GEORGE Munsey used to smash booming drives on to fairways; now Hampshire’s new Vitality Blast signing is pinging them over boundary ropes, writes Alex Smith.

Big-hitting batsman Munsey was destined for a golf career having grown up playing alongside PGA Tour stars like Eddie Pepperell and Tyrrell Hatton and made scratch by the age of 16.

But after falling out of love with the solitary existence of golf, Munsey turned to professional cricket – where he has earned a reputation as a T20 specialist.

He will hope to show off that talent tomorrow, when Hampshire get their Vitality Blast campaign underway at Kent Spitfires (2pm).

“Golf and cricket were my main sports when I was growing up in Oxford,” said Munsey, who self-deprecatingly described himself as “alright” at golf.

“It came to a point where I had to decide one of them and I chose cricket.

“I fell out of love with the training. Turning up to a driving range on your own and the grind of golf.

“Even if you are with a caddie of another player, it still isn’t the same atmosphere as cricket training, and that was a turning point for me.

“The team aspect of cricket is the best thing. I’ve been lucky to sit in dressing rooms all around the world with some great people you can learn from and create friendships for life.

“I feel golf was a tough sport to make it to the top and I’m not sure I had it in myself to put the hours in and make it.

“There are a few people I grew up with and have done really well and made it all the way and made a good career out of golf. But the sacrifices they made to get there is just unbelievable.”

Aspects of his golf swing have inevitably made their way across to cricket.

“I was lucky enough to play a lot of sports growing up,” he said. “I think hockey and golf were big influences for my cricket game.

“A lot of people recognise golf in my batting backswing, which is quite funny, but any aspect of life you can bring into your game will only make you better.

“Those sports have allowed me to find slightly different ways to go about hitting a cricket ball further and harder.”

Munsey’s decision to switch focus has paid off, having earned franchise deals at the Global T20 Canada and T10 League, while becoming a talisman for Scotland since his debut five years ago.

With his adopted nation, he top-scored in last year’s highly competitive T20 World Cup qualifier, which saw the Scots reach the 2020 tournament, though this has been pushed back a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and moved to India.

With the lack of available overseas players in this year’s Vitality Blast, it has given Ireland and Scotland talents a greater chance of earning contracts – with Andy Balbirnie and Paul Stirling joining Munsey from those nations.

“I hope that happens more,” Munsey, who has an incredible strike-rate approaching 160 in 45 international T20s, said.

“There are a lot of really good cricketers up in Scotland, especially in the white-ball stuff, which could do the counties a lot of good, if they took a closer look.

“Hopefully I can fly the flag a bit higher and a few more of us will be coming down in the future and help to grow the game up there.

“The associate world has got a lot stronger, and the competitive nature of associate cricket is quite attractive for teams.”

Munsey’s move to Hampshire stems from a stint with the Second Eleven two years ago, which made him hungry to return to the Ageas Bowl.

“I came down in 2018 for some twos cricket as there wasn’t a lot of cricket with Scotland,” he said.

“I have been in touch with them for quite some time and it just so happened that this was the year where everything was possible and we could come to an arrangement which suited me for the T20s.

“I want to get stuck into the Blast. I was close to it last year but an opportunity in Canada came up which I couldn’t really pass up.”

The signing of Munsey adds some much-needed meat to Hampshire’s batting bare-bones.

Rilee Rossouw is not able to travel from South Africa, James Vince is awaiting the birth of his second child, Liam Dawson is injured with a ruptured Achilles and Aneurin Donald won’t be fit after an ACL injury over the winter.

“I have really enjoyed myself here so far,” said Munsey, who has netted with Hampshire recently. “It is a really good group and the coaches do a really good job to create a space for players to develop.

“We’ve got a young group so we will see how we get on.

“Daws will be a big miss with everything that he offers, but there are some really good cricketers who can win games of cricket.

“I feel privileged to be a part of it and hope I can contribute to winning games for Hampshire.”