Frustration for Hampshire golfers as Kent triumph in County Championship qualifier at Ashford
Hampshire were unable to build on their incredible record of seven wins in 12 years in the County Championship regional qualifier at Ashford last weekend, writes Andrew Griffin.
County captain Colin Roope sent a six-man squad, which he believed was as strong as any named in the past two decades of the event, to the Kent course.
Rowlands Castle duo Billy McKenzie and Darren Wright were involved, along with Lee-on-the-Solent’s George Saunders.
But it was the hosts who got to grips with the course to win by three shots from Surrey, with Hampshire trailing home in fifth.
With all six scores counting over 36 holes, Roope’s men made a slow start and were 17 shots adrift of Kent at the halfway mark.
Saunders led a heroic fightback after lunch – storming to three-under on his front nine and getting to six-under with two holes to play.
The 19-year-old pressed too hard, though, and finished with a pair of bogeys.
Saunders, who has spent the past year at Midland College in Texas, remained Roope’s leading scorer.
He finished joint-top of the Hampshire card in the morning, too, with a one-over 72.
Wright is one of a handful of players to have won both the English boys’ and men’s strokeplay crowns.
But the Carris and Brabazon winner had an off-day – carding a 75 and 74 to finish seven-over.
While Kent’s highest scorer had the same total, the other five averaged a shade under three-under par for the 36 holes.
England A squad member McKenzie threatened to go low in the afternoon but a late double saw him finish with a 71 and a two-over total.
Hampshire veteran Martin Young, playing in his 20th successive south east qualifier, added a fine 69 to his opening 72 to be the only other member of the team in the red.
It left Kent to claim a rare double, having won the boys’ qualifier the previous week.
Their under-18s have reached the English finals twice since 2001 – but it was the men’s first victory in more than 30 years.