Harris to make debut after missing out on Pompey appearance

Hayling Golf Club's Richard Harris Picture: Andrew Griffin
Hayling Golf Club's Richard Harris Picture: Andrew Griffin
Corhampton's Scott Gregory. Picture: Andrew Griffin

Gregory glory bid ended after late pain on the 18th

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Hayling’s Richard Harris used to dream of scoring for Pompey in the Premier League after playing for the club’s academy team.

Now the 26-year-old – who saw his football dreams scuppered by a serious injury – is set to make his debut for Hampshire in the Daily Telegraph South East League against Sussex next month, after reaching the semi-final of the Hampshire Amateur Championship at Hayling.

He was only denied a place in the final by county captain Martin Young, who joined an elite band of just four players who have won the Sloane Stanley Challenge Cup three times or more since the championship became a matchplay event in 1926.

And while Young was totally focused on the task of clinching his place in the final, he could only be suitably impressed by his opponent.

In the biggest match of his amateur career, Harris had the home support.

But Young won the ninth and the 10th to go two up, before a bogey five at the 12th gave Harris a glimmer of hope.

He then drew praise from the watching gallery as he called a penalty on himself after the ball moved after he addressed it on the 14th.

Three down with three to play, he made a brave par on the 16th, but he blocked his approach to the next green and had to take a penalty drop from the gorse.

Young’s tee shot found the sand but he got the ball up on to the front of the 17th green and was left with three putts to claim a 3&1 win.

Harris was pleased when Young paid the ultimate compliment to his opponent at the prize presentation by announcing he had called him up for the Sussex match at East Sussex National.

‘I am delighted to get the call up from Martin, even though it was disappointing not to make the final,’ he said.

‘I dreamed of playing for Pompey at Fratton Park and was all set to sign a contract when Paul Hart was in charge of the Academy.

‘Then I got injured and was forced to quit playing football. I admit it was a very depressing time for a long while.

‘I started playing golf at Cams Hall and joined Hayling in 2012.

‘People have been talking about me and whether I should play for the county for a while now, so it was nice to qualify in third place and then go out and play under pressure in the matchplay.’

And play he did. After rounds of 70 and 69 in Friday’s qualifying for the matchplay, the 26-year-old defeated Delhi Cup winner George Saunders, aged 16, in the first round (two-up).

He then ended Billy Watson’s dream of becoming the first player from North Hants to reach the final since Justin Rose lost in Guernsey back in 1997 in the quarter-finals.

Meanwhile, Harris was cut to plus-two after his opening two rounds and helped Hayling’s A team win the Challenge Shield.

That earns them the right to represent Hampshire in the England Champion Club tournament for the de Montmorency Trophy, which will be played at the European Challenge Tour venue at Stoke-by-Nayalnd, near Colchester.