Hampshire chase national title

Tom Robson
Tom Robson
Scott Gregory. Picture: Andrew Griffin

Gregory misses out

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Tom Robson is determined to play a key role in his team’s attempts to claim the English County Finals title as the battle begins tomorrow.

Hampshire, Isle of Wight & The Channel Islands have appeared in the finale 10 times in the competition’s 88-year history – but have only emerged victorious once.

That was back in 1996 when a certain Justin Rose was in the six-man team that claimed the English County Championship at Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire.

Rose, from North Hants Golf Club, was just 16 at the time but had already been crowned the English Boys Strokeplay champion a whole 12 months earlier.

And the teenager gave a glimpse of the talent that would see him eventually go on to win the US Open by claiming five points out of six in his foursomes and singles matches against Dorset, Leicestershire and Northumberland.

But the current seven-man Hampshire team, which also includes Meon Valley talent Harry Ellis, will fancy their chances of emulating Rose & Co at Minchinhampton Golf Club in Gloucestershire and ending the 17-year barren run.

Robson, from Rowlands Castle Golf Club, is expected to resume his successful partnership with Stoneham’s Elliot Groves in the foursomes.

And he is keen to make the most of the opportunity in one of amateur team golf’s top domestic events.

He said: ‘We are all looking forward to it and would love to get a second win for the county.

‘Myself and Elliot know we can rely on each other to get each other out of trouble and we never panic. We have that bit of trust and we have had some success playing together in the past.

‘Hopefully, we can do well again and put the team in a good position.

‘But it’s a tough event with some quality players and each of the teams will have high hopes of winning.

‘We are no different in that respect but we have got players in form and will give it everything we can to win the title.’

Hampshire won the south east qualifier for the fourth time since 2007 at Luton’s South Beds Golf Club in July.

The Rowlands Castle man took the individual honours in the 36-hole strokeplay event.

A Jacksonville State University graduate, Robson won two tournaments while playing for the college in Alabama and has enjoyed a productive season since his return to the UK – becoming a regular for Hampshire.

But he is joined by some quality and experience in the ranks with Stoneham’s non-playing captain, Richard Elmes, having a strong line-up at his disposal.

Brokenhurst Manor stalwart Martin Young will be a key figure, while Mark Burgess, of Blackmoor, Gavin O’Neill (Royal Jersey) and Stoneham’s Ryan Henley make up the rest of the side.

Hampshire, IoW & CI start their title quest by facing Devon tomorrow, after Wiltshire, the 2011 and 2012 English champions, surprisingly failed to come through their qualifier in the south west region.

The winners of that match will face the losers of the other match between Leicestershire and Lancashire on Saturday.

The third and final match of the round-robin is played on Sunday when the champions will be crowned.