County side aim for title

Darren Walkley will be in the Hampshire ranks as they face Essex. Picture: Andrew Griffin
Darren Walkley will be in the Hampshire ranks as they face Essex. Picture: Andrew Griffin
Scott Gregory. Picture: Andrew Griffin

Gregory misses out

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Hampshire captain Steve Williams has warned his players against complacency ahead of this week’s Daily Telegraph South East League group final.

The county side will be bidding to finish the season in style at The Warren in Essex.

And they will be looking to add to their unbeaten record in the last five finals stretching back to 2000, where they have won three and halved two.

Williams’ men will be big favourites to take the crown with four foursomes matches in the morning followed by eight singles games after lunch.

And he will lean on coach, Rob Watts, to ensure his players produce their best on the day.

Williams said: ‘The message I will be emphasising to my team this weekend is to guard against complacency.

‘We know we are one of the strongest counties in the country and everyone will be expecting us to win the Telegraph Salver again.

‘We will not be taking Essex lightly and with the help of our coach Rob Watts, we will prepare the players mentally for the challenge ahead.

‘We will have a good look at the course – which looks quite short on paper – when we play our practice round on Saturday afternoon.

‘Rob was part of the team that helped Darren Clarke win The Open in 2011 and he has helped me and my predecessor with the team over the last few seasons.

‘He is great for the squad sessions we do throughout the year.

‘He challenges the players to think about their game and he is not frightened about being honest with them.

‘In return, they respond to that and regularly go out there and produce their best for Hampshire.’

Williams has used 15 players for the eight-man competition so far in 2014, including the Hayling trio of Ben Wall, Darren Walkley and Mark Thistleton,

Wall, winner of the Solent Salver in August, and Walkley, who claimed the first ever Hampshire Order of Merit title earlier this month, are both in the squad heading to Essex.

And they will be joined by Tom Robson (Rowlands Castle) and Corhampton’s Scott Gregory, who has just returned from a holiday in Greece after a marathon schedule this summer.

It’s a strong team but it might have been even stronger with Meon Valley’s Harry Ellis, Rowlands Castle’s Billy Mckenzie and Hayling’s Jamie Mist all unavailable as they have returned to their respective USA universities.

Williams also believes that former county star Justin Rose’s Ryder Cup heroics will act as extra inspiration for his side.

He said: ‘Everyone connected with Hampshire golf can only be inspired by watching Justin produce some outstanding golf.

‘People like Martin Young in my team played in county competitions with Justin when he was a teenager.

‘And luckily most of our county players either know Justin, or have had the chance to be around him and learn from him.

‘The youngsters like Scott Gregory, know that Justin came out of the same junior coaching programme as they did.

‘When you see him go on to become the first Englishman to win a US Open in more than 40 years and then star in the Ryder Cup – the ultimate matchplay and team golf event in the world – that has to inspire you.’