Despite efforts from an Island duo, Hampshire’s English County Golf Finals hoodoo extended to 20 years of hurt as defeat against Yorkshire handed their rivals a record 21st title, at Sandwell Park on Sunday (25th September).
The Northern Counties champions claimed the morning foursomes 21/2-1/2 after Hampshire captain Martin Young and Shanklin and Sandown Golf Club’s Ryan Harmer were unable to salvage a half on the last in the bottom match, leaving Yorkshire needing just 2 points from the 4 singles to claim the championship.
Young opted to partner Harmer – a former clubmate at Brokenhurst Manor when the former Freshwater man was a student at the New Forest college – in a bid to eek out a lead in the alternate-shot format. But they found themselves up against it as Ben Brewster and Will Whiteoak made a string of birdies on the West Midlands course, just a long drive from West Brom’s Hawthorns ground.
The Hampshire pair, who watched their opponents make an eagle at the par 5 10th, found themselves 2 down with 2 to play. They won the 17th but when Young’s approach into 18 found the front edge of the green, Harmer could not sink his birdie putt and the hole was halved in par to give Yorkshire the crucial edge.
Shanklin’s Jordan Sundborg had sat out the morning action but was sent out in second spot in the singles draw.
Hampshire needed a fast start but Rowlands Castle’s Tom Robson lost the top game to Steve Robins 3&2.
Sundborg, who travelled back from his first week at Stirling University where he has started a golf scholarship that will take him to regular tournaments against some of America’s top colleges, could not find his rhythm against Yorkshire Order of Merit winner Kealen Lowe.
The Solent Salver winner – who was 2 down – went for broke on the downhill par 3 16th, but saw his tee shot take a big bounce when pin high and skipped over the back of the green. He could only send his second shooting back across the green and his putt came up 10 feet short. And having holed his next for a 4, Lowe calmly made his 3 to win 3&2 and seal the championship for Yorkshire.
Harmer was left playing for pride but was largely in control against Ben Hutchinson until his 2-hole was pegged back with 2 to play.
But the Courage Trophy winner, who has put plans to turn pro on hold for now, took the last 2 holes to win by 2 and leave the scoreline a better reflection of how close Hampshire came to finally claiming the title at 51/2-31/2 in Yorshire’s favour.
They had been spurred on by a good luck video from Olympic Gold medal winner Justin Rose, who played in the last Hampshire championship winning team 20 years ago, when he was just 16.
Hampshire had beaten Cornwall 5-4 on the first day and Warwickshire 61/2-21/2, thanks to a very strong showing in the Saturday singles, dropping just half a point.
Harmer and Sundborg were sent out for their finals debut in the foursomes against Cornwall, but they were well beaten by Rob McGregor and Conor Wilson, 5&4. Sundborg bounced back by beating Josh Greenaway 3&1 but Harmer lost out by 1 on the last to Richard Jasper.
The Scottish-based student was sent out with fellow teenager George Saunders against Warwickshire’s Tom Ibbertson and Gareth Jenkins but were soundly beaten 5&4.
Harmer – who sat out the morning action – stormed to an impressive 5&4 win over former England international Matt Cryer, who lost to Masters winner Danny Willett, in the English Amateur final, in 2007.
It set the tone for 4 wins in the remaining 5 matches while Sundborg got a half in his rematch with Jenkins in the other.
The win over Warwickshire ensured Hampshire ended at least one hoodoo – they had lost every match on Saturdays at the finals since 1996.
But Hampshire golf supporters were left with the heartache of having seen the title slip through their grasp on the last day for a seventh time in a row – even if they did finish second for the third time in that run.