The fortieth staging of the Selborne Salver will bring to Blackmoor the strongest field yet for this prestigious event.

Three of them play off a heady handicap of +5, an unheard of level of ability back in the mid-Seventies, when the benchmark of a gifted amateur was scratch, and plus handicaps were still in the future.

Saturday’s competitors, save a few club and county qualifiers, will all be off +1.7 or better, writes Kit Neilson.

And though favourites are frequently confounded at Blackmoor, the smart money will be on the elite men.

Pick of these is perhaps Ashley Chesters (Hawkstone Park, Salop), the European Amateur champion in both 2013 and 2014, and already in 2015 a member of the Nations Cup-winning squad.

A first choice for England, he also won the Titleist Order of Merit last year.

Fellow England squad and Nations Cup colleague Daniel Brown, from the Bedale club in North Yorks, will be pushing him all the way, as will Ben Stow, from Rushmore, Wilts, who claimed the Brabazon Trophy in 2014 and is an England Elite squad member, as well as a Nations Cup winner.

Paul Kinnear (Formby) comes with similar credentials, as does Royal North Devon’s Jimmy Mullen, winner of the 2014 Duncan Putter.

Luke Johnson (King’s Lynn) has hit the ground running in 2015, winning last week’s Berkhamsted Trophy, so will be full of confidence.

Oscar Granstrom-Livesey made the last four of the 2014 English Amateur and is an England A squad member. So is Woburn’s Jack Bartlett, who, though off a comparatively lowly +2.2, was good enough to win the Hampshire Salver and the Berkhamsted in 2014.

As ever, there is lots of home county interest, with two former Salver champions hoping to emulate old glories. Ryan Henley (Stoneham) took the title in 2005, while Blackmoor’s very own Mark Burgess did it in 2009.

But they could well be upstaged by Martin Young (Brokenhurst Manor), who is truly blossoming in his forties. Off +3.2, he won the county title and Courage Trophy in a fruitful 2014.

Scott Gregory, the +4 man from Corhampton, will be keen to impress.

An England A squad member, he was runner-up in the English Amateur last time out and annexed the Waterford Trophy and Stoneham Trophy for good measure.

Darren Walkley (Hayling), off +2.7, won the Delhi Cup and Devil’s Punchbowl in 2014, while his clubmate, Ben Wall, was winner of the Solent Salver.

Others who could catch the eye include Billy Watson (North Hants), off +2.1 and the 2014 Hampshire Junior Champion and Boys’ Champion of Champions, Chris Blunden (Sandford Springs), the 2014 Hampshire junior captain, and Tom Robson, the former county champion from Rowlands Castle.

On Friday evening, the club will host a 40th anniversary dinner, at which the main guest will be Peter McEvoy (Copt Heath), who is still the only man to successfully defend the Selborne Salver, winning in 1979 and 1980.

After the Salver, much of the field will head to North Hants on Sunday, for the 59th edition of the Hampshire Hog, as they look to add their name to a list of winners that includes ex-Ryder Cup players, former Masters and Open champion Sandy Lyle and the 2013 US Open winner Justin Rose.

Last year, Sam Edwards, from Bigbury, Devon, bagged the title and will be back to defend his crown.

The best combined score from the Selborne Salver and Hampshire Hog will win the Hampshire Salver, with Bowood’s Jordan Smith taking that honour in 2014.