Not even the presence of European Tour player Scott Gregory and last year’s Spanish Amateur champion Billy McKenzie could prevent Hampshire from dropping their first point of the season in the South East League, writes Andrew Griffin.
Despite having established a three-point advantage in the morning foursomes, captain Colin Roope’s men were guilty of playing some sloppy golf after lunch as Sussex somehow won 5.5 points in the singles to force the most unlikely draw at North Hants Golf Club.
Gregory flew in from Italy – having played on the Challenge Tour as he was ineligible for the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama.
Hampshire’s first-ever British Amateur champion was able to walk the fairways at Fleet and speak to the players in both sessions.
And his presence - along with McKenzie, who had been in Austria for the European Amateur Championship – helped keep the players aware of what was needed to prevent Sussex creating an even bigger shock by winning the match.
Without a birdie, birdie finish by Hayling’s Toby Burden, a first league defeat in two seasons under Roope’s reign was the likely outcome.
The newly-crowned county champion is normally left at the back of the field.
But promoted to number two in the order, Burden holed from nine feet on the par-five 17 to level the match against Lee Drew.
He then drained a 17-footer on the last to earn what turned out to be the vital half on top of his point with Stoneham’s Alex Talbot in the foursomes.
Hampshire had been down in all but two singles matches at the turn as the alarm bells rang loudly between the watching captain and his two appointed lieutenants.
Shanklin & Sandown’s Conor Richards and Stoneham’s anchorman, Owen Grimes, were both comfortable winners.
But three matches were lost on the last, including Matt Wilcox, playing on his home course, who was left out on course.
Texas Midland ace George Saunders lost by two to Lewis Gurr – having helped Richards to the first foursomes point, beating Leeves and Gurr 3&2.
A win against Surrey next month will still give Hampshire the south division title – a draw may be enough depending on other results.