HAMPSHIRE golf captain Toby Burden has high hopes for his young team clinching their first South East Championship title in six years.

Burden will be unable to support his team in person in the South East Qualifier on Saturday at Brighton’s The Dyke GC due to family commitments, but his confidence remains unshaken.

He said: “When I was asked to take over the captaincy a couple of months ago when Lawrence Cherry was offered a job in Dubai, the date of the six-man was always going to be a problem because it clashes with a family commitment.

“I have had a niggling back problem over the last couple of months as well, so with the strength in-depth we have, and the way the guys have been playing over the last couple of months, I could not contemplate picking myself in that situation.

“Lots of planning has gone into the six-man with our county coach Kev Flynn – the players are having an extra practice round before official practice on Friday, and we played a league match there in 2021 when Jo Hacker and Joe Buenfeld made their debuts.

“I think the course suits us – it’s a downland course like a few we play regularly, like Hockley, so we are used to elevation changes, chalkland grasses and exposure to the wind.

“Our county secretary Richard Arnold was a golf pro in Sussex before he moved to Stoneham as club secretary, so he knows the course well, and has shared his knowledge to help our preparations.

“We have a game plan – we’ll be aggressive but also strategic in the way we play it. We will map the course and play to our strengths,” added Burden, who will be hoping Hampshire go one better than 12 months ago when they finished behind Kent in second, but 11 shots adrift in very strong winds at Surrey’s Farleigh GC." 

He added: “To win it again after seven years, would be fantastic - it would mean so much for the team, having won the league last year for the first time in 11 years last year.”

Martin Young (Brockenhurst Manor) will make a staggering 24th consecutive appearance in the six-man in Sussex. And all that experience is balanced by four players with lots of experience of top level college golf in America - including Charlie Forster  (Basingstoke), who was in contention to win last month’s European Amateur Championship and has just been selected to represent Great Britain and Ireland against Europe in the St Andrews Trophy.

Liphook’s former EuroPro and Pro Tour ace Darren Walkley is back for the first time since 2015, having spent six years in the pro ranks, and joins clubmate George Saunders, who will make his sixth appearance since 2017, having been leading scorer twice.

Bramshaw’s Joe Buenfeld, who made his debut in 2021 makes his third appearance in four years, while La Moye’s Joe Hacker, the Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Champion in 2021, is also picked for a third time.