ISLE of Wight golfer Nat Riddett will be making his debut as manager of the Hampshire Colts as they kick-off their South East League campaign against Surrey tomorrow (Sunday).

The 28-year-old, a greenkeeper at Shanklin, has been a regular category one player in Hampshire over the past decade.

The former Freshwater Bay Golf Club greenkeeper has helped Shanklin qualify for the English Champion Club tournament in the past two years, by winning the Hampshire Team Shield at the county championship — and three times in the past five years.

But with the county having a lot of top amateur talent at their disposal, Nat found it difficult to break into the county team, so only ever featured in an U21 friendly.

Isle of Wight County Press: New Hampshire Colts manager Nat Ridett.New Hampshire Colts manager Nat Ridett.

So when Rowlands Castle’s Tom Robson decided to stand down at the end of last season to concentrate on playing for the first team, Nat was approached.

The Islander has, over the past year, represented the Isle of Wight Golf Union on Hampshire Golf's executive committee, which oversees amateur golf on the mainland the Isle of Wight and Channel Islands.

Rule changes mean that no player aged under 18 can play in what was the old U21s league, although now captains can pick players up to the age of 25.

Nat admits he may take a different approach to his predecessors.

Under Neil Dawson, they won the South East League Final in 2014 and shared it in 2015, before claiming it outright in Robson’s first season in 2016.

But they lost to Essex in the 2017 final when they had home advantage at The Warren, where ironically the first team lost the league final to the host county in 2014.

Also, last season was disrupted by a home game abandoned because of bad weather.

Nat, who will put out his first selection in four foursomes and eight singles matches at Sherfield Oaks, near Basingstoke, said: “I’ve played football and cricket my whole life, so my views may be different as I come from outside the county golf set up.

“I represented the Isle of Wight at cricket. I have also played football in the top league on the Island, as well as played in Hampshire leagues as a youth player.

“Any team needs to have a relaxed and comfortable feel to it, to help the players perform. But there is also an element of discipline and seriousness to perform and do well

“All the players I have selected for this weekend know their own games and what works best for them.

“The have also shown that by having good results this season.

“The coming season will be a big learning curve for me and the players. I have known a lot of the players for a number of years, but only fleetingly, playing in county competitions.

“I’ll be learning how best to support my team and select the best pairings. I have spoken to Hampshire's first-team captain, Colin Roope, for some advice about that.

“Hopefully, with the players who have made themselves available, I feel we could have a good, competitive year.

“I have also spoken to Colin about players who may be of interest to the first team. I will try and help him by feeding players into the men’s side and by trying out different pairings.

“The best players U25 will not always be available, so I will be keeping an eye out on events in Hampshire, looking for players who are performing well.”

Nat — whose father Terry is one of the panel of referees who help run top scratch events in Hampshire — already has one eye on next season.

“I will be keeping an eye out on the U18s for players eligible for the Colts in 2020,” Nat added.

Isle of Wight County Press: Osborne Golf Club player Chris Hayward was selected to play for Hampshire Colts against Surrey.Osborne Golf Club player Chris Hayward was selected to play for Hampshire Colts against Surrey.

The new manager has a strong squad available for his debut, which includes one Islander, Chris Hayward, who plays at Osborne Golf Club, with Shanklin and Sandown Golf Club stars Conor Richards and Jordan Sundborg unavailable for selection.