HAMPSHIRE made it four league wins out of four at Liphook, beating Kent comfortably 8-4 in their opening match of the season.
It was the perfect start for Lawrence Cherry as the new county captain, having become the youngest man to hold the post in more than 70 years when Liphook hosted Hampshire Golf’s annual general meeting in February.
Liphook hosted the first home game of the season against Dorset in 2017 and 2022, with Hampshire racking up ten points out of 12 in both fixtures, having claimed the South Division title with a win against Surrey back in 2014.
But Dorset’s move to the South West’s Channel League has altered the format of the South Division of England Golf’s South East League.
Hampshire have not won the Daily Telegraph Salver as South East League champions since 2012, having lifted the trophy nine times since the competition was created back in 1964.
They lost three of their four matches in 2022 in Neil Dawson’s final season in his three years in charge – the first year saw all competitive matches lost to Covid-19.
Cherry and new Hampshire first-team coach Kevin Flynn were desperate to beat Kent and are aiming to reach a first final since 2018 by winning the South Division.
The morning foursomes are often pivotal and Cherry watched his men get off to the best possible start.
From being down in three matches and up in only one, the hosts fought back and reversed their fortunes in all four games.
Only the pairing of Brokenhurst Manor’s Martin Young – who is playing in his 26th season in the league – and North Hants’ Robert Wheeler lost, losing the 18th to go down by two.
Hampshire’s new management team were taking nothing for granted and sent out vice-captain Toby Burden, from Hayling Golf Club, at the top of the order.
Having won the past two Hampshire Order of Merits and become the first player to reach three finals at the county championship since European Tour winner Richard Bland’s days as an amateur, Burden was determined to claim his point.
Burden regards Liphook as his favourite Hampshire course, having lost in a play-off in the 2009 final, but found himself two-down with five to play.
Kent had claimed victory in matches two and three to level the match briefly, but Burden won the 18th to claim a two-hole win against Tony Adams.
Wins for last year’s English Amateur semi-finalist Charlie Forster, from Basingstoke – who beat former England international Ed Richardson 4&3 – and for North Hants’ debutant Wheeler by the same margin, made it 6-3 to the hosts.
Young, who also enjoys Liphook’s renowned fast greens, claimed a 7&5 win against debutant Nic Elliott having played more than 100 times for Hampshire, having missed a putt to close out the match on the 11th.
That earned Hampshire the outright victory and Test Valley’s Stuart Archibald – who claimed the Logan Trophy by winning the English Mid-Amateur at Liphook last summer – wrapped up a two-hole win against Nick Panting to make it 8-4.
Hampshire travel to Sussex next Sunday (June 25) before hosting Surrey at Blackmoor in early August.