Hampshire’s young golfers will experience the heat of battle more often thanks to a new under-18 team competition this season.
Although the county youngsters participate in the England Golf Boys’ County Championship qualifying, the rest of their fixtures were previously made up of friendly clashes against other counties at under-18 level.
But this season they will go up against Kent, Surrey and Sussex in a new league format, with a new title up for grabs if they can progress and beat the other group winners from the other south east groups.
Essex, Hertfordshire, Middlesex & Beds, Bucks & Oxfordshire are in one section, while Suffolk, Norfolk and Bedfordshire are in the other group.
And under-18s manager, John Moore, believes it will stand the youngsters in good stead if they are to attempt to follow in the footsteps of some of the other Hampshire graduates – with the likes of Harry Ellis, Scott Gregory and Justin Rose among them.
Moore said: In the past there hasn’t been an under-18 league so this is something new that we are starting up.
‘There are 11 counties in the south east and there are three sections.
‘We’ve got Kent, Surrey and Sussex in our section.
‘We will all play three matches and then the winners of the league will play the winners of the other leagues.
‘I think it makes them (the players) more competitive in the way they play and that can only help their development in the future.
‘We have played friendlies against other counties but it’s a little bit different when it is a bit more competitive and you are playing for something.
‘It’s something to aim for.
‘There is a different mindset when you are playing a competitive game, rather than when you know it’s a friendly.
‘I think that can only help the players when it comes to going up through the ranks.
‘When I first got involved, Harry Ellis and Scott Gregory were under-16s and we tried to nurture them and give them the best support you can.
‘We have got some very good coaches in Hampshire that we use.
‘Justin Rose came through the Hampshire system and he is a great example to all of these young lads.’
Although the team has not yet been selected, Hayling’s Travis Yung-Hok, Meon Valley’s George Saunders and Rowlands Castle’s Josh Sturt will be among those challenging to be included from the region.
The first of the four fixtures takes place at Langley Park, Kent, in April.
Hampshire are not involved in the clash at Effingham in Surrey, with each county missing one fixture in the schedule.
But they are back in action when Mannings Heath in Sussex stages the second round in June.
Hampshire then host the final round at Blackmoor on July 26, with eight singles matches taking place between the counties on the day.
Moore added: ‘In the past, some of the guys would not be available because it was only a friendly and a lot of them have other tournaments.
‘Now with it being a league, I would hope they would be up for it more.
‘But we have got some real talent coming through.
‘They are all single-figure handicappers from the under-16s upwards.’