HAMPSHIRE captain Lawrence Cherry has called up former England U16 international George Saunders (above) for the annual match against the Channel Islands, at Hayling GC, at Sunday.

The warm-up match – played over two days – will give Cherry a chance to check on a number of players from the mainland and the islands who will be hoping to break their way into the combined Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands team later this summer.

Cherry’s men begin their defence of the South East League title they won for the first time in 11 years in the autumn at the end of May, when they entertain Sussex at Brokenhurst Manor GC.

By then the county’s leading US college players – including World no. 548 Charlie Forster, from Basingstoke GC, and Bramshaw’s Joe Buenfeld, will be back in the UK, vying for a place in the eight-man team.

Former England U16 cap George Saunders, who lost his place in the first-team last season, is now firmly back in the UK, having finally called time on his five years on three different golf scholarships in the States.

The Hampshire U14 and U16 champion claimed the prestigious West of England Amateur Championship when just 18, six years ago this month.

Now the former Meon Valley G&CC junior, who has been a member at Lee-on-the-Solent for the past three winters, has joined Liphook GC, which boasts arguably the best greens in Hampshire, and offers testing heathland golf all-year round.

Having finished runner-up in the Berkhamsted Trophy two weeks ago, and then finished sixth in the Selborne Salver and seventh in the Hampshire Hog last weekend, Saunders has hit the ground running.

Cherry said: “With some of our frontline players from last season unavailable this weekend, it is a chance for some of the squad to press their claims for selection next month.

“The fact that a player of George Saunders’ ability and standing could not get into the first team after our first win last season shows the standard of golf in the county.

“We want to press on from our success in winning the league final last year for the first time in more than a decade and with two of our three South Division games away from home this season, it will be a tougher task than last year.

“George has started the season very well and some of the players from last year’s Channel League side, who also reached their final after winning the division, are also in the squad.

“Our players enjoy the challenge Hayling presents as one of the most under-rated links courses in England – but most of the the Channel Islanders have played there, and have familiar tests at Royal Jersey and L’Ancresse in Guernsey, so i am sure it will be a very competitive game, just as it was in 2023.

“Let’s hope we can get another win and use it as the platform to launch another successful season.”

Having enjoyed a couple of early training sessions using Stoneham’s impressive practice facilities, Cherry is without a couple of his league title winning team.

Liphook’s Darren Walkley and Stoneham’s Ryan Henley, who contested last year’s county championship have family commitments, as does his vice-captain Toby Burden.

But with former England Mid-Amateur championship Stuart Archibald (Basingstoke GC) and Martin Young (Brokenhurst M) available, Cherry can still field a very strong side, and having been a stalwart in the Colts and Channel League teams for the past two years, is also down to play.

North Hants’ Rob Wheeler who has been playing in professional tournaments in Portugal since January, has seen his world ranking rise to 1,249, having broken three course records in the Algarve, while finishing his degree with the Tournament Golf College. He made his county debut in last year’s match.

Stoneham’s 2022 county champion James Freeman – who won the Hampshire Junior Championship twice in 2018 and 2020 – is also back in the fold, having spent last year completing the final year of his PGA degree at Birmingham University.

Also in the team is Hockley’s 2022 Selborne Salver winner Luke Hodgetts, who is taking over the reigns of Hampshire’s Channel League side, that lost in last year’s first final of the replacement for the South East Colts League.

Lee-on-the-Solent’s Will Green, who also came home during the first year of his golf scholarship in America, is another member of the losing Channel League team to get the chance to impress Cherry.

Will Green Channel Islands

Lee-on-the-Solent GC’s Will Green playing in the South East Channel League Final in October. Picture by ANDREW GRIFFIN / AMG PICTURES

Young backs team’s Islands Games experience

THE visitors will feature former Hampshire junior player Matthew Parkman, from Royal Jersey, who reached the last 16 of the county championship when his club staged it last in 2017.

Channel Island Champion Harrison Carlyon is in the team along with beaten finalist Tom Le Huray, from Guernsey, plus Jersey Order of Merit win Josh Ozard, who has travelled to the mainland regularly to compete in the Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Championship.

Jersey Golf captain Chris Young is looking to avenge the Channel Islands’ defeat at Royal Jersey a year ago, when Hampshire won 61/2-51/2, said: “We’ve got a seriously strong team this year.

“We are blessed with the talent we have. These guys are experienced seasoned players who have won multiple big titles between them.

“To have both the winner and runner-up Channel Island players, as well as Island Games competitors all mixed together, these guys know their way around a golf course.”

Young believes playing on a true links layout at Hayling will help his team. “I think most of the lads have played at the course before,” he said.

Tom Le Huray

Royal Guernsey’s Tom Le Huray who played in the 2019 match at Brokenhurst Manor and at Royal Jersey in 2023. Picture by ANDREW GRIFFIN / AMG PICTURES

“It is fairly similar to courses they all play on regularly, so although we will be away from home, the conditions should not be too dissimilar to what we usually compete on.

“The foursomes will probably see the lads matched up with their Island compatriot’s. It makes sense for them to play with the guys they know best and there are some very strong pairs in our ranks, from both islands.

“It’s great to have this contest back after a five-year break and last year was a really close contest. We were gutted to miss out, but Hampshire have some excellent players themselves with a wealth of experience.

“It’s going to be a real challenge, but all the guys are really excited for it and looking forward to hopefully bring home the spoils.”

The two teams will play four foursomes on Saturday afternoon, before eight singles matches on Sunday morning, Entry is free and spectators are welcome.

CHANNEL ISLANDS TEAM: Tom Le Huray, Jamie Blondel, Jeremy Nicolle and Conor McKenna [Guernsey]
Harrison Carlyon, Josh Ozard, Matt Parkman and Alex Guelpa (Jersey).



Royal Jersey’s Matthew Parkman played for Hampshire Boys 20 years ago. Picture by ANDREW GRIFFIN / AMG PICTURES


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