Tree problems are root cause of Hampshire’s cruel South East Colts title luck against Essex
Hampshire were denied the South East Colts title for the first time since 2016 as county U25s manager Nat Riddett’s team suffered cruel luck at Dale Hill GC, Sussex.
Stoneham’s Lawrence Cherry was forced to play through the pain barrier in the last singles match, after hitting a tree root on the 14th after tangling with timber off the tee, writes ANDREW GRIFFIN.
At that point Hampshire had battled back from a 3-1 deficit after the morning foursomes to win the top three singles matches, and tie the match up at 4-4.
Shanklin’s former Hampshire Junior Champion Conor Richards – who now lives on the mainland and is a member at Liphook – beat Jackson Garnett 3&2 to level the match.
The final four matches on the course designed by Masters winner Ian Woosnam, were evenly split, with the defending champions up in two, and down in two.
So Hampshire still had a chance to win their eighth South East Colts title, in their 11th final against Essex since the competition began in 1969.
Cherry had fought back from two down after five to lead by one with five to play against Cassidy Steffens.
But he was in a lot of pain and saw one crucial putt lip out – and another on the 16th horseshoe out – to lose three-out-of-four holes.
The former Hampshire Boys captain had been sent out in the anchor role by county colts manager Riddett in case it proved to be the decisive match.
Riddett had loaded his most experienced players at the top of the order in a “win-or-bust” play, needing points early on to deny Essex any chance of repeating the 9-3 score line of two years ago.
Essex went 6-4 up after Paulton’s Park’s George Caplehorn lost 3&1 in the fifth match to Harry Wood, after Hockley’s Luke Hodgetts had been beaten 5&3 by Ryan Cox.
Hayling’s Max Clapp raised Hampshire hopes again by completing a 2&1 win over Callum Newton in the penultimate match to make it 6-5 to Essex.
But needing to win the 17th, Cherry’s bad luck continued as his birdie attempt caught the edge of the hole on the low side, and the return also slipped by.
Steffens’ 2&1 win was a kick in the teeth for Riddett’s side, who had fared far better than when they had home advantage in 2019 and lost 9-3.
Hampshire led in two of the morning foursomes at the turn, and were heading for a 3-1 lead at lunch after Stoneham’s two-time Hampshire Junior Champion James Freeman and Bishopswood’s Tom Vaughan won the top match 3&2.
But Hodgetts and Caplehorn were pegged back in match two by Cox and Bailee Curran, who won 3&1, and Richards and Cherry lost late holes to be beaten 3&2 by Steffens and Wood
The inexperienced duo of Clapp and Caffyn could not hold on to their slender lead, losing by one on the last to give Essex a crucial two-point advantage going into the afternoon singles.
Essex went on to claim their fourth win in a row after the 2020 competition was lost to Covid, and were appearing in the final for a seventh year running.