HAMPSHIRE’S juniors will be setting out to emulate the men’s team by reaching the English Finals when the South East Boys Qualifier is held at Blackmoor tomorrow.

In recent years, the U18s have been almost as successful as the men in dominating the regional qualifier – winning the 36-hole event in 2012, 2013 and 2015 – in 2014 they were second, missing out by just three shots.

The county’s junior development programme has proved to be one of the strongest in the country – having produced two back-to-back British Amateur Champions in Corhampton’s Scott Gregory and Harry Ellis, who both played in the Hampshire team that won at Oxford’s Studley Wood six years ago.

Ellis went on to become the youngest ever English Amateur Champion at the age of just 16 that summer while Gregory, who had to fight to earn a place in the county’s U18 team, was a finalist two years later.

Both went on to play for Great Britain and Ireland in the Walker Cup in Los Angeles, last year, along with former Hampshire junior Jack Singh-Brar, who claimed the county’s U18 title in 2011 as a 15-year-old.

Another team-mate from the 2012 qualifier was Rowlands Castle’s Billy McKenzie, while 2015 Hampshire Boys Champion Conor Richards, and fellow Shanklin and Sandown member Jordan Sundborg, have both graduated to the men’s first team having helped Hampshire reach the finals three times between them.

Blackmoor’s John Moore, who is now the Hampshire Golf president, managed the team that made it through to the English Boys Finals.

But like the men, who qualified as South East Champions seven times between 2002 and 2016, victory at the national stage eluded Hampshire.

Now Wayne Matthews – whose son Nick, off three, has the highest handicap in the six-man team – has taken over as manager of the U18 squad.

He will be relying heavily this week on the talents of Corhampton’s latest promising teenager in the shape of Jamie Markwick.

The 17-year old became just the second Hampshire player to win the South East Boys Championship since it was founded in 1961 at the end of May.

The scratch golfer is joined in the squad by Cams Hall’s Aman Uddin, who plays off one, and Finbar Kane, from Barton-on-Sea, who has been brought into the squad recently.

Finbar is one of the top deaf golfers in the UK and also plays off one.

The six-man squad is completed by North Hants’ Christian Lindgreen and fellow two handicapper Sam West from Liphook, who is a member of England Golf’s South East U16 training squad.

That is the same group that Markwick was selected for – he now is a member of the Hampshire and Surrey U18 squad that is being monitored by the national selectors in the regional coaching set-up.

Matthews is hoping experience of playing the notoriously difficult heathland course at Blackmoor will give his young team an edge, even if some of their 10-rivals in the South East group may have more experience at the highest level of junior golf including defending champions Berks, Bucks and Oxon (BB&O).

Wayne said: “Blackmoor is a tactical course where long hitters do not get an real advantage, irons off a number of tees will be the order of the day.

“It’s particularly true due to the spell of hot weather with the course dry and the balls bouncing.

“Particular care has to be taken on approach shots with players having to bounce the ball in.

“It is a course to play steady and patiently, we need not try to take too much on as the trees and heather will severely punish you.

“Playing par golf and picking birdies up when the opportunities arise is the way to go.

“Our boys have played in the club’s junior open a number of times so hopefully that will be a key advantage.”

Markwick was in the field for the Selborne Salver back in April and managed to shoot a two-over par 71 in the first round, before a disappointing 80 ended any hopes of what would have been a very respectable top 20 finish.

Lindgreen was also in the field and carded rounds of 76 and 78.

The last time Blackmooor hosted the South East Boys County Qualifying event in 2011, Hampshire finished third, six shots behind Kent.