Ryan Henley will attempt to defend his Hampshire County Championship crown this week, but he faces some fierce competition for the crown, including from former English Amateur title-holder Harry Ellis.

Ellis has returned from Florida State University for the summer, and will tee it up at Hockley this week.

Stoneham’s Henley is the man to beat, though, after winning the trophy for the third time in his career last year, when he beat Petersfield’s Ben Lobacz in the final, at Blackmoor.

This year’s edition – the 109th in total – heads to Hockley, with a field of 83 players taking part in Friday’s 36-hole stroke play qualifier, ahead of the weekend’s match play rounds.

Henley is grouped with Corhampton’s Scott Gregory and Hayling’s Darren Walkley, all of whom are plus-two handicappers.

Ellis, 18, who also plays off the same, has been drawn with Hayling’s Ben Wall and Blackmooor’s Mark Burgess, both off plus—one.

Another tantalising group sees plus-three handicappers Martin Young, of Brokenhurst Manor, Gavin O’Neill, of Royal Jersey, and Tom Robson, of Rowlands Castle, playing together.

Meon Valley’s Ellis, who became the youngest ever English Amateur champion in 2012, is looking forward to making his return to the Hampshire circuit.

“I’m really excited about playing,” he said. “It’s only my second time in this, so I was excited to get it in the schedule.

“I think we have got a really good field this year. It’s going to be a good test.

“I’m quietly optimistic, is the way I would put it. My game, I feel, is in a pretty good place.”

Ellis described choosing to join FSU as one of the best decisions he has made, and the teenage ace says he has learnt a huge amount in the two years since he shot to fame with his incredible victory at Silloth-on-Solway.