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Tense final day awaits Hampshire
9:09pm Saturday 28th September 2013 in Sport
Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands will need to beat Lancashire tomorrow at Minchinhampton, knowing that victory still might not be enough to land them the English County Championship for only the second time in their history.
Captain Richard Elmes’ men looked to be in the driving seat going into today’s clash with Leicestershire after yesterday’s 6-3 win over Devon.
But, despite losing 5.5-3.5 against the Midlands champions this afternoon, Hampshire still top the table with one match in the round-robin series at the English County Finals to come.
Devon’s shock win over Lancashire by the same margin leaves Hampshire top of the table on games difference, with all four teams having two points from a victory each.
Hampshire have 9.5 game points – just a half more than their three rivals, and that could still prove the crucial margin come Sunday evening.
It was even-stevens at lunch as Hampshire shared the morning foursomes. Stoneham’s Elliott Groves and Rowlands Castle’s Tom Robson made it two wins out of two, beating Martin Anderson and Jonathan Herbert 2&1.
But Brokenhurst Manor’s Martin Young and Royal Jersey’s Gavin O’Neill were unable to repeat their victory of 24 hours earlier, losing to Leicestershire’s David Gibson and Ashley Mason on the last hole.
Last year’s English Amateur champion Harry Ellis (Meon Valley G&CC) claimed his first point of the finals after two narrow defeats against Devon, helping Stoneham’s Ryan Henley to a half with Colin Mitchell and Steve Sansome.
The afternoon session was a tense affair with little between both teams. Young, playing in his fifth English County Finals, got the singles off to a perfect start for Hampshire shaking hands with David Gibson on the 16th when three holes up in match two.
In front of them, Tom Robson was unable to pick up his first singles point of the weekend, losing on the 18th for the second day running.
Blackmoor’s Mark Burgess raised hopes again by beating James Billingham 2&1 to edge Elmes’ team in front.
But Ellis lost the 17th to go three down to Ashley Mason and the experienced Sansome also claimed the 17th to beat O’Neill by the same margin.
That put Leicestershire back in front by a point and Groves came to the 18th needing to get a half to draw the match, but he lost to Anderson by one after his opponent birdied the par five to set up another tense Sunday showdown among England’s top amateurs.
Hampshire had a chance to win the title for the first time since 1996 three years ago at Hunstanton, but were blown away on the Norfolk links by Somerset in a rare 9-0 whitewash.
But Somerset still lost out to Lancashire that afternoon in a similar scenario that awaits Elmes and his six-man team tomorrow.
Hampshire Golf Union officials will be anxiously awaiting news from the Devon vs Leicestershire match while hoping the county can beat Lancashire.
Elmes said: “I’m disappointed, but we lost a bit of concentration at times. But it is ours to win tomorrow. If we can beat Lancashire we can do it.”
Seventeen years ago one Justin Rose was a talented teenager in the Hampshire ranks playing alongside Matt Blackey, a future European Tour player, and former English Amateur champion Kevin Weeks.
Rose won the US Open title in June at Merion – becoming the first Englishman to win that event in 43 years since Tony Jacklin back in 1970.
Hampshire and the islands’ current crop of amateurs will be hoping to make their own piece of history as Elmes captains the county for the final time after two years in the hot seat.
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