Rowlands pair lift county title

From left: Brokenhurst captain Barry Gregory, Billy McKenzie, Mark Sawford and Hampshire IoW & CI Golf Union president Tony Cullen

From left: Brokenhurst captain Barry Gregory, Billy McKenzie, Mark Sawford and Hampshire IoW & CI Golf Union president Tony Cullen

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Rowlands Castle duo Mark Sawford and Billy McKenzie cruised to victory in the county foursomes as club-mate Darren Wright continued his promising start in the professional ranks.

Wright claimed joint-first place in his section of the first stage of Qualifying School with an impressive five-under-par four-round total at Dundonald Links.

That secured his place in the next stage in December where he will continue his quest to earn his European Tour card for next season.

But Sawford and McKenzie extended the feel-good factor around Rowlands Castle Golf Club with a five-shot victory at Brokenhurst Manor in the alternate shot format.

After a two-over-par 72 in their opening round, the pair fired a fine two-under-par 68 in round two to run away with the title.

Stoneham duo Andy Bow and Andy Haworth led the field by one stroke at the midway point after carding a 71 in tough conditions.

Hayling’s Matt Blackey – who teamed up with Paul McDonnell – eventually claimed the runners-up spot after finding form with a second round 69 after an opening 76.

But Sawford and McKenzie held off the challenge in convincing style.

It’s not the first time Sawford has enjoyed success around the tricky New Forest course, after becoming the Hampshire’s youth champion there last year.

And Sawford clearly knows how to take full advantage of birdie opportunities.

He said: ‘At Brokenhurst, you have to hit it straight off the tee and keep it in play and that’s the best part of my game.

‘It was surprising but we birdied most of the holes in the afternoon that we did in the morning.

‘We birdied the first, the third, the 14th and the 16th in both rounds and we took our opportunities really well.

‘Our only bad hole was on the fourth in the first round.

‘We made a triple bogey seven to go from two under to one over but we recovered well.’

Sawford was also full of praise for his young partner, and their performance was all the more remarkable considering their team was only forged just four days before they lifted the title.

Sawford said: ‘Billy was really good.

‘He has a similar game to me where he’s just really steady, which is perfect in foursomes.

‘We do play quite a bit at Rowlands together but never as a pairing.

‘The first time we played as a pair was only four days before the county foursomes, so we got used to each other’s games.’

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