Robson Ready To Win At Liphook Again
Rowlands Castle’s Tom Robson will be a name the cream of Hampshire’s amateurs will want to avoid when it comes to the matchplay phase of the county championships which are being held at Liphook this weekend.
The 29-year-old who went to the same US college as Masters winner Danny Willett – and was in the same Gamecocks team as two-time European Tour winner Matt Wallace – was the last player to land the Sloane Stanley Challenge Trophy when the Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Championship was held at the East Hampshire course back in 2009.
Nine years on and Robson has two victories at Alabama’s Jacksonville State under his belt and a record for reaching the latter stages of the Hampshire knockout that matches any of his county first-team team-mates.
Robson – probably because of the company he kept at Jacksonville where Hayling’s Jamie Mist later joined the Gamecock ranks – quickly came to the decision that life as an aspiring tour pro was not for him, despite his considerable talents.
And for the past two years he has been working as the assistant secretary at the Rowlands club where he has been a member since 2003, having joined Lee-on-the-Solent when he was “barely able to walk.”
While golf club secretaries will always maintain they are too busy to play as much as they would like, Robson believes becoming a ”weekend golfer” has certainly not hindered his progress after graduating.
Tom said: “I enjoy golf a lot more now where I’m not playing as much.
“I always get comments like, ‘Imagine how good you’d be if you practiced more,’ but I don’t think it’s necessarily true.
“I get bored just standing around hitting balls, and would much rather go and play nine holes instead of doing structured practice.
“Liphook is one of my favourite places to go to and always has been, ever since I’d started playing in the club’s junior open.
“In 2009, I’d already been at Jacksonville State for a year, so I was coming off playing on lightning fast greens for the spring semester.
“I was a relative unknown to the men’s team back then and I beat Mark Thistleton a past champion in the quarter-finals and Toby Burden in the final – both from Hayling, and they were both Hampshire regulars.
“I still didn’t get picked after winning the county championships for a while.”
That final was played after three day’s golf on some of what are historically the fastest greens on the county circuit – and nothing separated the pair after a tense 18-hole final.
After parring the par three first, they headed out to the second where the drama unfolded.
Tom added: “I just remember the winning putt on the 20th hole, was downhill and hard right to left.
“It had to hit the hole or it was going miles past, I didn’t have a choice!”
It was Burden’s double final heartbreak having lost on his home course three years earlier to Stuart Archibald and the former Europro Tour player has played in the last two championships since getting his amateur status back, and he is in the 66-strong field teeing it up on Friday.
Robson has enjoyed more success since then, having led the 36-hole qualifier at Shanklin and Sandown six years ago – a year earlier it took an unbelievable putting display from then unknown junior and future Walker Cup player Jack Singh Brar to end his hopes of another final at Aldershot’s Army Golf Club after he had also topped the leaderboard on the first day.
But in 2015 he lost in the final to Hayling’s Darren Walkley at Brokenhurst Manor, and 12 months later last year’s county captain Martin Young beat him in what was regarded as one of the best finals in recent memory at Hayling.
Young, who made Robson his vice-captain as they helped Hampshire win the English County Championship for the first time in 21 years in October, at Trevose, in North Cornwall, will be another senior player the many younger players hoping to land the famous trophy for the first time – including Meon Valley’s West of England champion George Saunders – will want to avoid.
The captain, who stood down at the end of last year to make way for Blackmoor’s Colin Roope as his successor, has a chance to join the elite band of just four players who have more than three Sloane Stanley’s to their name after his wins in 2011 and at Hockley in 2014 in 2018 when the 113th county championship is held.
So does Stoneham’s Ryan Henley, a winner in 2005 (Blackmoor), 2008 (Royal Guernsey) and 2013 (Blackmoor), has been missing from the county ranks for the past couple of years after appearing in six Hampshire teams at the English County Finals between 2008 and 2015, after becoming a father twice.
His younger brother Darren, a former England squad player, won the trophy for a second time at Liphook in 2001.
Robson will not put too much pressure on himself during Friday’s 36-hole qualifier with the top 16 moving into the knockout on Saturday and Sunday.
Tom said: “My approach is to just be in the top 16, not necessarily to win, and that usually leads me to relax and play well.
“I’m going to have to beat some great players to have a chance to win, so the seedings don’t matter too much.”
Liphook will be hosting the championship for the 12th time – the same number of times it has been held at Stoneham, with Hayling having held it the most at 15 times since 1896.
How history highlights Hampshire’s highest honour in golf
THE county amateur title has eluded all of Hampshire’s international players over the last two-and-a-half decades.
