The 2019/20 Season
By Robert "Bobby" Cootes
OUGC Divots Secretary 2020/21
16th July 2020
As I write this report, the 2019/20 Divots season is, officially, still ongoing. Owing to the outbreak of Covid-19, the most important fixture of the Divots calendar – the Varsity match against the Cambridge Stymies, now to be played at Denham Golf Club – has been postponed until 1st September. Even so, we have completed our yearly circuit of clubs around the country, and so what follows is a summary of the season so far, a few highlights, and my own personal experience of it.
Undoubtedly, we have had a good season. A win record of above 50%, in a sporting season where we are (almost) always the visiting side, is impressive. With a squad of around 30, the standard has been strong, and we’ve tasted victory at West Sussex, Royal Worlington, Worplesdon, Royal St George’s, Rye, Woking, New Zealand (Golf Club), Ashridge, and Huntercombe, our home course. (More detail about individual matches can be found in the match reports below. So too, as I’ve just discovered, can a picture of me in a fascinator. For what it’s worth, I think it suits me).
A great deal of credit for this should undoubtedly go to captain Sam Hitchcock, treasurer Jack Palmer and secretary Sean Martin, who between them have done such a brilliant job organising the season and bringing the team together. (Modesty forbids I also mention that I was playing in all these fixtures bar West Sussex). We have also had new fixtures against Frilford Heath and Royal St George’s, for which we have Sean and last year’s captain Lee Priest to thank. Congratulations also to treasurer Jack, who finished top of the Divots leader-board for this season. Finally, many thanks must go to all the clubs around the country who have done such a wonderful job hosting us.
There have been some real highlights. At St George’s, we turned up to an empty course, set up to hold the Open, wandered round the pro shop like 12-year-olds set loose in a shopping centre for the first time, and were treated to a full English breakfast in one of the most striking clubhouses I have ever seen. I’ll never forget the strange feeling of pride that came with dinking the ball some way down the first fairway, having been told that last time Tiger had binned his drive in the rubbish on the right. Likewise, the roar of the assembled members of Luffenham Heath, as Siv Sukumar of the Divots very nearly became only the second person to complete the clubhouse putting challenge – by almost stopping the ball on a metal threshold – will stay with me.
So too will the experience of going out onto the course with the rest of the team, in the dimming light, to support our very own Tiger – Tiger “The Cat” Yuan – as he brought home the goods for the Divots against New Zealand. And, speaking of goods, it was with the Divots that I drank my first Kümmel, tried the UK’s best fish and chips (in Aldeburgh, if you’re interested), and was introduced to the name Bobby (though whether this is any good you can judge for yourself).
Of course, it hasn’t all been easy going – and, as a Divot, you do learn to take the rough with the smooth. A 3.5-0.5 thrashing against a strong Roehampton side sticks vividly in my memory, compounded as it was by the overnight towing of captain Hitchcock’s car, which left half the team to make the journey to and fro on the Oxford Tube. Even so, there was nothing a post-match inter-Divots game of Wii Golf couldn’t fix. (Though, to this day, I maintain that my remote was not properly calibrated). I also spent my first Divots night away in a small, semi-detached house in Corby with a maximum capacity of five. Not too bad, you might say – before I mention that we somehow shoehorned into it a team of 10.
Before our fixture against Rye, we also stayed in the same caravan park as the Inbetweeners. Both times, sleeping bags had been provided by the Parachute Regiment’s very own Sean Martin; and on the latter occasion, when Mr Martin wordlessly handed me a sponge and a piece of camouflaged Arctic survival gear during the morning clean-up operation, I wondered, not for the first time, whether I had somehow been conned into taking part in a bizarre form of Basic Training.
From a personal perspective, this was also my first year as a Divot. This meant I was inaugurated into the Divots ritual. Every Wednesday evening, I would head over to the driving range for an hour, with the rest of the team, before retiring to CurryDor – its BYOB policy as perplexingly delightful as its name.
Most weekends, I would wake up my pet rooster as I left to be picked up for a fixture, the bacon baps and roast lunch that awaited me swimming like a mirage before my eyes. Having played 36 holes, I would wander back to the clubhouse through a setting sun, leave the course in darkness, and slump into my bed/sleeping bag, my inner monologue all the while intoning, not without satisfaction, “A full day’s golf, lad”.
As I say, more is yet to come. We still have a Varsity match to play, and the 2020/1 season to look forward to. If you are interested in joining the team, please don’t hesitate to get touch. I’ll leave you with this promise: give it a go, and you’ll love it.