Hampshire Golf Limited

County Champs Saturday Report


RYAN Henley’s hopes of creating three more county records by claiming the 119th Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Championship survived the challenge from one of Royal Guernsey’s crop of promising juniors.

Conor McKenna claimed the Guernsey Men’s Championship last month, beating Jeremy Nicolle in a marathon final that went to the 41st hole and the teenager certainly had the game to test the four-time Hampshire, Iow & CI champion.

The championship is the oldest in England, and celebrates its 130th birthday this year. Henley can move into joint second in the all-time list of winners by equalling Ian Patey’s five wins either second of the Second World War.

But if the five-time Delhi Cup winner, from Stoneham, can also become the first player since Hockley’s Brian Winteridge to successfully defend their county crown.

Standing between him and even more glory is North Hants’ James Atkins, who bounced back from three holes down after five against 2021 champion Jo Hacker, from Jersey, to win 2&1.

James, who is part of the golf management team at Wentworth, said: “This is probably the busiest week of the year at Wentworth - we have our club championship and a big international tournament, where top clubs from all over the world come and play the West Course.

“I was playing in a supplier’s golf day on Thursday and didn’t get home until midnight and Thursday and then had to be at Blackmoor for an early start on Friday.

“I spoke to a friend and said I really could not think why I had bother to enter this year. This is my fifth county championship, my first was at North Hants in 2019. I never play well at Blackmoor - I have played in the Selborne Salver, and don’t play in the Hampshire Order of Merit event, the Blackmoor Bowl.

“I was very tired in qualifying but finished second in the Pechell Salver. I also played well against Darren Wright in the first round, and par golf was good enough to give Jo three holes early on.

He looked very comfortable and I thought I was in trouble. But I left my eagle putt in the jaws on eight to win with a four to cut his lead and then I lipped out on 10 for a half and Jo three-putted 11 to get back to two-down.

“I then hit it to three feet on the par-three 12th for a birdie to make it all-square. I then won the 13th with disgusting shot from down by the 14th tee to a foot for a birdie four, to go one-up.

“A two-putt par on 14 doubled my lead and then I hit my five-iron to a foot, on the long par-three 15th to go three-up.

“Jo won the 16th and we both missed the green on the 17th. I had a 20-footer for a par which I canned and he missed from 15 feet.

“I guess it proves my expectations were a lot lower this week, and here I am in the semi-finals. I played with Ryan in qualifying and we all know how good he can be, and how well he plays at Blackmoor.”

In the other semi-final, Blackmoor’s members will be out in force to support Sam Parsons, who having got the better of Hayling’s Toby Burden for the second time in six years in the knockout, beat Hamsphire junior Charlie Preston from Hartley Wintney, winning the last to go two-up.

Parsons will now play 2009 county champion Tom Robson, who can count himself a little unlucky having only one Sloane-Stanley to his name, having lost in the 2015, 2016 and 2018 finals.

Robson, fresh from a couple of years out of the Hampshire first-team squad having got married and started a young family, breezed through his last eight match against Pechell Salver winner Sam West, from Liphook GC.

The former Rowlands assistant secretary, who now leads the golf operations at Basingstoke GC’s revamp of the old Dummer course, won 5&3 courtesy of some sharp iron play.

West, who plays for Ohio’s Miami University in the MAC Conference, which has an annual event at Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial GC, where the PGA Tour are this week, was three down after six and wins on 13 and 15 were enough to close out the victory for the former Jacksonville State University winner.

The Alabama college was where Masters winner Danny Willett went for two years, leaving just before Robson’s arrival. European Tour winner Matt Wallace was on the Gamecock’s team for one season with Tom, who also saw Hayling’s Jamie Mist join him at Jacksonville.

Robson will be keen to shed the runner’s up tag, having lost respectively to Darren Walkley at Brokenhurst,, Martin Young at Hayling, and Owen Grimes at his favourite course Liphook, after beating Burden there15 years ago.

Tom laughed: “If we played the county championship at Liphook every couple of years, I might have won more county championships by now.”

Matches start from 8.45am with the final due to start after lunch, depending on whether they are completed inside 18 holes. Parking and entry is free. Spectators welcome.

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