‘Lack of foursomes has cost us dearly’ – Hampshire golf captain Dawson after his team throw away winning position against Surrey at Rowlands Castle
Hampshire captain Neil Dawson was left to bemoan the loss of foursomes matches because of Covid restrictions after watching his team throw away a winning position against Surrey at Rowlands Castle.
Hampshire were heading for a 5-3 victory in the South Division after Dawson picked his banker cards in his three Rowlands members for his eight singles matches, writes ANDREW GRIFFIN.
In the final hours play after the hosts had won four of the first five matches at the top of the order, Hampshire were down in two and up in one.
But it was Surrey’s players who were celebrating an unlikely point after they won the last three matches.
Former county captain Colin Roope – keen to win at his new home club against his old county where he was amateur champion in 2006 - had got it back from two down after 13 to just one behind.
But Hindhead stalwart David Corben, who has won the Surrey Amateur Championship three times since 2015, produced a birdie at the 16th from 15 feet to double his lead.
And when Corben holed again from 15 feet for a birdie four on the 17th, Roope’s birdie putt from four feet was conceded for a 2&1 to Surrey.
That made it 4-2 and Reigate Hill’s Ben Palmer then produced a spectacular comeback against former Great Britain and Ireland international Darren Wright, a member at Rowlands for the best part of 20 years.
Palmer made birdie on the 13th to cut the deficit to two holes with five to play.
Wright helped Surrey’s cause by three-putting the 15th green only to see Palmer hit it stiff for a birdie three on the next.
That left the match all-square with two to play and the visitor rammed home his 12-footer for a four and a third birdie on the back nine.
Wright, one of only 10 players to have completed the double of winning the English Boys’ and Men’s Amateur Strokeplay titles, then missed from eight-feet to head down the last one behind.
The Europro Tour winner could only make four having hit his second to the back fringe as Palmer made it 4-3 to Hampshire.
Hayling’s Toby Burden was trying to put pressure on Denmark’s Jacob Holm, winning the 13th to get back to two down.
But the 2018 Surrey Amateur Champion survived a scare when he got a free drop after finding the trees on the 15th and hit a great third over the bunker to halve the hole.
And when Burden found the greenside trap on the 16th – and could not get up-and-down – Surrey had produced an escape worthy of Houdini thanks to Holm’s 3&2 win.
Dawson said: ‘I didn’t see that result coming with an hour left to play.
‘I obviously picked the three Rowlands players who would all normally make my eight-man team, so to only get one point out of them was surprising.
‘But I think it really shows how much not having the foursomes matches has cost us this season.
‘I can’t believe with that team and course knowledge we would not have come out of a normal morning session with at least a two-point lead – and it would have been the same against Kent at Hockley in our other home game.
‘Foursomes is definitely our strength, and having just the eight singles matches made the outcome of all four games much more unpredictable.
‘The South East Counties Group had to make a decision about the format at the start of the season when overnight travel was still banned.
‘And there was no way teams could play four foursomes and eight singles in a day when teams were travelling from as far away as Kent and Dorset.
‘When you are up in these kind of matches, you have to close the door quickly to stop that kind of comeback.
‘Roll on next season, when hopefully we can get back to normal.’
It was the fourth time the two counties had drawn in the last 21 years – but the second home match in a row for Hampshire after the 2018 match ended 6-6.
The 2021 title will now come down to a battle between Surrey and Sussex, who meet this weekend at Hindhead GC, although Kent could snatch the title with a victory when they entertain Surrey later this month.
Hampshire’s points difference of minus-one means even if Surrey drew both their remaining matches, Sussex, Kent and Surrey could still all finish above Dawson’s men by winning more game points in their four fixtures.