OUGC’s first taste of links golf this year on the hallowed turf at Rye was eagerly anticipated, but first the blues headed to Royal Ashdown Forest to try and negotiate the notoriously wet, but scenic course.
Clear skies greeted the Blues at Ashdown and after a quick bacon roll, the morning foursomes got underway. Oxford, determined to atone for slow starts in previous weeks, started quickly with Van Wijk and Crummey taking an early lead in the top match. Unfortunately, some solid golf from the Ashdown members on the way home saw that match end in a half. The first full point of the day went Oxford’s way with the second pairing of Van Wyk and Ryan providing a display of short game, including miraculous up and downs from the heather on both 8 and 17, to take the game 2&1. Cansfield and Bastianello as well as Wilson and Seely dealt superbly with the greens, slowed severely by recent rain, to add to Oxford’s points total leaving the match at 3.5-2.5 in favour of the blues at lunch.
After a superb choice of pork belly and chicken pie, as well as heated discussion about whether Oxford Captain Matt Reynolds looks like Roy Keane, the afternoon foursomes got under way. The international power pairing of Van Wyk and Cansfield dominated their match to notch another point for the dark blues. Ryan and Hardy added to this when they overcame a late resurgence from their opposition to win the match on the final hole. Summoning the patented aggression of Keano, Reynolds and Crummey took the blues over the winning line with a win in the afternoon's anchor match. That left Bastianello and Charteris-Black able to negotiate a half with their opponents due to fading light and gave Oxford a winning scoreline of 7-5.
After a bizzare night in a Folkestone hotel, which included an old persons’ Christmas party and the most provincial of nightclubs, the team headed to Rye and were greeted with a course in stunning, firm condition. Many familiar faces greeted the blues, including last year’s captain, Alex Gems, as well as a plethora of other ex-Oxbridge golfers. Knowing that the Rye team were incredibly strong, the dark blues were looking to start strongly in the morning games. This looked on the cards when Wilson and Charteris-Black took some early scalps for Oxford. However, the other Rye pairings all proved too strong for Oxford, including in the last match where, due to a couple of late drop outs for the home team, one Rye pairing played two Oxford pairings simultaneously in a rather confusing sixsome. The silver lining for Oxford was that on the 180yd par 3 second, with the opposition only feet away, Rob Van Wijk casually tracked a 9-iron into the hole for his first ever hole in one.
Several bottles of champagne and a large lunch later, players returned to the course for the decisive afternoon singles. Points from Seely, Bastianello, Hardy, Crummey and a fantastic win from Cansfield against last years President's Putter runner up, made it look as if a comeback was on the board but the Rye old hands came up trumps in the top matches to notch a win overall for the home club. However, the blues can take consolation in the fact that the 11-7 scoreline is the closest they’ve come in recent years against an ever-strong Rye side.
The Blues will be hoping that their links introduction on the East Sussex coastline will stand them in good stead when they head to their international fixture at Royal Porthcawl next weekend.