Hampshire’s hopes of extending their domination of the English Golf Union’s south eastern division were dashed amid the imposing woodlands of Hertfordshire’s Ashridge estate.
Alan Mew’s men were looking for their fourth south-east qualifier victory in five years on Saturday but could not repeat their historic 19-shot success at Stoneham as they trailed eventual winners Surrey by 28 shots, finishing eighth.
That was not the result Mew was hoping for, with three of last year’s triumphant team turning out again for Hampshire, Isle of Wight and the Channel Islands.
Brokenhurst Manor’s Martin Young – who broke his duck to win the county championship after 25 years of trying at The Army GC in June – bravely led Hampshire’s defence, opting to play less than 24 hours after his father suffered a heart attack.
He recovered from a first-round 75 to fire a superb four-under-par 68 in the second to end the day as the only Hampshire player below par.
Hayling’s England under-18 squad member Colin Walsh, who was called into action as an 11th-hour replacement, produced some of his best golf to finish the day on level par after returning scores of 73 and 71.
Walsh, meanwhile, appears to be returning to form after his fifth-place finish in the South Eastern Group Junior Championship with two level-par rounds at Burhill Golf Club.
As for the rest of the Hampshire side, it was a tale of disappointment.
Big things had been expected of newly-crowned Brabazon Trophy winner Neil Raymond but the Corhampton man had one of his worst days on the golf course for a long time as he could only card a total of six-over par – stumbling to a five-over 77 before lunch.
A 73 in the afternoon could not repair the damage done for the 25-year-old who became just the fourth player from the Hampshire, IoW and CI Golf Union to win the English Amateur Strokeplay Championship in 65 years, two weeks ago.
With last year’s Brabazon Trophy winner – Rowlands Castle’s Darren Wright – away with England in Portugal preparing for their defence of their European Amateur Team Championship title, Hampshire and the islands needed someone to stand up and be counted.
Stoneham’s Ryan Henley, who lost in the final to Young going for his hat-trick of county championship, was also six-over after two 75s and the Army GC’s in-form Sam Robertshawe – winner of the South East of England Links at Royal Cinque Ports and St George’s in May, was only one better after a second-round 74, having also opened with a 75.
The youngest member of the team – Brokenhurst’s Jordan Ainley at just 16 – was three-over after carding a 74 and 73.
Surrey – who last won the English County Championship in 2004 – were five shots clear of minnows Norfolk.
Hampshire will get the chance for revenge over Surrey when they travel to Royal Wimbledon in two weeks for their third Daily Telegraph South East League fixture of the season with both sides still unbeaten.