Hampshire Golf Limited

Parsons becomes County Champion

SAM Parsons became just the second Blackmoor member to win the Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Championship with a superb scrambling display against county veteran Ryan Henley.

The 46-year-old from Stoneham was bidding to become the second most successful player in the county championships 130-year history, by claiming a fifth Sloane-Stanley Challenge Cup.

But Parsons, who joined Blackmoor nine years ago, put the four-time winner under huge pressure on the back nine, with some exemplary scrambling as his opponent struggled for energy playing his sixth round in three days, having had a suspected bout of COVID less than a week earlier.

That is not to make any excuses for his eventual 3&1 defeat as Parsons dealt with the pressures and expectations of playing in front of some three dozen Blackmoor members who came out to support him in his first-ever final.

Parsons, who recently became a father to Milo, found it hard to hold back the tears as he explained what had given him the belief and confidence to finally show that he has the game to match the likes of Corhampton’s Walker Cup ace Scott Gregory, who he played golf with at Waterlooville.

Sam said: “I was a bit older than the likes of Scott, but I have been in the county South East League team on and off for the past six years.

“I have played in two finals – for the Telegraph Salver on my debut in 2018 when their guy got the half to give Essex the trophy. And I needed to win a point in the first Channel League final in October, to keep the match alive, but we lost on the 17th behind me as I was playing 18 in the penultimate match.

“It’s a different kind of pressure playing for the county – you really don’t want to let your team-mates down, but playing under that kind of pressure definitely helped me when it came to playing against Ryan.

“I don’t know Ryan as well as some of the guys in the county team as he was off becoming a dad when I first played. But he’s really up there with the best, so I had to play well to beat him.

“But becoming a dad back in February has changed me. It’s given me a bit more perspective about how important golf is, or rather isn’t in the grand scheme of things.”

Parsons has always been one of the most unflappable members of the Hampshire county squad, but his mettle was fully tested as the understandable nerves showed in the early exchanges as Henley, who beat Liphook’s Darren Walkley 4&3 at Hockley a year ago, went two down after just three holes.

Having lost the first to a birdie, a bogey at the third threatened to quickly derail his county championship bid and allow Henley the chance to match Hayling legend Ian Patey’s haul of five Sloane-Stanleys, just one behind all-time record holder David Harrison, from Alresford, the former R&A captain.

A par halved the deficit on the fourth, but another bogey five at the next restored Henley’s cushion. Another par at the long par-three sixth followed by his first birdie at the seventh drew him level, only for Henley to birdie the par-five eighth to edge back in front.

But Parsons rolled in a seven-footer on the uphill par-three ninth to tie things up again, he went in front for the first time when Henley made a bogey five at the 11th, as Parsons tangled with the trees before fashioning a recovery to find the putting surface.

Both players missed the green on the short 12th, with the pin perilously close to the front edge, and both balls coming back down the false front.

On the par-five 13th, Parsons put his second in the front left trap but Henley went over the green, as he did at 11, with his third but made a good recovery for par, while Parsons needed two putts after splashing out.

The 14th was also halved in par as both players two-putted from the best part of 30 feet.

Parsons then doubled his lead as he hit his approach to five-feet to make birdie as Henley missed an eight-footer after both players missed the raised green on the 199-yard 15th.

Henley was bidding to become the first player to win the Sloane-Stanley for a third time at the same course – his first victory came in 2005 when he beat Hampshire foursomes partner Martin Young 3&2.

With Parsons in the long grass, he chipped to inside a foot for a guaranteed birdie, but Henley was not giving up and made a brave 15-footer for a clutch half in birdie threes.

But when he found the front right trap at the par-three 17th, there was no escape as his bunker shot came to rest more than 15 feet from the hole, he walked over to shake Parsons’ hand with the Blackmoor man having left his 20-foot birdie effort inches from the hole.

It was the 10th time Blackmoor had hosted the championship – it waited 19 years after opening in 1913. Henley’s second win in 2013 marked the club’s centenary. Their only champion was Stuart Archibald back in 2006, after his win at Hayling.

Henley’s hopes of making more history will have to wait another 12 months when the championship returns to the Isle of Wight for the first time since 2012, when Brokenhurst Manor’s Jordan Ainley became the first junior to win the Hampshire Boys and Men’s titles.

There was no junior championship when the legendary Paddy Hine became the youngest winner of the Sloane-Stanley at just 17, in the spring of 1949.

The future head of the RAF and R&A captain  then added the Brabazon Trophy – the English Men’s Amateur Strokeplay Championship for good measure, when it was held at Stoneham in early October.

You can view full, hole by hole scores for every match and event from the Championship weekend by clicking here


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