Walkley out to make history at Hayling
Hayling's Darren Walkley will attempt to become just the 11th player in 123 years to land back-to-back Hampshire Amateur titles when the championship returns to the island links this weekend.
It will be a tough task given the calibre of the field signed up for the event.
But if anyone should fancy their chances of pulling off such a rare feat, it is the 26-year-old, who has one eye on going to tour school.
Walkley, from Westbourne, quit his job at an engineering firm to go and work alongside Mark Treleaven in Hayling’s pro shop, to spend more time with his coach and to maximise his practice time.
He beat county team-mate Tom Robson at Brokenhurst Manor 12 months ago to claim the county crown, and will revel in playing in front of his club-mates and supporters, with a 36-hole qualifying event taking place in Friday, before the top 16 take part in matchplay format over the weekend.
‘I played very solid golf last year. I didn’t really hit the ball into any trouble and as a result I didn’t make any big numbers, which is the key in qualifying,’ said Walkley.
‘In the knockout, you have got to play your opponent and remember one poor hole or mistake does not take you out of the tournament.’
Since winning the county championship, Walkley added a second Hampshire Order of Merit title to his CV.
And, ironically, it was at Hayling that the former Southsea Golf Club member, who was playing off seven less than six years ago, first came to the attention of the county selectors when he lost to current captain Martin Young in a play-off for the Courage Trophy, back in 2012.
Walkley has come a long way in the past five seasons.
He now plays off plus 2.3, having got down to plus 2.9 at one point. But being county champion has not changed him one bit.
‘I don’t feel winning the title has changed me as a golfer,’ said Walkley.
‘I am still the same person as I was a year ago – just more people know who I am now that’s all.
‘It obviously feels great being able to try to defend my title at my home course.
‘I am looking forward to the challenge, as it will be for everybody – the course is in great shape and the rough is up!
‘Every one of the Hayling members in the competition is a big danger and has a great chance of going all the way because the course is not like any other in Hampshire – if the weather gets up they have a big advantage.’
County players Ben Wall, Toby Burden and Jamie Mist are among the Hayling contingent bidding for glory.