THE son of Ryder Cup legend Ian Poulter – dubbed the Postman – delivered a hammer blow to George Saunders’ hopes of making the top 64 at the English Amateur Championship.
The Lee-on-the-Solent GC member suffered the agony of missing out on a place in knockout stages after being eliminated on countback late last night.
And it was Luke Poulter, whose father has won 12 times on the European Tour, who was one of two players with the same score as Saunders to progress into the matchplay.
Hampshire’s former England U16 international was one of 27 players tied on two-over par, having played a round each at Nottinghamshire’s Worksop GC, and Lindrick, just over the South Yorkshire border.
But with the matchplay phase taking place at Worksop – the club where former World No. 1 Lee Westwood made his name as a top amateur – Saunders was left with the long trek back down the M1 for the sake of just one shot.
Kent’s Jack Lee made three birdies in a row on his back nine, to take the 64th seed in the draw, edging out Saunders, who battled back bravely from a five-over par start at Lindrick.
In the second round, Saunders, who had made the last 64 in three times in the last six years before this week’s championship, came home in 69 at Worksop.
The former West of England Amateur Strokeplay Champion made three birdies on the front nine, but suffered his third double bogey of the week at Worksop’s par-four fourth.
He picked up a shot at the par-five 10th to get back to three-over, and with one-under par looking as though it would be the mark to safely book a place in the knockout, he gave himself a chance with a birdie three at the 16th.
But he could only par the 17th and needing two at the last, his par three proved one shot too many.
Anniversary of Harry Ellis breaking Faldo’s record
While Poulter would no doubt love to win a title dad Ian never claimed, Saunders was motivated more than ever this week which marks the 10th anniversary of his former clubmate Harry Ellis’s record-breaking win in the English Amateur Final at Cumbria’s Silloth-on-Solway GC.
That saw the former Meon Valley G&CC junior break Sir Nick Faldo’s record as the youngest winner by two years – having stood since 1975.
Saunders, who was ranked in the top five in America’s junior college golf standings after his first season at Texas Midland three years ago, has played countless rounds with his peer.
And George has drawn from listening about Ellis’ experiences, including playing in the Walker Cup against the USA and three Major championships, as he bids to emulate his success.
Ellis also became the youngest player to win the English Amateur and the R&A’s Amateur Championship at just 21, when he won the latter at Royal St George’s in 2017.
But Saunders’ costly mistakes in Tuesday’s opening round – which included two double bogeys and three dropped shots in four holes between the sixth and ninth holes, meant the 22-year-old missed the cut for a fourth time.
The former University of Tennessee player – who is heading to Virginia Commonwealth University next month after transferring from the NCAA Division One team – completed the back nine in three-over at Lindrick thanks to those doubles at the 12th and 17th.
Ironically, it is 33 years ago this week that Lee-on-the-Solent’s Steve Richardson became just the third Hampshire player to win the English Amateur, beating Guernsey’s Walker Cup ace Bobby Ego at the 37th hole, in what was described then as “the greatest final of all time.”
There was also disappointment for Corhampton’s Jamie Markwick as the Hampshire U21s champion also finished on two-over par.
The former South East Junior Champion, who is on a golf scholarship at Florida’s Nova Southeastern University, shot a 71 at Lindrick.
He opened with a round of 74 at Worksop on Tuesday, but had to settle for 79th place on countback having completed the back nine in two-over after making three birdies on the front nine to get inside the cut line.
Tournerbury Golf Centre’s Will Paton, who played for Hampshire Colts in last year’s South East League Final, also missed out on countback, finishing in 71st place after a two-over 74 at Worksop.
Four Hampshire players make it through to matchplay
Four Hampshire players did make it into the knockout. Jersey’s Jo Hacker, the winner of last year’s Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Championship, shot an excellent 68 at Worksop on Wednesday to take third spot on six-under, after a 69 at Lindrick.
North Hants GC’s Charlie Forster, who made his Hampshire debut in the South East League defeat against Sussex at Hayling last month, took the 13th seed in the draw after finishing on four-under.
The in-form Southeastern Louisiana University student led after a brilliant five-under in his first round, at Worksop, adding a one-over par 72 at Lindrick.
Bramshaw’s Joe Buenfeld claimed the 20th place in the draw after a level-par 71 at Lindrick, after his 70 in the first round. Meanwhile, Liphook’s former English Schools U16 Champion Sam West, who is at Miami University, could afford a 73 at Worksop, after an opening 71 at Lindrick.
That left the 2019 South of England Boys Open winner in 42nd place on level-par. Stoneham’s current county champion James Freeman shot six-over to end up in 119th in the in 204-strong field of the country’s top amateurs.
And clubmate Alex Maxwell, who moved to the UK from Australia to play in the UK’s top events this year, could not repeat his form after winning the Brabazon South Qualifier in May.
But again the margin was just a shot as he shot level-par at Worksop, on Wednesday, after a 73 at Lindrick, left him in the log jam on two-over, and eliminated on countback like Markwick and Saunders.
Willett, Casey and Fleetwood among past winners
PAST winners of the English Amateur also include Masters champion Danny Willett (2007), Ryder Cup winners Paul Casey 1999/2000), and Tommy Fleetwood (2010) and European Tour winners Paul Waring (2005), Ross McGowan (2006), Callum Shinkwin (2013), Richard Finch (2002), US Seniors winner Roger Chapman (1979) and Ryder Cup captain Mark James (1974).
Corhampton’s Scott Gregory, who played in the same Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team as Harry Ellis in 2017, was the last Hamphsire player to reach the final, back in 2014, losing to Yorkshire’s Nick Marsh.
1ST ROUND DRAW (Thursday, July 28)
Jo Hacker (La Moye) v Massan Essam (Dartford)
Charlie Forster (North Hants) v William Skipp (Eaglescliffe)
Joe Buenfeld (Bramshaw) v Harvey Byers (Walton Heath)
Sam West (Liphook) v Charlie Daughtrey (Rotherham)
Luke Poulter (Lake Nona) v Morgan Blythe (Hexham)
•FULL DRAW CLICK HERE