THE reign of South Division champions Surrey will go to the final match of the South East League after they got the better of Lawrence Cherry’s Hampshire team at Blackmoor GC, on Sunday.
Maintaining their 100 per cent record after wins against Kent and Sussex, would have guaranteed Hampshire a place in October’s final against the North Division Champions, at Kent’s Wildernesse GC.
But Hindhead GC member David Corben (pictured) – who was crowned England’s Mid-Amateur Champion last month – outfoxed Cherry’s game plans to snatch a 7½-4½ victory.
It was the third time in a row Surrey had prevented Hampshire from winning at home since 2016 – when the hosts ran out 9½-2½ winners.
Surrey forced draws at Hayling, in 2018, and Rowlands Castle two years ago – the latter cost captain Neil Dawson’s team a place in the final.
A very disappointed Cherry said: “We came up short, but gave everything – we now need a big favour from Kent and hope they can win by at least 7-5 in the last game.
“The good thing is that Kent are playing at Rochester & Cobham, where the nucleus of their side comes from. They don’t have as many players at college in the States as Surrey and we do, so they should be able to field their strongest side in two weeks’ time.
“North Hants’ Robert Wheeler won our last match left out on the course by two holes. That may yet prove to be a very, very important point, if Kent can beat Surrey and the title goes to the game points’ difference.”
Hampshire were bidding to win the South Division and reach the final for a 16th time since 1964 – when the Daily Telegraph Salver was first played for – compared to Surrey’s 21.
The recent sudden loss of former Hampshire Golf Union secretary and president Keith Maplesden was driving Cherry’s team to glory after their heroic comeback at East Brighton – when they came from behind by taking 6½ points in an unbeaten singles session to win 8-4.
But against the division’s reigning champions, Hampshire found themselves trailing 3-1 at lunch after Stoneham’s county champion Ryan Henley and regular foursomes partner Martin Young (Brokenhurst Manor) came back from three down – only to lose the last.
Young’s shortish, slippery putt on the notorious sloping 18th green missed to give Luke Stock and Ben Palmer a one-hole win.
Liphook’s Darren Walkley could not repeat his heroic form from April’s Selborne Salver as Hampshire lost to Surrey at Blackmoor, on Sunday.
Defeat left their hopes of a place in October’s South East League Final, hanging by a thread as Surrey now need just a draw against Kent in their final match later this month, to be crowned South Division Champions for the fourth year in a row.
Former Pro Tour golfer Walkey lost a play-off at Blackmoor four months ago in his first nationally-ranked amateur event, and was recalled to the Hampshire league side after losing in the final of county championship at Hockley, in June.
Stoneham’s Ryan Henley, who beat Walkley to earn his fourth Sloane-Stanley Challenge Cup, making him the joint third most successful county champion of all-time in England’s oldest county golf union, was also recalled for Hampshire’s great comeback win over Sussex, in June.
That 8-4 scoreline – having been a point behind in the morning foursomes – was dedicated by Olympic champion Keith Mapldesden to the memory of late Hampshire president and secretary Keith Maplesden, who had passed away a week earlier.
Hampshire captain Lawrence Cherry had said when announcing his team to face Surrey, that Maplesden’s memory would be very much in his team’s thoughts – as they tried to win the South Division for the first time since Rowlands Castle’s Colin Roope led the team in 2018.
The hosts found themselves 3-1 down at lunch after Henley – playing with three-time county champion Martin Young, his regular foursomes partner over the last 23 years – lost the last when their approach spun off the notorious slope on the Blackmoor’s 18th green and they made five.
Walkley lost 4&3 in the foursomes playing with Jersey’s Jo Hacker, fresh from winning the Gold Medal at July’s Island Games, in Guernsey, beating players from all over the world.
Hampshire needed a sea of blue at the top of the scoreboard early in the afternoon. But Darren admitted he put himself behind the eight-ball against Max O’Hagan in the second singles match out.
The visitors had different ideas however and kept their foot firmly to the metal, to choke off any revival by the home side.
Darren said: “I just didn’t play very well in the afternoon at all. I made bogey at three and four and then went out-of-bounds on the fifth.
“I made birdies at the eighth (par five) and the ninth (par three) and made a good par at the 10th to stay one-down, but lost 11 with another bogey.
“I made a great two at the 12th to get back to one-down but after hitting a big drive on the par-five 13th, I went over the back of the green with my second and took four to get up-and-down.”
Even then Walkley refused to give up and watched his second from 60 yards lip out on the 14th, only for O’Hagan to make birdie at the tough par-three 15th to double his lead again.
Darren, who was unavailable for last month’s South East Qualifier for the English County Finals – when Hampshire finished second to Kent, at Surrey’s Farleigh GC – holed an 18-footer for his own birdie on the 16th.
Walkley missed an 18-footer for birdie on the last par-three and needed to win the 18th for a half.
He added: “We both hit approaches which came back down the green because of the slope – and it was impossible to work out who was closest.
“We were both 12 feet and Max won the flip of a tee to go first. He missed but I could not make mine either to lose by one.”
That defeat made it 5-1 to Surrey, and it was soon six as Basingstoke GC’s former Hampshire Junior Champion Charlie Forster lost by the same score to Surrey’s Luke Stock.
Young and Henley put the first two full points on the board – both winning 3&2 to make it 5-3 to Surrey, whose captain Dave Corben, from Hindhead GC, showed the kind of form that won him the Logan Trophy last month.
Ironically, he was drawn against last year’s English Mid-Amateur Champion Stuart Archibald, from Test Valley and holed from off the green at the par-three ninth for a birdie two, summing up Cherry and Hampshire’s luck.
But Archibald, the winner of the English Over 35s 12 months ago, at Liphook, hung in and made a par at the last to win the hole and level their match – but the half ensured Surrey the outright victory.
North Hants’ Robert Wheeler won by two against Harry Crockett, whose brother Charlie has been called up by England for this month’s Home Internationals – the latter beat Hayling’s Toby Burden 5&3 in the top match.
When Hacker lost the last match 4&3 to Ben Partridge, it was 7½-4½ to Surrey to leave Hampshire feeling flat, and hoping Kent can salvage what threatens to be another nearly season with a win at Rochester & Cobham.