‘I would back my team against anyone’ – Hampshire golf captain Dawson in confident mood ahead of South East League curtain-raiser
Hampshire face Dorset in the new-look South East League at Broadstone on Sunday - and captain Neil Dawson can’t wait for the season to start.
Dawson is keeping his cards close to his chest as he gives Dorset the utmost respect, even though Hampshire have only lost three times against them since 2000 – all away from home, writes ANDREW GRIFFIN.
But somewhat unusually, Hampshire have drawn four of those 20 matches – and twice since 2013 when Dorset have been the home team.
The exact line-up will not be officially announced until after Saturday’s planned practice round.
Dawson said: ‘I have to name my team and their order of play to the South East Counties Golf Union four days before the match because of the Covid protocols.
‘But I can insist that my list is not disclosed to the opposition if I choose.
‘I might prefer to keep them guessing after a whole year without competitive golf at this level.’
Dawson will be without at least two key players from the squad he inherited from Colin Roope, with an injury problem keeping at least another out.
Meanwhile, Lee-on-the-Solent’s George Saunders is completing a 10-day quarantine after returning from college in the USA this week.
Dawson said: ‘I am going to have to use the full depth of the squad for the first match.’
Jordan Sundborg, the 2019 European Universities and Colleges Champion, is finishing his Masters at Stirling, while Darren Wright – one of just nine players ever to win the junior and men’s England Strokeplay titles – has work commitments this weekend.
Dawson has a first-team squad of 13, including former EuroPro Tour winner Stuart Archibald, who regained his amateur status last year – 14 years after claiming the county championship by beating Toby Burden on his home course at Hayling.
Dawson added: ‘Things will be easier for the Kent match at Hockley at the end of May.
‘With Darren available again for Kent and, hopefully, Jordan as well, we have a very strong squad on paper – and one more than capable of reaching the League Final.’
Hampshire are hosting that final at Aldershot’s Army GC in October.
That is where Burden beat Roope in the 2019 Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Championship final.
So there is every incentive for Dawson’s men to finish top of the five-strong division, with a trip to Sussex and home match against Surrey, in August, later in the season.
Hampshire last won the Daily Telegraph Salver after reaching the 2012 final, but Williams and Roope both tasted defeat after winning the South Division in 2014 and 2018.
The county has won the South East League nine times since it was founded in 1964, having reached the final 16 times in total.
Dawson is confident of a good season, saying: ‘I have waited a long time to send out my first team, I believe we have a great squad capable of achieving the goals we have talked about as a group.
‘Players like Martin Young – who will mark four decades of playing in the league on Sunday, a fantastic achievement in itself - Mark Burgess and Matt Wilcox are among the best mid-amateurs (over 35s) in the country.
‘Ryan Moody, who won the Courage Trophy in September, is really finding his level after three years in the squad. He is also forming a great relationship with Owen
Grimes, who was a very young county champion three years ago and is now beginning to mature as a golfer.
‘George Saunders and Jordan Sundborg have been among the best youth players in the land in recent years too.
‘Add in all the experience Toby Burden has, as both an amateur and a pro, and the qualities Tom Robson brings, having played in the same US college team as Matt Wallace, who could play Ryder Cup this year, and I would back my team against anyone.
‘Sam Parsons is also an important member of the squad having played for us since he caddied at the English County Finals win in 2017.
‘He has experience at this level now and shown he has the game, even if he does not have the reputation of some of our squad.’
Hampshire squad: Martin Young (Brokenhurst Manor); Toby Burden (Hayling); Tom Robson, Darren Wright, Colin Roope (Rowlands Castle); George Saunders (Lee-on-the-Solent); Ryan Moody, Owen Grimes (Stoneham); Ben Lobacz (Crookhorn); Mark Burgess, Sam Parsons (Blackmoor); Jordan Sundborg (Shanklin & Sandown); Matt Wilcox (North Hants); Stuart Archibald (Test Valley); Conor Richards (Liphook).