Hampshire have final hope despite reshuffled pack

Billy McKenzie Picture: Andrew Griffin

Billy McKenzie Picture: Andrew Griffin

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Martin Young believes his reshuffled pack could be the key to Hampshire finally winning the English County Championship for the first time since 1996.

The county captain is missing three of his star players going into Friday’s final at Sandwell Park.

British Amateur champion Scott Gregory (Corhampton GC) is on Eisenhower Trophy duty, while Hayling’s Jamie Mist and 2012 English Amateur champion, Harry Ellis, are both back playing college golf in America.

Rowlands Castle’s Tillman Trophy winner, Billy McKenzie, has secured his release from William Woods University to play, however.

And that could work in Hampshire’s favour as they try to reverse a run of disappointments on the final day, having reached this stage of the competition seven times in just 15 years.

Young said: ‘I have spoken to past captains like Kevin Weeks, Andy Bow, Steve Williams, Alan Mew and Richard Elmes and looked back at the results since 1996.

‘It shows our top players have found it harder to win the crucial points than the established international players who have helped Lancashire and Yorkshire dominate the finals.

‘Without Scott, Harry and Jamie, I am hoping the three players who are making their debuts can rise to the occasion and flourish maybe not having the expectation that our top players have had to cope with in past county finals.’

With Gregory, Mist and Ellis all unavailable, Shanklin and Sandown’s inform pair of Jordan Sundborg and Ryan Harmer join teenager George Saunders (Meon Valley) in the seven-man squad.

Saunders won of the Delhi Cup at Hockley in May, Sundborg claimed the Solent Salver for the best aggregate in the Stoneham Trophy and Mike Smith Memorial at Brokenhurst a month ago, while Harmer claimed the biggest win of his career by claiming the Courage Trophy at Hockley two weeks ago.

Young said he was delighted with the form of all three players going into Friday’s final.

He said: ‘It has been really tough to pick a final seven – even without the likes of Harry Ellis and Scott Gregory.

‘Jordan was always in my mind, and once we found out Ryan Harmer was not going to turn pro he was obviously in my plans.

‘That left me with a really tough decision whether to call up Blackmoor’s Mark Burgess, who was part of the team in 2013, and Colin Roope, who has just won both the Hampshire Order of Merits – nett and gross.

‘Mark has started to play really well again in the last few weeks, and although Colin played twice in the English Finals for Surrey 10 years ago, I decided to go with the player I know better.

“I have warned Mark he might not play on the first day against Cornwall, and if things go really well I might be tempted to leave the team unchanged so he might not get to play until the final day.

‘But he is the sort of person who is happy to put the team first and accept the role I give him – and being a playing captain when I can’t be everywhere, that could be a big help.’

The line-up is completed by another Rowlands Castle man in the shape of Hampshire Colts captain Tom Robson.

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