THE race to be crowned the 118th Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Champion begins today (Friday) at Hockley – the scene of one of the championship’s most remarkable finals thanks to Martin Young.
Hockley, set high up on Twyford Down overlooking the M3 cutting near skirting Winchester, had never hosted the county’s blue riband event prior to its centenary in 2014.
But after Martin Young had beaten Corhampton’s Adam Reid 4&3 in the final, the Brokenhurst Manor veteran had all four Hampshire Golf’s men’s trophies competed for annually in his possession.
Martin had won the Courage Trophy and Hampshire Mid-Amateur crown for the Over 35s at Stoneham in September 2013.
Eight months later at Hockley, he won the Pechell Salver for the best qualifying score, on countback, and after four rounds of matchplay, the Sloane-Stanley Challenge Cup, awarded to the new county champion.
That victory completed what became known as the “Hampshire Slam.” And while Tiger Woods’ achievement of holding all four majors at one time was decried by some commentators in golf for not holding them in the same year after he claimed Augusta Masters in 2001 – following victories in the US Open, The Open and US PGA Championship in 2000 – Young went on to complete the calendear Hampshire Slam, by retaining the 2014 Courage and Mid-Am trophies three months later on home turf at Brokenhurst.
So by creating the Hampshire equivalent of Bobby Jones’ Grand Slam of 1930 – when he held the two Open titles on either side of the Atlantic, as well as The Amateur Championship and the US Amateur – Young has created a unique place in the county’s record books.
Martin will no doubt be trying to regain the Sloane-Stanley for the first time since his third victory at Hayling, in 2016, when he was county captain.
Young is now 53, and although he qualified for the British Seniors Open at Sunningdale two years ago, the 2005 English Mid-Amateur Champion admits that nine years after his Hockley hurrah, the chances of a repeat are now a matter of fitness.
Martin, who has recently recovered from a painful leg injury suffered during the winter, admitted this week: “The hardest part for me now is the slog of playing three days of 36 holes of golf in a row.
“Whoever gets to the final will feel shattered by the time they have played the final, especially if it is hot and breezy up on Twyford Down, said Martin, who came close to winning a place on the European Seniors Tour in 2020 before the pandemic hit,
“Hockley has been a great course for me – I have done well there, winning the Courage Trophy (county strokeplay), the Mid-Am and County Foursomes, as well as the county championship in 2014.”
Surprisingly though, Young has never won the Delhi Cup – which has been the opening event of the Hampshire of Order of Merit since 2014.
“I have never played the Delhi – that’s why,” laughed Martin, who needs one more county championship to become the joint third most successful player in the competition’s 129-year history.
A fourth win would match the late Brian Winteridge who claimed his back in 1982, at Royal Jersey. That feat has not been repeated since, emphasising how hard it is to win the biggest prize in the amateur game in Hampshire and the Islands.
Winteridge, who passed away in 2020, aged 71, having moved to Devon, was also the last player to defend the county championship successfully with his win in Jersey 41 years ago.
Ironically, Winteridge won three of his four county crowns while a member at Hockley, having claimed the first when a Stoneham member in 1975.
Shanklin & Sandown’s legendary Squadron Leader Cecil Hayward won four finals in the 1920s. Only two players have won more in Hampshire’s history.
Stoneham’s former R&A captain David Harrison won seven between 1965 and 1976, and Hayling’s Ian Patey claimed five, including four in a row in the mid-1930s.
Martin Young helped Hampshire’s new captain Lawrence Cherry get off to a winning start in the South East League, with an 8-4 victory over Kent in the opening South Division match, now that normal first opponents Dorset have moved into the South West Channel League.
The New Forest ace is now in his 30th season playing in the inter-county matches and rattled off a 6&4 win over Kent’s hapless debutant Nic Elliot, who could have lost on the 11th if the Hampshire man had holed another birdie putt.
Six years ago, Young captained Hampshire to just their second English County Championship title in 90 years at Trevose – and their first since Justin Rose was in the team 21 years earlier.
But it is now 11 years since Hampshire last won the South East League. And with Dorset’s switch, winning the first match is vital. Losing one game out of the three, is likely to end any hope of reaching October’s annual final against the North Division champions, and Young was a key player passing on his experience to debutant Robert Wheeler, his foursomes partner.
Young has played in nine finals in total, winning the Daily Telegraph Salver three times from 1999 and 2002, as well as helping Hampshire share the title in 2001 and 2009.
