County Colts seal the crown

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Gregory is declared as Europe’s top amateur

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Scott Gregory, Adam Reid and Tom Robson were unbeaten as Hampshire Colts produced a spirited recovery against Essex to claim the South East League title for the first time in 17 years.

With the senior side suffering a shock defeat to the same county recently in their final, the under-21s had revenge on their mind ahead of the showdown at Hendon.

And Gregory (Corhampton), Robson (Rowlands Castle) and Ben Wall (Hayling), who were all on the losing side at The Warren, had their own motivation.

It looked like the match could be heading down a similar path at the midway point in the contest as Hampshire were 2.5-1.5 down after struggling in the foursomes.

Robson and Ryan Harmer (Brokenhurst Manor) gelled in their new partnership from the first tee and got their team off to a flying start with a 4&3 success over Reece Francis and Joe Finn.

However, a 2&1 defeat for North Hants pair Charlie Manning and Billy Watson was followed by another reverse by the same scoreline for Wall and Corhampton’s Sam Day.

But it was Day’s club-mates Gregory and Reid who turned the tide as they claimed a miraculous half point in their contest against Bobby Keeble and Arthur Leonard.

Reid made a nervy start on his debut for the county colts as the Essex duo moved into an early lead.

Although the Hampshire pair steadied the ship, they found themselves three down with three to play.

But Gregory – who has capped a fabulous season with his selection for the England squad – clicked into his brilliant best, while Reid played his part as the duo claimed a share of the spoils.

Manager Neil Dawson said: ‘It was a tremendous fightback.

‘I can’t stress how important that half was.

‘Only being down 2.5-1.5 instead of 3-1 after the foursomes gave us momentum for the afternoon and we went from there.’

Robson was sent out first and fought back from two holes down at one stage to deliver a vital point on the 18th green.

He also showed his bottle as he holed a brave eight-foot putt for the win to give his team a major lift.

That news fed back to the rest of the Hampshire players and the surge continued when Gregory destroyed Daniel Garner 4&3 in comprehensive fashion.

The Waterlooville-based English Amateur finalist was hard to live with as he rattled in six birdies and an eagle in 15 holes.

Essex pulled a point back when Harmer went down 5&4.

But Day held on to grab a victory on the final green in his match – despite seeing his lead cut from five up at the turn.

Reid also dug deep to close out his match on the 18th.

Manning’s battle ended all square, Watson picked up a 2&1 win, while Wall turned in a solid performance against his opponent to register a 4&2 success and complete a famous victory for Hampshire.

Dawson said: ‘To say I am proud of them is an understatement.

‘It’s the first time we have won the trophy outright since 1997

‘The lads showed a lot of spirit to come back the way they did and play high quality golf.

‘There were some big turning points but we are all delighted.’