THERE are seven past champions in the field for today’s 36-hole qualifier at the Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Championship. But there are just two players who have won the Sloane-Stanley Challenge Cup over the county’s illustrious links course – former captain Martin Young, and former Blackmoor and Basingstoke member Stuart Archibald.
And there can be few living former county champions who can boast that they beat three past champions on their way to winning the Hampshire crown as he did at Hayling in 2006.
Archibald beat Toby Burden, who will defend his crown on his home course over the next 24-48 hours, 5&3 in the final.
But to reach the final, the former Basingstoke GC junior had to beat 2002 winner Richard Elmes on the 18th in the first round, before knocking out Royal Jersey’s Christy McLaughlin to reach the last four.
That set up a semi-final against Hayling’s England A squad member Mark Thistleton, who had won the Sloane Stanley two years earlier.
Thistleton was looking for a second victory fresh off his recent win in the Lagonda Trophy a couple of weeks earlier. But despite Mark’s home advantage, Archibald played some sublime golf to win 2&1 with both players under par.
With Burden running out of steam having been up at the crack of dawn to help prepare the course in his greenkeeping role, Archibald cruised to victory on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
So while Burden and Stoneham’s Owen Grimes would like to join rivals Martin Young and Ryan Henley as multiple winners of the Sloane-Stanley come Saturday afternoon’s final, Archibald is happy just to try and complete 36 holes.
•To see the start times for the 115th Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Championship click here.
Two wins under Archibald’s belt in first three competitions back
AFTER 10 years in the pro ranks, Archibald regained his amateur status in July. The 36-year-old joined Test Valley GC, just 10 minutes from his home.
Now working as the European Tour rep and salesman for Foresight – where he gets to travel to Race to Dubai events and help some of the top players in the game who use Foresight technology – he is feeling his way back into playing socially and competitively as an amateur.
For Archibald will confess that despite spending a decade living the dream as an aspiring Tour professional, there have been times he has fallen out of love with the game.
He quit playing two years ago when paired with Ryder Cup player Oliver Wilson in Regional Qualifying for The Open.
The three-time EuroPro Tour winner, who also enjoyed several seasons playing on the embryonic MENA Tour in the Middle East, was playing in front of a huge gallery at Hollinwell, close to Wilson’s Mansfield home.
With a large number of members and Wilson supporters out on the course, Archibald felt conspicuous out on the course and hated nearly every shot.
He said: “I have always loved playing in front of crowds. It gave me a buzz that would result in usually better golf.
“But that event I felt quite self-conscious, encroached upon as the crowds got in the way or moving to see Oli. It put me off and I actually lost my nerve. For me that was it. If I lost that, I didn’t want to play competively.
“So I decided there and then to stop.”
Luckily county golf came to his aid. Having helped captain Martin Young with the first team preparations at South East Qualifying in 2016 and 2017, he got to know newcomer Colin Roope, who also joined Blackmoor in that period.
And with Roope’s work as a recruitment consultant, he was able to place Archibald in his new role.
Stuart explained: “I didn’t want to touch a club in the weeks after and decided to then look for a job. Colin Roope put my name forward and luckily I was offered a role to stay within golf, with Foresight.
“Work-wise, things have been great, its busy, indoor and home golf had a big boost with lockdown and people working from home. Tour wise its also busy as we now have 13 of the world’s top 20 using the GC Quad.
“I hit a few shots in the office on the simulators now and again, but only played three rounds of golf in two years and never went near a range.”
Archibald says he would be happy to play for Hampshire again
A SECOND victory in the county championship might not be on Archibald’s agenda this weekend. But he is prepared to don the light blue of Hampshire if his county need him.
And after listening to him talk, you sense that competitive edge that earned him two wins as a pro, still lurks within.
He said: “I picked the clubs up again at the end of May. I played once a week – maybe hit balls once in the week if I had time.
“I jumped straight back in and put my first three full rounds in for handicap which came out at plus-one.
“I have only played three competitons so far. The Men’s Championships at Test Valley – where I shot two-under and won by five – I also won with Scratch Open at Sandford Springs, playing with county captain Neil Dawon.”
So the break from golf has not dimmed his obvious talent, even if his ambitions are less grand.
Stuart said: “I just want to keep playing golf as a hobby and enjoy the fact it is fun and not work anymore.
“If the county want me to play, of course I will support them, I just would never want to take the place or stand in the way of the development of any of the young talent in Hampshire.
“I enjoyed being involved from the sidelines with their English County Finals run in 2016 and 2017.
“I don’t have any real desire to play national events and travel again though, but will support events within the county mainly.
“It would be great to make it through to the matchplay this week. But I am genuinely just looking forward to playing Hayling again. Still not quite got my head – or body – around the 36 holes in days
“But it should be good fun and always will bring back some good memories playing on the coast.”
Products of Hampshire School of Excellence ended up on EuroPro Tour
ARCHIBALD came through Tommy Flynn’s Hampshire IoW & CI School of Excellence at Meon Valley G&CC at the same time as Carris Trophy winner Darren Wright, from Rowlands Castle and Lee-on-the-Solent’s future Walker Cup player Sam Hutsby, who were both England junior internationals and went on to be capped at men’s level.
Sam Robertshawe who is now caddying for Callum Shinkwin – another former Carris winner and English Amateur Champion – on the European Tour, having played on the EuroPro and Challenge Tours, was a slightly younger member of the Hampshire Junior squad at that time.
And Robertshawe’s fellow Army GC team-mate Matt Allen also joined Archibald on the EuroPro Tour along with Wright and Corhampton’s two-time Brabazon Trophy winner Neil Raymond and Burden.
Allen, Wright and Burden have all returned to the amateur ranks while Raymond quit playing to concentrate on his role at TaylorMade the Basingstoke equipment giant.
Archibald does not remember too much about his county championship win in 2006. He said: “I don’t remember anything about the qualifying rounds.
“I do recall holing a decent length putt to beat Richard Elmes on the 18th in the first round, Mark Thistleton and I had a great match in the semi and were both well-under par. It was my best golf of the week to beat him.
“Toby gave me a few holes in the final but I hit a great iron shot to about a foot on the 15th to seal the win.
“I had never really thought about the fact that I had beaten three county champions before I even got to the final… and to beat Mark and Toby on their own course as well, I certainly did it the hard way, and I am very proud to be on that list of winners.”