IN-FORM James Freeman admitted he was desperate to cash in on home advantage to become the 2022 Hampshire Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Champion when Southampton’s Stoneham Golf Club hosted the event at the weekend.

And he became just the third Stoneham golfer to win the county championship on his home course, following in the footsteps of David Harrison, who has won the Sloane-Stanley Challenge Cup more times than anyone else in 102 years.

In a see-saw final, Freeman finally beat his best friend from school and college – Bramshaw’s Joe Buenfeld – at the 21st hole in a sudden-death play-off, reports Andrew Griffin.

While Freeman, who is studying for the PGA golf degree at the University of Birmingham, is unlikely to stay amateur long enough to get anywhere close to Harrison’s record of six victories between 1964 and 1975, he and Buenfeld will always be remembered for providing one of the most exciting finals in living memory.

Indeed, Harrison – a former R&A captain – and fellow ex-England Boys international David Porter, were in the large gallery following the final, being played at Stoneham for the 13th time since 1914.

And both could not be anything but impressed as the two county colts players finished on 15-under par between them.

Neither player was ever more than two holes ahead over the 18-hole final.

Freeman made 10 birdies and dropped just two shots as he finished birdie, birdie, before being taken down the 19th by the Texas-based Incarnate Word University golfer.

The pair have been best friends since their time at Mountbatten School, having roomed together while at Hartpury College before heading off to different universities on either side of the Atlantic.

Buenfeld needed an eagle from 20-feet on the last to survive after Freeman – who had been pegged back to all-square by Buenfeld’s silky smooth birdie two from 10-feet on the 16th – hit the recovery of his life from the rough on the penultimate hole.

Freeman’s wedge from 150 yards left him with a tap-in birdie to restore the one-hole advantage he had kept since the ninth hole.

The recent Delhi Cup winner’s own eagle putt on the 18th was a couple of feet closer than his best mate’s, but did not drop.

They halved the first extra hole – the downhill par-five first – in birdie fours and both made steady pars on the par-three second.

And just when it looked like tiredness after 110 holes of golf in three days might see the final decided by a mistake, Freeman produced another stunning iron into the third green.

Playing second, he hit his three-wood some 40 yards shorter than Buenfeld, who took driver, leaving Freeman to hit his approach first.

Freeman's wedge from 90 yards danced around the hole before stopping some 18 inches from the hole.

The birdie putt was conceded by Buenfeld, whose 20-foot birdie attempt missed the hole on the left – in his determination not to leave it short of the hole.

The pair and their caddies – Stoneham members Owen Grimes, the 2018 county champion, and fellow Hampshire Colt Mat Thomas – shook each other’s hands and the best friends shared a brief hug.

With applause ringing around the large gallery, there were smiles all-round from the players, proud of having produced such a high-quality contest.

Freeman was rushed by his younger sister, who ran on to the green, while proud parents Penny and Steve watched on.