Harry Ellis will be bidding to follow in the illustrious footsteps of Paul Casey when he starts the defence of his English Amateur Championship crown on Monday.
The Meon Valley ace became the youngest winner of the coveted title 12 months ago at the age of just 16 – beating Sir Nick Faldo’s record when he won the title back in 1975, aged just 18 years of age.
But Ellis now has another Ryder Cup star in his sights at Frilford Heath near Oxford as he attempts to emulate Casey – the last golfer who managed to win back-to-back titles in 1999 and 2000.
While it has been a patchy season for the teenager, he has already shown he can raise his game following last year’s shock success at Silloth-on-Solway.
Ellis beat many more experienced players than himself on the way to the final last year and then ousted Henry Tomlinson 2&1 to lift the trophy.
And he will be determined to at least make it through the 36-hole strokeplay qualifier as one of 64 players to enter the matchplay phase during his defence.
The Hampshire man will not be the only contender, though, with a host of other local talents eager to make a name for themselves.
Corhampton’s Neil Raymond is bound to be among the favourites for the title after a fine season that has seen him put himself into position as an almost certain selection for the Walker Cup in September.
Having been knocked out at the quarter-final stage last term, Raymond will be keen to add one more big individual title to his amateur CV before turning professional later this year – hopefully after he has played in the amateur team showdown against USA in New York in September.
Raymond has become one of the top amateurs in the country, but there is plenty of other talent from the region who are one big tournament away from making the breakthrough.
Hayling duo Ben Wall and Jamie Mist, Rowlands Castle’s Billy Mckenzie, Remi Cake (Meon Valley) and Scott Gregory (Corhampton) – who narowly missed out on qualifying for The Open recently – will also be in the field.