He has ended up on the losing side just twice in that period, having also appeared in the English County Finals eight times since 2001.
His great county team-mate Ryan Henley won the Delhi Cup five times in a row from 2009 – they contested the county final at Army GC, in 2011 – Young’s first win, in a reverse of the 2005 final, Martin’s first appearance.
But it was Henley who won the Delhi and the Sloane-Stanley in 2013 after Young lost to surprise finalist Ben Lobacz at Blackmoor GC.
After Young knocked out Corhampton’s rising England star Scott Gregory in the semi-finals at Hockley a year later, before beating the latter’s clubmate Adam Reid in the final, Young claimed the last of his three county championships at Hayling in 2016, with a superb display over the back nine.
Yet a year later at Royal Jersey, the fatigue that Young spoke of took its toll after he lost in the final to Shanklin’s Jordan Sundborg, having been taken to four extra holes by former Bramshaw junior Alex Talbot in the quarter-final, followed by a tense semi-final with the hosts’ Steven Anderson.
Young failed to qualify at Liphook, in 2018, and missed out on the top 16 on his return to Aldershot’s Army GC in 2019.
He was in 15th place in qualifying in 2020 when only the top four contested the matchplay because of COVID reducing the championship to two days.
In 2021, Hockley’s Jack Bateman got the better of him in the quarter-finals, and last year he was fourth in qualifying, at Stoneham.
That display hinted at another big weekend at a course where he was won the Stoneham Trophy five times, as well as a Courage Trophy and the Hampshire Mid-Am twice. But Young lost to former England U16 cap George Saunders in the first round of the knockout.
Who are Young’s big rivals at Hockley?
HOCKLEY staged the county championship for the first time in 2014, as part of its centenary celebrations, although it is regularly used for county matches and its nine other championships and inter-club knockout competitions.
And interestingly, the winner of the Delhi Cup in 2013, 2015 and 2022 went to claim the county championship just a month later.
Stoneham’s Elliott Groves, who is now off plus-six having returned to the amateur ranks last year, and who lost in the semi-finals to Henley back in 2013, at Blackmoor, will be hoping that run continues.
The Delhi winner in 2015 was Liphook’s Darren Walkley, and the former Hayling ace admits his experience of playing links golf in the wind has helped him play well at Hockley.
The two-time Hampshire Order of Merit winner is another former pro now back in the amateur ranks after a spell playing against Europe’s up-and-coming players on the German-based ProTour.
And having lost a play-off to claim the Selborne Salver at Blackmoor back in April, his first major competitive outing since getting his amateur status back last year, Walkley has said that although he is enjoying not playing for his family’s future anymore, the desire to win, is as strong as ever.
Last year’s North Hants’ Charlie Forster had just returned from his first successful season at Southeastern Louisiana and flew home to compete in the 72-hole Lagonda Trophy, at Gog Magog, in Cambridge.
After a 5am start preparing for one round, he arrived home at Basingstoke on the eve of the county championship – which was played early last year to avoid clashing with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, and promptly pulled out, exhausted with jet lag.
He showed how far he had developed since completing the Hampshire Junior, South West Schools and South of England Boys Open treble in 2021, by reaching the last four of the English Amateur at Lindrick, in early August.
Now, having picked up his first win on US soil at the SIUE Derek Dolenc Invitational in September, he has just been named Southland Conference’s Men’s Golfer of the Year, having finished in the top 10 six times last season, and having the best strokeaverage of 71.48 in the SLC.
He finished the season as runner-up in the Southland Championship in San Antonio last month, and will probably be the one name in the hat for the matchplay knockout the other fancied favourites for the 2023 title will want to avoid – any bets on him not finishing in the top 16, are off.
Another Hampshire player who has enjoyed success in the States is Bramshaw’s Joe Buenfeld, last year’s beaten finalist, while La Moye’s Jo Hacker, will be dreaming of a repeat of his fine win at North Hants in 2021, when Forster made the last 16 and was knocked out by Hockley’s Luke Hodgetts in the first round.
Hodgetts also finally made his Hampshire League debut against Kent, having won the Selborne Salver in 2022, and followed up his breakthrough win in county golf by claiming the Solent Salver for the best aggregate at Stoneham Trophy and the Mike Smith Memorial at Brokenhurst Manor.
The 27-year-old former Callaway marketing man will be another quietly confident of going deep this weekend on his home course, having helped Hampshire Colts to their first South East League win in six years last summer.