HAMPSHIRE’s under-16s were inspired by Europe’s Ryder Cup heroics as they won the South East League for the very first time.
The county youngsters defeated East Division winners Suffolk 7-1 on the same Sunday as events in Paris, before drawing 4-4 with Hertfordshire (North Division).
And that was enough to hand Rob Mulachy’s side the title, after Herts won their match-up against Suffolk 6-2..
The victory also denied Hertfordshire an under-16s and under-18s South East League double.
Starring for the team were Meon Valley’s Nick Matthews, who has also been a member of the Hampshire under-18 team this summer, and Hayling’s Jame Hellyer.
Three of the team will graduate together into the under-18s squad for next season to join Matthews and Liphook’s English Schools’ South West champion Sam West, who claimed the crucial point to take the title with a 3&2 victory in the bottom match against Herts.
South Winchester’s Josh Mulcahy was beaten early in the fifth match, only for Hellyer to level to make it 1-1 almost immediately by winning on the 13th.
But the top four matches were all tight affairs at The Dyke, with every one reaching the 17th.
James Freeman, at the top of the order, won on the last and Bramshaw’s Joe Buenfeld claimed the 17th to go three up and make it 3-1 to Hampshire.
But Hockley’s Tom Chalk and Matthews were both beaten 2&1 as Hertfordshire levelled up the scores, only for Barton-on-Sea’s Josh Caffyn to also lose 2&1.
It was then left to West to ensure history was made by Hampshire.
Prior to their trip to The Dyke in Brighton, Hampshire claimed the South Division title – also for the very first time – by beating Kent and Sussex at Royal Ashdown in the final league match of the season.
Despite Sussex having home advantage, Mulcahy watched his team inflict a 5.5-2.5 victory over the hosts in the triangular match, while recording a 5-3 win over Kent to claim their first silverware of the season.
Hampshire junior champion James Freeman picked up maximum points, along with West, to ensure Hampshire reached the final.
A delighted Mulcahy said: ‘Our under-16 team have been together for a number of years and the bond, team spirit and belief wins you matches.
‘The boys had been watching the first two days of the Ryder Cup and just wanted to get out there and emulate their heroes.
‘Having a Hampshire legend like Justin Rose starring in the Ryder Cup is a massive inspiration for all our players.
‘After all, he played in the same events as they do when he was a boy.
‘The boys are a credit to their clubs and parents, as well as the county.’
Hampshire won four of their six matches this summer, drawing the other two.
Their progress will raise hopes of reaching the 2019 English Boys’ Finals for the first time since 2015.
Team: James Freeman (Stoneham), Joe Buenfeld (Bramshaw), Tom Chalk (Hockley), Nick Matthews (Meon Valley/Newport), Josh Mulcahy (South Winchester), James Hellyer (Hayling), Josh Caffyn (Barton-on-Sea), Sam West (Liphook).