The names of Justin Rose, Sam Hutsby, Darren Wright, Neil Raymond, Scott Gregory, Jack Singh Brar and Harry Ellis cannot be found on the Sloane Stanley Challenge Cup – despite six of those players representing Great Britain and Ireland in the Walker Cup, which is denoted as the pinnacle of an amateur’s career.
To be fair, that is largely because the date of Hampshire’s championship clashes with the St Andrews Links Trophy, arguably the strongest strokeplay event held in Europe, which Raymond won in 2013 while Ryan Henley was being crowned county champion on the same Sunday at Blackmoor.
Justin Rose did lose in the 1997 final at Royal Guernsey to Royal Winchester’s Scott Stanley, who birdied two of the last three holes to win by two – having been one behind with three to play.
Rose had beaten friend and fellow future European Tour player Matt Blackey, from Hayling, in the semis.
The trophy Hampshire’s leading amateurs are competing for was donated to the Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Golf Union back in 1921 – when the then president Major Roger Cyril Hans Sloane Stanley presented the trophy.
The Sloane Stanleys – whose family still own a large part of Chelsea off the King’s Road today – owned what is now Bay House School, overlooking Stokes Bay, in Gosport, and Paulton’s Park which is now a theme park and golf course in the New Forest.
Colonel Francis Sloane Stanley, who owned Bay House in the late Victorian and Edwardian period, was a friend of the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII), who reportedly played a number of times at United Services Golf Club – what is now Gosport and Stokes Bay Golf Club.
The first winner of the Hampshire IoW & CI Amateur Championship was Freddie Tait, a soldier in the Scottish Blackwatch Battalion, who was a member of Aldershot Command, where he was stationed in 1894, when he won the title at Winchester GC.
Two years later, having returned to his home city of Edinburgh, Tait won the British Amateur Championship at Royal Liverpool, and then again two years later at St George’s.
He was also third in the Open Championship at Muirfield in 1896 – he was to finish third again a year later at Hoylake and was also the leading amateur for a third time in 1899 at what was now Royal St George’s.
Tait was an extremely powerful and long hitter of the golf ball. At St Andrews on January 11, 1893, he hit the ball 250 yards, before bouncing on frozen ground and rolling to some 341 yards from the tee.
His father Peter was a pioneering physicist, who did research into how far the golf ball could travel. His scientific paper had predicted in 1891 that 250 yards was the maximum the old gutty ball would travel.
Sadly, Tait was killed in action at Koodoosberg, South Africa, during the Second Boer War in February 1900, where he is buried.
The Freddie Tait Cup is awarded annually to the leading amateur in the European Tour’s South African Open.
While Rose went on to play Walker and Ryder Cups against America after his Hampshire heroics – he won the Carris Trophy at the English Boys Amateur Strokeplay Championship aged 15, in 1995, and the McGregory Trophy for the U16s in the same season – one top tour player has gone on to win the county championship.
In 1988, Lee-on-the-Solent‘s Steve Richardson claimed the title at Blackmoor – three years later he was runner-up to Seve Ballesteros on the European Tour Volvo Order of Merit and qualified for the 1991 Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island, in the famous War on the Shore after winning the German and Portuguese Opens that season.
The most successful player in the championship’s 112-year history so far is Stoneham’s David Harrison, who claimed it six times between 1965 and 1976.
He went on to be captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews in 2007 and has been one of golf’s leading administrators.
Former England international Ian Patey, from Hayling, had five victories, and is the only player to have won it four years in a row between 1934 and 1937.
His last victory came at Liphook in 1948 – two years after he became the first Hampshire player to be crowned English Amateur Champion.
Because of Hampshire’s strong military ties, many of the champions in the first 50 years were serving soldiers, sailors, or aviators.
Shanklin and Sandown’s Squadron Leader C Hayward picked up the trophy four times between 1922 and 1929 – the latter when the championship was held at Liphook for the first time.
Brian Winteridge, a member at Stoneham when he first won at Hayling in 1975, claimed his other three victories while at Hockley, incluidng in 1981 and 1982 – the last time the championship was won back-to-back.
That feat has only been accomplished 14 times in total and a further 15 players have won the county amateur crown twice in their career, including 1956 Brabazon Trophy winner Stan Fox, who triumphed in 1951 and 1952 – the latter again at Liphook.
The only player to ever win the Brabazon and the Hampshire title in the same year was Paddy Hine, who also claimed the Carris Trophy in the same season back in 1949.
The 17-year-old Hockley player won the county championship and Brabazon at Stoneham while the Carris was played at its traditional Moor Park home, in Hertfordshire.
Paddy went on to become an Air Chief Marshall in the RAF, and was joint commanding officer of UK forces in the first Gulf War, in 1991.
The Brokenhurst Manor member was made R&A captain in 2010 at the age of 78.