Hayling golfer Toby Burden suffers second successive Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Championship final defeat
Toby Burden became the first player since recent European Tour winner Richard Bland to reach the final of the Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Championship for a third year in a row.
But for the second year in a row, he suffered the agony of watching his opponent sink a tricky birdie putt on the last green to lift the prestigious Sloane-Stanley Challenge Cup – donated by the family that owned Gosport’s Bay House School in the late Edwardian period.
Last year saw the 100th final of the county championship at Hayling since the Sloane-Stanley replaced the championship’s original trophy first played for in 1894, when the legendary amateur Freddie Tait became Hampshire’s first champion.
Burden was bidding to join the band of just 17 golfers who have won the Sloane Stanley twice or more in 101 years, writes ANDREW GRIFFIN.
But it was Jersey’s rising star Jo Hacker, a team-mate of Lee-on-the-Solent’s George Saunders for 12 months in Texas before his switch to Florida’s Jacksonsville Dolphins, who emerged victorious at North Hants GC.
Burden, who became a father shortly after last year’s final loss, believed the arrival of his first son was going to make him an even better golfer.
And for six rounds over the weekend, there was ample evidence that Burden is now the most consistent player on the county scene, since returning to the amateur ranks five years ago after an injury-ruined time as a professional on the mini tours.
Having led qualifying at Hayling 12 months ago, to add the Pechell Salver to his growing trophy cabinet, the 2019 champion positioned himself comfortably in a tough 36-hole qualifier.
The opening round was played in heavy rain and Burden was right in the hunt for back-to-back Pechell Salvers after an equal best-of-the-day 68.
Having led at lunch on two-under and with the clouds at least lifting for a drier second round, Burden shot a four-over par 74 to drop four places down the leaderboard.
But that was comfortably inside the top 16 who made into the matchplay knockout.
The glory in qualifying went to Stoneham and South Winchester’s 16-year-old Harvey Denham.
The former Hampshire U14 Junior Champion left the more established first-team players trailing in his wake, shooting three birdies in each round. He posted 70, 69 to lead by two and break European Tour bound Jack Singh-Brar’s record, set as a 16-year-old at Blackmoor in 2013, by several months.
Denham also claimed the Hampshire Youths U21 title and the Green Cup for the best handicap score in qualifying – an excellent 139, playing off scratch.
For Rowlands Castle’s former champion Tom Robson, recovering from a bad ankle injury, it was a case of using a buggy in qualifying as he played his first serious golf since lockdown. He still managed to finish 19th, shooting 71 and 75 to miss out on countback.
Corhampton’s Jamie Markwick, winner of the South East Junior Championship in 2018, took 14th place with rounds of 72 and 73.
But the Florida-based Nova Southeastern college golfer was beaten 4&2 in the first round by the eventual champion.
Burden and Hacker’s front nine of the final was a little scruffy as mistakes on the lead went back and forth.
But a three-putt on the ninth put the Jersey boy in front for a second time. And he immediately doubled that lead at the par three 10th.
Tensions were rising and if any memories of last year’s mini-collapse around the turn were lingering, Burden banished them immediately by holing a great putt for birdie on 11 and was quickly all-square as mistake by Hacker led to a bogey five on the 12th.
Burden’s putter was warming up nicely with another three on the 13h to give him a crucial lead with five to play.
But it was Hacker’s flat-stick that caught fire, rolling home a monster from 35 foot downhill on the 16th
Yet when Hacker pulled his second long and left into the par five 17th, Burden looked to be in the box seat - even when his approach came up just short of the front right pin.
Somehow the Channel Islander skidded a low chip along the edge of the elongated green, missing the top of the bunker by inches and coming to rest close to the hole.
Burden responded with a deft chip of his own, but was asked to putt from inside two feet, with the pins having to remain in because of Covid restrictions.
Halving the penultimate hole in birdies was golf of the highest order and must have left Burden thinking about his second appearance in the final in 2009, when Rowlands Castle’s Tom Robson beat him at the second extra hole.
Hacker found trouble off the final tee but produced the shot of the championship from a deep lie in the rough after clipping a tree by the tee on the 18th.
His nine-iron landed 25 feet from the pin – only for Burden, who stuck to his game plan and took iron off the tee, to find the front bunker.
He splashed out to a few feet, but Hacker majestically rolled the ball in from right to left for a third birdie in a row to land a killer blow.
In doing so, he became the first player from Jersey to win since 2000, when Christy McLaughlin won on his own course at Royal Jersey, and just the seventh in 128 years.