County champion Jo Hacker set for Hampshire debut as skipper gives youth a chance against Sussex
Hampshire captain Neil Dawson has rewarded the younger generation who shone at the county championship by making two changes to the team that held their nerve to beat Kent last month.
Jersey’s Jo Hacker – who beat Hayling’s Toby Burden in the final of the Hampshire Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Championship to claim a first Sloane-Stanley Challenge Cup, at North Hants three weeks ago – will make his debut against Sussex having played regularly for Hampshire Boys in the past.
Dawson is without Rowlands Castle’s former England international Darren Wright, who is unavailable for the second away game of the season, writes ANDREW GRIFFIN.
Hacker, who reached the last 16 in the Amateur Championship at Nairn in Scotland last week, comes into the team along with fellow debutant Joe Buenfeld, from Bramshaw GC.
The New Forest teenager won the European Junior Open in front of Nick Dougherty and the Sky TV cameras in Spain two years ago.
Dawson’s men head to the heights of the The Dyke Golf Club seeking a third league win a row on Sunday.
And Dawson has carried out his plan – outlined when he took over the job at the start of the 2020 season – to blood some youth when the occasion demanded it after seeing all of Hampshire’s fixtures last season wiped out by the pandemic.
‘I said right back at the start of last year that at some point I would need to bring in some younger faces into the team,’ he explained.
“I said then, I would not be frightened of doing so if their form merited selection.
“In the last few weeks Jo and Joe have put in those kind of performances.
“A lot of Hampshire’s strength down the years has been based on our mid-amateurs (over 35s).
“Obviously when you are playing an away game and the team have to eat and sleep at a hotel, getting a balance and good bond between the younger and older members is key.
“Jo has been at college in the States with George Saunders, so they know each other well.
“I respect the opinions of my team, and when the older ones come up against the kids in events like the county championships – and say very complimentary things about them – I listen to what they say.
‘I watched Jo play some very high quality golf to beat Toby in the final, and he has been in the last three in a row.
“Toby also knocked out Joe Buenfeld in the quarter-finals, after he beat another former county champion in Stuart Archibald, who has won three times on the EuroPro Tour. Both had the highest praise for Joe.
‘He has developed very well in his first year at college in the States.
‘Both of them seem to have that X-factor when it comes to playing the big shots under pressure, or when the outcome of the match depends on it.
‘Bringing them in is a little harsh on Owen Grimes, who has won two out of two points so far, including the winning one against Dorset.”
Victory at The Dyke, up on the Sussex Downs, would leave Hampshire in a strong position to reach October’s South East League Final, with just the final home game against Surrey in August to come.
Team: Martin Young (Brokenhurst Manor), George Saunders (Lee-on-the-Solent), Colin Roope (Rowlands Castle), Sam Parsons (Blackmoor), Ryan Moody (Stoneham), Joe Buenfeld (Bramshaw), Jo Hacker (La Moye).