HAYLING’s Darren Walkley has decided he could not leave it any longer before turning pro.
He has transformed his game from a seven-handicapper at Southsea Golf Club just six years ago to someone capable of competing on the national stage against the country’s top amateurs.
The decision by the winner of the first two-ever Hampshire Order of Merit titles means a new name will appear on the Cullen Quaich in September.
More importantly it means there will be another place in the county side that will try to land their first English County Championship in 20 years when Martin Young’s side travel to West Bromwich at the end of September.
Although Walkley was missing from the six-man side that qualified for the English County Finals for the sixth time in 10 years when Hampshire finished three shots ahead of Surrey at Reading’s Calcot Park nearly a month ago because of work commitments, he would certainly have been on the list for the seven-man squad for September’s final.
Walkley said: ‘Obviously I would have loved to represent Hampshire again at the county finals – but I can’t stay amateur just for that.
‘The last few months have been pretty decent – I only missed one cut at the British at Royal Portchcawl, in June.
‘Otherwise, without playing my best, I have still managed to finished around the top 20. I just could not put off turning pro any longer.’
Walkley added: ‘I have played in more national events over the past two years to test if I was really good enough to have a go at playing in the pro ranks.
‘I play in these events and all the lads I am competing against are 17-22 years old.
‘I’ve been given great advice and guidance over the last few years and I believe now is the right time.’
Certainly, the highlight of his career so far was winning the 2015 Hampshire Amateur Championship at Brokenhurst Manor, the home of the current county captain Young, who was the favourite to win the Sloane Stanley Challenge Cup, and who had beaten him in a play-off for the Courage Trophy at Hayling, in 2012, when Walkley first came to the selectors’ attentions.
‘Winning the county champs was obviously the highlight as it got me one over on the skipper didn’t it,’ said Walkley.
‘Hayling has turned me into a good golfer. Now I need to become a great one.
‘This is where the hard work starts and I’m up for the challenge.
‘I have written to the county secretary David Wheeler thanking him and everyone at Hampshire Golf for all they have done for me and I obviously wish Martin and the team well.’