilcox are among the best mid-amateurs (over 35s) in the country.

“Ryan Moody, who won the Courage Trophy in September, in one of the few competitions Hampshire Golf were able to stage in 2020, is really finding his level after three years in the squad. He is also forming a great relationship with Owen Grimes, who was a very young county champion three years ago and is now beginning to mature as a golfer.

“George Saunders and Jordan Sundborg have been among the best youth players in the land in recent years too. Add in all the experience Toby Burden has as both an amateur and a pro and the qualities Tom Robson brings, having played in the same US college team as Matt Wallace, who could play Ryder Cup this year, and I would back my team against anyone.

“Sam Parsons is also an important member of the squad having played for us since he caddied at the English County Finals win in 2017. He has experience at this level now and shown he has the game even if he does not have the reputation of some of our squad.”

Blackmoor’s Sam Parsons will play a key role in the league match of 2021 against Dorset. Picture by ANDREW GRIFFIN / AMG PICTURES

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