New Hampshire golf champion Harris bidding to add strokeplay title to his collection at Stoneham

Newly-crowned county golf champion Richard Harris can make more history when he takes on arguably the strongest field in the Courage Trophy’s 58-year history.
Hayling’s Richard Harris. Picture: Andrew Griffin.Hayling’s Richard Harris. Picture: Andrew Griffin.
Hayling’s Richard Harris. Picture: Andrew Griffin.

The Hayling GC member became the 80th different winner of the men’s championship when he beat defending champion Toby Burden on the last hole two weeks ago.

But only two players since 1963 have won the Courage (Hampshire’s strokeplay championship) and the Sloane-Stanley Challenge Cup in the same season – David Harrison and Martin Young.

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Two of the most successful players in Hampshire Golf’s history have won the county championship nine times between them and the Courage 11 times in that period, with Harrison accounting for 13 of those wins.

The pandemic has dictated that both events are being played within a fortnight of each other – rather than nearly three months apart.

But that may well play into Harris’s hands if he can maintain the excellent form in qualifying when he shot six-under at Hayling over 36 holes, but made nine birdies and two eagles on the Friday.

He was only beaten by Burden’s total of seven-under which earned last year’s English Champion of Champions winner the Pechell Salver for the best qualifying score.

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Burden has been waiting for a call from his wife who is expecting their first child since the county championship, but is in the 60-strong field to play at Stoneham on Sunday.

Toby was trying to become just the second player to defend his county crown on his home course after David Harrison created that record in 1974.

Having come so close, his first Courage win would be some consolation.

But Harris has the chance to show county captain Neil Dawson he can beat a strong field away from his Hayling home, where he is undoubtedly “King of the Links.”

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Past winners of the links include Walker Cup players Sam Hutsby (2005), Neil Raymond (2008) and Scott Gregory (2015).

The latter pair were both Corhampton members while England and Great Britain and Ireland international Hutsby played at Lee-on-the-Solent GC.

Rowlands Castle’s Billy McKenzie won the trophy a year ago at Blackmoor, before turning pro.

Hayling’s other Courage winners included Matt Blackey (1994 and 1997), who went on to play on the European Tour, and England A squad member Mark Thistleton, who won at Rowlands Castle in 2003 - a year before being crowned county champion.

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Stoneham is hosting the Courage for a seventh time this weekend, matching the highest total of last year’s venue Blackmoor.

No Hayling player has won at the old deer park on the outskirts of Southampton alongside the M27.

And three Stoneham players have lifted the Courage Trophy on their home course – the last was Darren Henley 20 years ago.

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