Rowlands Castle pair eye county glory

Tom Robson. Picture: Andrew Griffin
Tom Robson. Picture: Andrew Griffin
Scott Gregory. Picture: Andrew Griffin

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Rowlands Castle duo Tom Robson and Billy Mckenzie are among those expected to lead the local challenge at the Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Championship at Blackmoor tomorrow.

Robson lifted the coveted crown in 2009 at Liphook and is back in the UK after completing a golf scholarship in Alabama, USA.

Mckenzie, meanwhile, is one of a clutch of young players eager to make a mark and follow in the footsteps of former Ryder Cup star Steve Richardson, who lifted the title in 1988.

And both are in with a decent shout in a 75-strong field who will compete for the 16 places in the weekend matchplay knockout with a 36-hole qualifier.

Robson, who has now started work for Petersfield-based event management company MCI, said: ‘I remember a lot about my victory at Liphook because it was the first time I had ever played in the county championships.

‘Liphook has always been one of my favourite courses so it really suited me playing there.

‘I always knew that if I hung in there enough I could turn my week around.

‘I had a rough first round in qualifying, but was easily -10 for the week after that.

‘My preparation for this week has been very limited because of having to work Monday to Friday every week.

‘It is not ideal but I played very well at both the Selborne Salver and Hampshire Hog, finishing fifth and eighth respectively.

‘I have been trying to play as much as possible in the evenings at the moment.

‘And I’m playing in every match I can.’

The 24-year-old enjoyed considerable success playing for the Jacksonville State University Gamecocks between 2009 and 2012.

He won their home event, the Grub Mart Intercollegiate, twice – the first player ever to do so.

That saw him named in the Golf Coaches Association of America’s Cleveland/Srixon All-America Scholars list for 2012.

And Jacksonville State reached the regional finals of the US college championships two years running.

Meanwhile, Mckenzie is making his debut in the event but goes into it on a high after some impressive recent results.

The teenager produced the best result of his career so far in April – second in the West of England Amateur Strokeplay.

Mckenzie said: ‘I have never played in the county championships before, as last year I was at a family wedding and the year before I didn’t enter as I didn’t think I was good enough.

‘But this year I will be going into the tournament with high expectations.

‘I’m playing well and with it being played round a course that I am an away member helps me out a lot.’

The first round of the matchplay takes place on Saturday morning, with the quarter-finals in the afternoon at Blackmoor.

The semi-finals and final will be held on Sunday, with other events planned for higher handicaps over the weekend.

Entry is free and spectators are welcome on all three days.