English Amateur Championship hopeful George Saunders presents Hampshire captain Colin Roope with selection headache

Colin Roope will be glued to his phone waiting for updates from the English Amateur Championship as he prepares his Hampshire troops for their south division title clash against Surrey on Sunday, writes Andrew Griffin.

Thursday, 1st August 2019, 10:50 pm
Updated Thursday, 1st August 2019, 11:40 pm
Lee-on-the-Solent’s George Saunders. Picture: Andrew Griffin/AMG Pictures

George Saunders produced one of the big shocks of the second round by knocking out Somerset’s Walker Cup prospect Tom Plumb 3&2 at Hankley Common on Thursday.

The Lee-on-the-Solent talent, who has had a great first year on his scholarship at Midland College in Texas, had qualified on the mark on three-over par.

That was after he survived dreadful conditions in qualifying on Tuesday to post a one-over par 72 before adding a 72 at North Hants – the other qualifying venue – on Wednesday to finish in 70th.

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Saunders faced a decider against Lincolnshire’s England A squad member Sam Done in the preliminary round to book a spot in the last 64.

Last year’s West of England amateur champion grabbed that with a 3&2 victory over his Kenwick Park rival.

Saunders would love to emulate his former Meon Valley practice partner Harry Ellis, who became the youngest winner of the English crown aged just 16, seven years ago.

But his success has created a dilemma for Hampshire skipper Roope, who needs to beat Surrey on Sunday to clinch the south division title and earn a place in October’s South East League Finals.

The county captain is prepared to make an 11th-hour switch as his team travel to Addington Palace, on the outskirts of Croydon, for Saturday’s practice.

Roope said: ‘I will have to have a look at it depending on how George fares in potentially two more knockout rounds on Friday.

‘He played 72 holes in The Walton Heath Trophy last week, two practice rounds for the English and four rounds in three days during the competition by Thursday – without a break.

‘While the college players are very fit, that is a lot of golf and I have to be sure what is right for the team.

‘We have a strong squad so if I to pull George out at the last-minute, we have ready-made replacements.’

Roope’s squad for Surrey also includes Rowlands Castle trio Tom Robson, Billy McKenzie and Darren Wright, Hayling Island’s Toby Burden and Sandown & Shanklin duo Jordan Sundborg and Conor Richards.