HAMPSHIRE have three players through to the last 32 in the English Amateur Championship at Hankley Common, as George Saunders pulled off one of the shocks of the day knocking out Somerset’s Walker Cup prospect Tom Plumb.

Saunders, who spent several years as a regular practice partner of Meon Valley G&CC clubmate Harry Ellis, the youngest-ever winner of the English crown aged 16, back in 2012, would love to become just the fourth Hampshire player to lift the trophy.

And he will have the chance to move into the last 16 when he faces Essex’s Bradley Bawden, from Southen’s Rochford Hundred GC, on Friday morning.

Saunders has enjoyed a fine first season in the States on a golf scholarship at Texas Midland, and has been in good form since his return from America at the end of May.

Having finished 15th in last week’s Walton Heath Trophy, and been Hampshire’s leading scorer at the South East Qualifier, two weeks ago, the stage was set for a big week for the Botley boy, who has moved his membership to Lee-on-the-Solent for his short summer stay in the UK.

Saunders knows Plumb well from his junior golf days. But with the Yeovil GC member having the added pressure of playing for a place in the Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team to face the USA at Hoylake, next month, it was the Hampshire teenager who found his rhythm on the tough heathland course.

Last year’s West of England Amateur Champion was all-square after four having taken an early lead after hitting an eight-iron to a foot on the second for birdie but losing the fourth.

But over the next eight holes, George really turned the screw going four up – although he needed to hole a 40-footer for par to half the hole, which seemed to be the catalyst once he had won the seventh.

Plumb, who plays off plus-five and won the Sanlam Cape Province Open in South Africa in March, fought back on the back nine.

But a birdie from 15 feet on the 15th kept his foot on his opponent’s throat, and there was no way back after the Hampshire ace slammed an eight-iron to nine feet on the next and Plumb offered Saunders his hand.

Stoneham’s Owen Grimes

Owen Grimes in the second round at Hankley Common. Picture ANDREW GRIFFIN / AMG PICTURES

Stoneham’s Owen Grimes qualified as the leading county player with an excellent 66 at North Hants on Wednesday, to finish in 21st place.

A 2&1 victory over Howley Hall’s Tom North, from Yorkshire, put the Romsey man, who won the 2018 Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Championship at Liphook, into the last 32.

The left-hander’s reward is a third round match against Essex’s Curtis Knipes, who played in The Open, last month, at Royal Portrush.

Knipes came through qualifying at Prince’s and was a member of the Essex team that denied Hampshire the South East League Final at Frilford Heath, in October, after Grimes had gone back to Murray State University.

But Grimes, who gave up his place in America before Christmas, will be happy to be the underdog, as he usually is and continue to defy the odds in a season in which he has featured on the leaderboards consistently, and claimed the Delhi Cup for the second time in three years at Hockley, back in May.

La Moye’s Jason Stokes, who lost his place in the Hampshire first team squad at the start of this season, beat Knowle’s Dan Sheehan, who has been coached by former Ryder Cup player Gordon Brand Jnr, who tragically passed away overnight.

Stokes’ opponent had been called early in the morning by his Gloucestershire club informing him of the sad news – Brand Jnr, a past winner of the Hampshire Hog, was due to play in the PGA Seniors Championship at Ken’s London Club, on Thursday.

But while his opponent was clearly in an emotional state after receiving the bad news, Stokes kept a cool head and won the 18th to take the match by two holes.

Victory set up a third round match with Frilford Heath’s Olly Huggins.

Jersey’s Jason Stokes from La Moye GC beat Knowle’s Dan Sheehan by two holes. Picture by ANDREW GRIFFIN / AMG PICTURES

There are five Walker Cup squad players in the top half of the draw – the side containing Grimes – including Yorkshire’s Alex Fitzpatrick, the brother of Ryder Cup player Matt, Saunton’s St Andrews Links Trophy winner Jake Burnage and Hamphsire Hog winner Matty Lamb.

The latter two clash on Friday morning, while Lytham Trophy winner Joshua McMahon is poised for a potential fourth round clash with last year’s British Boys Champion Conor Gough, if the Stoke Park teenager, who lost his place in the Walker Cup squad earlier this month, can beat Cumberwell Park’s Jamie Li.

The bottom half of the draw looks more open and contains Sam Broadhurst, the son of European Tour winner Paul Broadhurst, who is now a two-time Seniors Major champion, giving Saunders and Stokes chances to go further in the championship, which has seen Scott Gregory reach the final in 2014, the last eight in 2015 and the last four in 2017, while Hayling’s Jamie Mist made the semi-finals in 2016.

Live scoring can be found here.


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