STONEHAM Golf Club provided all four semi-finalists in the 117th Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Championship, after their members dominated Saturday’s quarter-finals.
Harrison Pake – the least well-known of the quartet – ended Hayling’s Toby Burden’s dream of his extending his record of making three finals in a row with a 2&1 victory in the final of the four matches left out on the course.
Earlier recent Delhi Cup winner James Freeman boosted his chances of becoming the 13th player in Hampshire Golf history to have won both the Junior and Men’s titles after ending the defence of La Moye’s Jo Hacker, who beat Burden in last year’s final at North Hants GC.
And in-form US college star Joe Buenfeld (pictured above), whose handicap is held at the New Forest’s Bramshaw GC, but has been a member at Stoneham since his junior days, saw off Lee-on-the-Solent’s George Saunders, a former England U16 international, who is also on a golf scholarship in the States.
Buenfeld will now face Stoneham’s Ryan Moody, holder of the amateur course record at the Southampton course, which has been the star of the show following its multi-million pound upgrade over the last six years.
Stoneham had put back its place in the county championship rota while that work to upgrade all the bunkers and improve the course condition with a tree felling programme to open up the heathland course and restore many of the holes to how designer Willie Park Jnr, the creator of Sunningdale’s famous Old Course, saw them when drawing up the plans in the early 20th Century.
Moody will bow out of the amateur game for the second time in his career later this year – ironically he will take up a club assistant pro’s role at Bramshaw – and wants to leave with a Sloane-Stanley Cup to his name.
He raced into the last four by beating Shanklin & Sandown’s Joe Green 7&5 after the Isle of Wight teenager found the pace of 72 holes in two days too much in the exalted company of the Southampton Docks worker, who has been a fixture in the Hampshire first team for the past four years, since regaining his amateur status after a brief spell on the UK mini-tours seven years ago.
Buenfeld, who came to the fore in last year’s county championship when he gave Burden a hard game in the quarter-finals, earning a first-team call-up from Hampshire captain Neil Dawson.
After a great season playing for Texas-based Incarnate Word, earning a place in the NCAA Finals as an individual, Buenfeld is looking for his first big UK win in the men’s ranks. The winner of Moody and Buenfeld will face either Pake or Freeman in Sunday afternoon’s final.
Joe said: “Playing Ryan in the semi-finals is going to be a great game. I know him really well and we played a practice round here earlier in the week. I am really looking forward to it.”
Pake has shown he has the game to compete with the full-time amateurs in the ranks with some solid displays in Hampshire Order of Merit events like the Stoneham Trophy and the county’s strokeplay championship, the Courage Trophy in the past.
And with his status of being just a weekend golfer, Harrison believes flying under the radar is his best chance of a dream final appearance.
He said: “The pressure was on Toby in the quarter-final, going for a fourth final in a row. All the expectation was on him and I love matchplay.
“A lot of people think they just need to concentrate on playing the course, but I love playing my opponent, hitting the right shot at the right time to put the pressure on them and force them into making mistakes.
“I will do the same in the semi-final and see where it takes me. I am delighted to have got this far and no matter what I can enjoy it.”
Buenfeld has looked in complete control as he finished fifth in Friday’s 36-hole qualifier, having led at lunch after a sparkling 66.
He took care of former Southampton and Scotland footballer Paul Telfer, always a dangerous opponent in the county championship, with a 6&5 win to set up his clash with Saunders.
He was four-up after nine before Saunders threw the kitchen sink at him, with a run of three birdies and an eagle over the back nine, but the adopted Texan had plenty in his hat and in his hands to hold on to win 2&1 on the 17th.
Freeman was in a tense battle with Hacker, who plays for Jacksonville University, and took the lead for the first time on the sixth. His opponent, who opted to stay in the UK and study for the PGA-degree at the University of Birmingham, hit back and won the next and it remained all-square until the 12th when the Jersey man went in front again.
Again Freeman bounced straight back, taking the 13th and winning the 14th to edge in front for the first time.
A bogey by Hacker, who was bidding to become the first player to successfully defend the county championship since another Stoneham and Hockley legend – Brian Winteridge, who claimed the 1982 title, ironically in Jersey.
After a four was good enough for par and a 2&1 win to book his place in the semis, James said: “I think what the last couple of days has proved to me is that I don’t have to play my best golf – I can still get it around and get the win.
Freeman, who won his Hampshire Junior Championship titles in 2018 and 2020 – missing out on a play-off and the chance of an unprecedented hat-trick by a shot in between – shot a disappointing 74 in the first round, before a 68 secured him the sixth seed in the draw for the 16 who progressed into the matchplay.
The last time two Stoneham players contested the final was in 2001 when Darren Henley beat Alan Mew. Hampshire historians will be checking the record books to find out how many times one club has provided both finalists, but it is certainly a rare feat and will have the Stoneham members toasting their success, whatever the outcome of Sunday’s semi-final and final.