Friday 8th June 2018
Grimes and Robson contest the Final.
Click here to see the Draw.
Andrew Griffin reports from Liphook on the quarter-final matches.....
It was the match neither player wanted when the seedings for the 113th Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Championship became clear on Friday evening.
But after Tom Robson ended his quarter-final against last year’s British Mid Amateur Champion Matt Wilcox by holing from 12 feet on the 18th green, the Rowlands Castle assistant secretary had increased his hopes of becoming the 16th player to have won the Sloane Stanley Challenge Cup more than once since it was first competed for in 1921.
Robson was the last player to win the county championship when it was contested over the undulating and lightning fast greens at Liphook, and the Hampshire Colts manager was clearly the favourite to overcome West of England Amateur Champion George Saunders, from Meon Valley in Sunday morning’s semi-final and book his place in the afternoon final against the winner of North Hants’ Sam De’Ath and Owen Grimes from Romsey.
Three of the four semi-finalists have experienced playing on faster greens in the USA as college players and Robson believes it played a large part in his success reaching his first final nine years ago where he beat Hayling’s Toby Burden, who has also been a member at Liphook over the past decade.
Tom said: “In 2009, I came here having just finished my first season at Jacksonville State University, in Alabama, so I was used to playing on fast greens which is what you expect at Liphook.”
Robson, who jumped up some 13 spots during the final round of the Brabazon Trophy last weekend at Oxford’s Frilford Heath, with a fine fourth round performance also believes greenkeeper David Murdoch’s team had presented the East Hampshire course in better condition than the Red Course used for the English Amateur Strokeplay Championship.
The 29-year-old former Gamecock, who played on the same team as Euroepan Tour winner Matt Wallace during his time in the States, and Hayling’s Jamie Mist, who reached the last four at the English Amateur two years ago, also maintained that where he finsihed on the leaderboard on Friday after the 36-hole qualifier was irrelevant - as long as he was in the top 16 that would make it through to the weekend matchplay.
Robson, who has finished first to claim the Pechell Salver three times since his win in 2009, settled for second after rounds of ??? and ?????, to finish on four-under, three shots behind La Moye’s Jason Stokes.
That set up his first round match against Bishopswood’s county colts player Tom Vaughan, who had produced an excellent second round 68 having been five-over at lunch, to leapfrog Shanklin and Sandown’s Conor Richards, who has been playing in South Carolina for Lander University, and was looking to go better than last year’s quarter-final at Royal Jersey.
Robson was fastest out of the blocks reaching the turn in 30 to go up six up after nine and when he won the 10th needed to halve the next two holes to shake on a 7&6 victory, the biggest of the day.
It was therefore not surpising that being drawn against Wilcox, one of his team-mates who helped Hampshire land the English County Championship for the first time in 21 years at Trevose, in October, the quarter-final would be a much more cagey affair.
But it had threatened fireworks from the off as Robson fired for the pin at the ??? yard par three first as last year’s Hampshire Order of Merit winner watched the ball hit the pin and spin to five feet away.
That birdie two was was wiped out with a poor drive at the second that found a bush to hand Wilcox a way straight back into the game.
This year’s Berkhamsted Trophy winner, who had a crack at the European Tour player in the late 1990s before giving up the game for the best part of a decade, then gained the upper hand after Robson was unlucky to see his ball go out of bounds on the fourth.
Wilcox then watched his eagle putt must miss on the par five fifth as they halved in birdies but he got up and down to win the sixth with a par to double his lead.
Robson then three-putted the seventh to go three down and Wilcox then had a five-footer which would have made it a four-hole lead with 10 to play.
He sensed that a big opportunity had slipped away as Robson’s putter warmed up and converted from 18 feet on the ninth to reduce the arrears to two.
And when Wilcox went over the back on the 11th Robson rubbed it in by making a ???? birdie to cut his opponent’s lead to just one.
A par was enough to double it at the 12th but another birdie chance for the Chineham-based ace at the par five 13th - this time from three feet - was the second pivotal moment in the quarter-final as two bogeys from Wilcox at 15 and 17, after he three-putted the final par three, took the match up the last all square.
Matt, who had been feeling under the weather going into the tournament, said: “The miss on eight was the first crucial moment of the game and that short putt on the other par five at 13 was another major momentum shift.
“There was some good golf but it was also a bit scrappy at times. I said before the championship that the one player I did not want to meet was Robbo.
“Of course I would have been happy to play in him the final, but I just thought the way he has been playing recently, and his record of having won the championship here before, he was the man to beat this week.
“With a bit of luck that was his bad round today. I hope he goes on to win it again. He deserves it.”