Weather woes deny Meon a chance to claim County glory

Meon Valley's golfers were denied County Sevens glory at Stoneham by a torrential downpour
Meon Valley's golfers were denied County Sevens glory at Stoneham by a torrential downpour
Hampshire golfer Billy McKenzie Picture: Andrew Griffin

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Meon Valley were denied the chance to claim the County Sevens title for the first time when weather intervened at Stoneham on Sunday.

Torrential rain forced organisers to send out all four semi-finalists for an 18-hole medal, before matching up the results in a head-to -head to determine the eventual winner.

And Oak Park, who lost in their previous attempt to be crowned County Sevens champions at Tylney Park five years ago, turned out to the be runaway winners.

They were declared 6-1 victors over Cowes, before the ‘virtual’ matchplay carried out with the cards in the clubhouse at the culmination of play saw them defeat Meon Valley 6 1/2 – 1/2.

Weather has disrupted the finals in the past, with play suspended at Waterlooville in 2010 after the morning semis, forcing Hampshire Golf Union to bring the teams back on another day.

Torrential rain also almost ruined the 2013 final as the finalists bravely battled to the conclusion.

But having submitted their team line-ups at 7.30am, by 8am the 28 players were still sat in the clubhouse looking out a a flooded putting green.

And with 18 bunkers on the course out of play thanks to a major investment programme the greenkeepers had their work cut out to get the rest ready for play and the revered course’s greens free of water.

The organisers called the four captains together and decided to send the players out in eight three-balls and two two-balls in handicap order.

As a result, the major impact of the drama of matchplay was missing with no team really able to calculate where they stood.

Only when the cards were handed in some five hours later were they matched up in the order of the teams submitted by the captains, which were then turned into a hole-by-hole score to determine the winner of each, and subsequently all seven matches.

Meon’s semi-final against Jersey’s La Grand Mare, who made a mockery of their status as the minnows on the Channel Island by reaching the final for a third time in five years, proved to be a 7-0 whitewash against the 2012 champions, while 2003 winners Cowes were beaten 6-1 by Oak Park.

But with Oak Park fielding two players playing off six and the rest having handicaps between 11 and 13, the extra shots all paid off, even if in the final analysis, two of the virtual match ups went to the 18th green and the other four were decided on the 17th.

Oak Park’s Christian Lindgreen, who was the Hampshire under-16 player of the year in 2015, beat Richard Hayward 3&2 in what proved to be the deciding fourth match.

It left Meon captain Wayne Brackstone, who plays off six, bitterly disappointed – but gracious in defeat.

He said: ‘It was a very disappointing way to decide the finals in that way, and after the fantastic run we had to get to the final in the first place, it has left us all feeling flat.

‘We wanted to get out there and look our opponents in the eye and enjoy the pressure of matchplay.

‘We felt on a course like Stoneham, our lower handicaps would have worked in our favour as we would have been playing our opponent – not the course.

‘That is what matchplay is all about, but having to play a medal, and going out with players off similar handicaps, that element was missing.

‘Congratulations to Oak Park on winning, though.

‘This will just make us even more determined to come back and have another crack at it next year.’