DARREN Walkley insists he is not setting himself any targets as the Hampshire Order of Merit heads to Hockley GC, on Saturday – a venue where he was won the Delhi Cup twice already in his career.

The best Hampshire amateurs are heading to Twyford Down for the 36-hole strokeplay competition, and Walkley has the chance to close in on Ryan Henley’s record of five wins – all achieved incredibly in a row from 2009.

Walkley ended that run by winning the Delhi in 2014, on his way to claiming the inaugural Hampshire Order of Merit, with points awarded for top 10 finishes in the leading men’s opens across the county plus Hampshire Golf’s big three championships.

He followed that by defending both the Delhi and the Cullen Quaich trophy 12 months later, winning his first Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Championship at Brokenhurst Manor GC, in 2015, before turning pro at the end of that season.

Now after six years playing on the likes of the now defunct EuroPro Tour and Germany’s ProTour – Europe’s leading feeder tour into the Challenge Tour – Darren came close to claiming Blackmoor GC’s prestigious nationally-ranked Selborne Salver, on his competitive return to the amateur ranks, last month.

Delhi Cup 2015 winner Darren Walkley

Darren Walkley won the Delhi Cup back-to-back in 2015 on his way to claming his second Hampshire Order of Merit win in a row. Picture by ANDREW GRIFFIN / AMG PICTURES

Now a member at Liphook Golf Cclub, the former Hayling Golf Club ace admitted he aims to be as competitive has he can be in 2023, but will not be setting any season-long goals.

The 32-year old, who was a late bloomer after joining Hayling, in 2011, said: “Make no mistake, every time I peg it up, I am going out there to win, every time.

“But I am not going to be able to commit to playing in everything – whether that is individual Order of Merit events, or if Hampshire want me back in the first team. I have two kids now, and my oldest son Trent is seriously into his motocross, so I have to balance that priority with my golf.

“My time as a golf pro, playing against some of Europe’s up-and-coming talents – who are now starting to win on the DP World Tour – has made me a much better player.”

Indeed Walkley – who finished 16th on the ProTour Order of Merit in 2019 – was teeing it up with the likes of Germany’s Hurly Long and last week’s Italian Open winner Adrian Meronk, as well as Finland’s Sami Valimaki and France’s Antoine Rozner, who have all won on tour since the pandemic.

“Having played in that kind of company, I am not going to say I want to win this, or win that now I am playing county golf again,” Darren added.

“But when I do play, I am thinking about winning and not much else – other than wanting to enjoy my golf more now. Playing golf for a living can also be a grind as well as your dream.

“I have spoken recently about the pressures travelling around the Continent brought – and how I had to learn to cope with loneliness and boredom of being away from home for long periods.

“It’s not great for your mental health, especially when the results are not going the way you want, or need. When COVID came along – just as I was starting to get some success – and I could not earn anything to support my young family – I had to make the decision to quit.

“So having fun and enjoying my golf is really important, especially after what happened to my brother Alfie.”

2014 Delhi Cup winner Darren Walkley

Hayling’s Darren Walkley with Hockley captain Stephen Moore (right) after his Delhi Cup win in 2014. Picture by ANDREW GRIFFIN / AMG PICTURES

Darren’s younger brother died after suffering with addiction and depression, aged just 20, in 2020.

Walkley and two friends held a golf day at Crookhorn’s Portsmouth Golf Centre, on the day of the King’s coronation. They raised nearly £4,000 for United Minds – the not-for-profit mental health organisation – in memory of his brother.

Don’t be surprised if the Westbourne-based carpenter – who was still playing off seven at Southsea Golf Club in his late teens – wins again on this summer’s Order of Merit, and the victory is dedicated to Alfie.

And a hat-trick of Delhi Cup wins could not be any sweeter for the former county champion, who will also be eyeing the county championship which returns to Hockley for the first time since 2014, next month.

The club opens at Army GC, Blackmoor, Brokenhurst Manor, Stoneham, Portsmouth and  Southampton golf clubs count towards the Order of Merit – along with the county championship and the Courage Trophy – in the “Race for the Cullen Quaich.”

Extra points are awarded for the best 72-hole score in the Solent Salver for the top players at the Mike Smith Memorial Trophy, at Brokenhurst Manor, and the Stoneham Trophy, in August.


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