Lee-on-the-Solent’s George Saunders puts frustrating Stateside years behind him after answering Hampshire SOS

Lee-on-the-Solent’s George Saunders put a frustrating couple of seasons in the States behind him by answering an 11th hour call from county captain Neil Dawson.

By Andrew Griffin
Thursday, 12th May 2022, 10:03 am

The North Hants man had originally discounted Saunders from his plans for the first two matches of the season, but was informed the former West of England Amateur Champion was returning early from the States.

And Saunders was called into the team to face Dorset on Saturday morning when former captain Martin Young tested positive for COVID-19 overnight, and helped Hampshire to a comprehensive 10-2 victory at Liphook the following day.

The former Hampshire U14 and U16 champion was able to take part in Saturday’s full practice session. He was then paired with Stoneham’s Ryan Henley, who returned to the first-team against Kent after more than six years, having started a family.

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Lee-on-the-Solent GC’s George Saunders tees off on the seventh hole playing for Hampshire in his singles match against Dorset at Liphook. Picture: Andrew Griffin.

The pair gelled quickly when the match got underway on Sunday morning, and they held out for the win by one hole on the last – having gone two up with six to play against Matt Sandy and Gregg Sutcliffe.

Saunders, who is now 22, could easily have succumbed to some rust on his return to serious competition, having not played for his college all year.

But having remained all square on the front nine, the former West of England Strokeplay Champion found himself one down playing 17, only for Sandy to make a bogey four to make it all-square.

His opponent then lost his ball with his drive on the par-five last. And with Sandy facing a lengthy putt for a five, Saunders hit an excellent long-bunker shot pin high, some eight feet away, after finding the front bunker with his second.

Sandy quickly conceded the birdie putt to give Saunders the half point to take Hampshire’s total to 10 and make up somewhat for the previous week’s disappointing 8-4 defeat in Kent.

Dawson said: ‘We won’t know how significant that half-point could be until later in the season, but George did well to come in at such short notice and play like that.

‘I was not expecting any of our American college players back til later in the month, so I picked the squad for the first two games based on our experienced weekend golfers.’

Colin Roope and Darren Wright had looked in trouble in the morning foursomes when they lost the 11th and 12th to go two down.

But the Rowlands Castle pair bounced back immediately, winning 13 and 14, and took the lead at the 16th only for Dorset to birdie the penultimate hole to level the game again.

Roope was left with an eight-footer for birdie on the last, but could not convert.

Hampshire accepted the half as Dorset also missed their putt for a four to give the hosts three-and-a-half out of the four point on offer before lunch.

Hayling’s Toby Burden had romped to a 7&6 win in the top match with Stoneham’s Ryan Moody.

And he was in no mood to play much of the back nine after lunch, putting the first single’s point on the board by beating Dorset’s Tom Bastow 6&4.

Rowlands’ Tom Robson, added his second point of the day, beating Adan Yates 3&2 – after partnering Blackmoor’s Mark Burgess to a 4&3 win over Bastow and teenager Jensen Bull in the foursomes.

Bull gave Wright a testing afternoon – with never more than a hole in it – until a four at the last sealed a one-hole win for the former Brabazon and Carris Trophy winner.