HAMPSHIRE captain Lawrence Cherry has brought in both the finalists from this month’s county championship to face Sussex on Sunday.
The clash at East Brighton could be pivotal for Cherry’s stated aim to win the South East League at the first attempt in his captaincy – and for the first time since 2012.
So Hampshire’s youngest captain in more then 70 years was delighted to have both Sloane-Stanley winner Ryan Henley, and beaten finalist Darren Walkley available.
Henley, from Stoneham GC, came back into the fold last year after six seasons away from the county team, having become a father for the first time in 2016, aged 38.
Cherry, who at 26 is younger than five members of his team, said: “Ryan played for Neil Dawson last year. But it was difficult for him to be away on the Saturday night with his family situation, and now that Darren is back as an amateur, he also has family commitments that are restricting his availability.
“Although I was not able to watch the final, all the reports from that match – and the other knockout rounds – were how well they both played.
“So what county captain would not want them in their team? Even though we have been nurturing a team environment where practising and preparing together is very important in what we are doing.
“Ryan and Darren have been down to East Brighton with our county coach Kev Flynn this week and played a practice round while helping prepare our course strategy. They are joining the team on Saturday evening for dinner after the rest of the squad have played their practice round.
“The course is quite to similar to Hockley, so to have all four semi-finalists in the team seemed like a very good fit to me, A county team with an in-form Ryan and Darren in has to be much stronger, on paper at least, and the other senior players agree.
“It’s tough on a couple of the players who came into the team against Kent and played well. I have spoken to George Saunders and Robert Wheeler and they perfectly understood the situation. I am lucky everyone is motivated like me to win as much as we can this year.
“The spirit after the Kent victory was excellent. Everyone was buzzing again after a couple of results went against us last year, including the match against Sussex at Hayling.
“We are going down there to win – we have an incredibly strong team – six county champions that must be some sort of record, and Charlie Forster, who was only beaten in our semi-final, and reached the last four in the English Amateur last summer.
“Martin, Ryan and my vice-captain Toby Burden and Stuart Archibald are probably as good as any four mid-amateurs in the country right now.
“Martin won the Logan Trophy (over 35s) in 2006, and Stuart won it last year beating Martin in a play-off, while Toby won the Gerald Micklem at Sunningdale – the biggest club Mid-Am open.
“Ryan and Martin have played in 14 English County Finals for Hampshire between them and have a great foursomes record for the county.
“I am expecting a very strong performance again from our team against Sussex.”
Cherry knows a defeat against Sussex could derail his team’s great start following their 8-4 win over Kent at Liphook, at the end of May.
That’s because with Dorset withdrawing from the South Division to move into the South West Channel League, Hampshire only have three fixtures – with two at home this season.
After the Sussex game at East Brighton, Hampshire finish their 2023 season with a home match against Surrey at Blackmoor GC, in early August.
An away win will Hampshire the upper hand when they face Surrey, who have won the South Division four times over the last five years either side of COVID, as a draw might be enough depending on their results against Kent and Sussex in the next few weeks.
The 45-year-old’s stunning form around Hockley two weeks ago, saw the Southampton player as good as ever as he knocked out Jersey’s 2021 champion Jo Hacker in a marathon 23-hole quarter-final before ending Martin Young’s hopes of a fourth county crown, in the semi-final.
Henley, who won three Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Island Amateur Championships in 2005, 2007 and 2013, as well as being beaten in four more finals from 2000 onwards, then beat Walkley 4&3 in the final.
His latest victory moved him up in the all-time county champions list, equalling Hockley’s Brian Winteridge’s total of four wins, with Shanklin & Sandown’s Cecil Hayward picking up four wins in the 1920s.
Only Hayling’s Ian Patey’s five victories in the 1930s and ’40s and the six claimed by Stoneham’s David Harrison between 1965 and 1976 have more.
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HAMPSHIRE V SUSSEX (East Brighton GC Sunday, June 25) Toby Burden (Hayling); Martin Young (Brokenhurst Manor); Ryan Henley (Stoneham); Stuart Archibald (Test Valley); Darren Walkley (Liphook); Joe Hacker (La Moye); Charlie Forster (Basingstoke GC); Joe Buenfeld (Bramshaw). Reserve: Robert Wheeler (North Hants).
GEORGE Saunders and Jo Hacker – the only two Hampshire players who travelled to Lancashire for last week’s qualifier at Southport & Ainsdale – missed out on when the 128th Amateur Championship got under way earlier this week.
Former West of England Amateur Champion Saunders was tied for 199th place after rounds of 75 and 72 to finish on four-over – with 85 players qualifying for the matchplay with scores of two-under or better, while Hacker, from La Moye, shot rounds of 74 and 77.
Saunders was one of 72 players, who came through an 18-hole qualifier at Southport & Ainsdale on June 16, finishing 39th on the links course, which has been regularly used for Final Open Qualfying by the R&A down the years, and which hosted one of two of the strokeplay qualfying rounds.
But with the top 64s and ties, there was no repeat of Corhampton’s Scott Gregory and Meon Valley’s Harry Ellis’ triumps as there was at Royal Porthcawl and Royal St George’s as there was in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
North Hampshire’s Charlie Forster missed out on automatic starting spot in the field through his Official World Amateur Golf Ranking by the narrowest of margins, but opted not to make the long journey north.
Instead he prepared for last weekend’s Berkshire Trophy and came close to becoming the first Hampshire player to win the famous 72-hole strokeplay event at the prestigious Ascot golf club, since Rowlands Castle’s Billy McKenzie in 2015.
Like McKenzie, who went on to claim the Spanish Amateur Championship three years later, beating Alex Fitzpatrick – brother of last year’s US Open winner Matt Fitzpatrick, Forster, has been a big success in the States in the second year of his US college scholarship at Southeastern Louisiana.
The newly-crowned Southland Conference Player of the Year was tied for lead going into the fourth round, having shot rounds of 66 and 65 on the Red – which has six par-fives, and six par-threes – having opened with a 71 on the Blue.
But Yorkshire’s Max Berrisford took the trophy on countback after tying on 16-under par with Somerset’s Freddie Turnell, after Forster, the 2021 Hampshire Junior Champion, came home in a one-under par 72.
He made a treble-bogey eight on the ninth to fall behind the leaders. Four birdies and a bogey on the back nine, left him two shots shy of the winning total, having finished in the top five 12 months earlier.