They won the ‘Six-man’ competition eight times in 16 years between 2002 and 2017 – claiming the English County Championship for just a second time in their history four years ago.
But after Rowlands Castle’s Colin Roope took over from winning captain Martin Young in 2018, the South East Championship title has eluded them, writes ANDREW GRIFFIN.
With North Hants GC’s Neil Dawson now in charge, and after last year’s South East Qualifier was cancelled because of Covid, both past captains will play a crucial role for the new leader.
Dawson was dealt a blow early this week when former British Universities and Colleges Sport Champion (BUCS) Jordan Sundborg was forced to isolate for the week.
He was taking seven players to Eaton GC where they were practicing yesterday and today.
‘Losing Jordan is a blow – he played in the six-man three years in a row and has the experience of playing in two English Finals,’ explained Dawson.
‘Although we have not seen him this season, because he stayed up at Stirling University finishing his Masters and playing golf in Scotland, that did not matter in my mind as he is proven at this level.
‘Having players of Colin and Martin’s experience and ability is even more important now, while Toby Burden has been the most consistent performer at our county champs, reaching the final three years in a row.
‘Ryan Moody has made big strides over the last couple of years and won the strokeplay, despite the pressure of winning his first big event on his home course.
‘Having made his six-man debut in 2019, I have every faith in him too, while George Saunders has also played in three of these now and was our best performer in 2019.’
With the New Forest’s Joe Buenfeld – one of just two players who won in the disappointing defeat against Sussex in the South East League – and Hacker making up the squad, Dawson will be banking on the blend of youth and experience.
He added: ‘George and the two Joes have been away playing college golf in the States.
‘It will be a tough call to leave one out, but I am sure they will be out on the course supporting the boys on Saturday regardless of who is picked.’
Dawson, who insisted on his team having regular Covid tests this week, is travelling to Eaton, on the outskirts of Norwich city centre, with coaches Simon Andrews, from Portsmouth Golf Centre, and short game specialist Ben Clayton.
Between them they will come up with the game plan to tackle the 110-year-old parkland course, regarded as one of the finest in the county.
The par 71 course plays to 6,194 yards off the black tees, with a number of short par fours. The five par threes, three of which are more than 180 yards, seem its biggest defence with all three par fives in range for the south’s top amateurs.