In his hit 2004 song 'The Weekend', Michael Gray describes elegantly his anticipation for the end of work on a Friday evening. And it was with similar levels of eagerness that the Blues looked forward to their annual match against the Oxford and Cambridge Golfing Society, a fixture which is always a highlight of the Blues’ season. The match was to be decided over three rounds of foursomes and one round of singles at the much loved home of dark blue golf, Huntercombe GC. The rounds would be split over both Saturday and Sunday with the two teams getting together in Oxford on the Saturday evening for a celebratory meal.
Drawing inspiration from Michael Clarke’s pre-Ashes antics, the captain of the Society was kind enough to send Oxford his team sheet during the week prior to the match, flaunting an array of very familiar names and exceptional golfers. The list of players included the past two Oxford Captains, many other recent Oxford graduates and esteemed older members of the Society, all chomping at the bit to tee it up with the current school of dark blue golfers. And so, the Blues realised that they were in for a thorough examination of their games and that a win in their last fixture before going into the Christmas break would be hard earned.
The first match on a crisp Saturday morning truly set the Homeric tone for the weekend. Oxford’s Hector and Aeneas (Crummey and Cansfield) faced the Society’s Achilles and Ajax (Gems and McPhail) in a fine quality match which ended with the Oxford pairing finishing birdie, eagle, birdie to claim a half. The next match out also held particular intrigue. The Oxford pairing of Seely and Bastianello faced the Society’s offering of last year’s Treasurer and Slovenian Top Gun, Gaber Burnik and Jim Mercurio, a 4th year Chemistry phd who had recently decided that he wanted a last hurrah against Cambridge and so would after all play for the Blues this year. It was too late, however, for his to transfer from the Society and so had to put aside his loyalties and play against his teammates. This match, too, was of exceptional standard and again ended in a half. Oxford, however, showed their real strength in depth by taking all four of the remaining games, which left the Blues with a commanding 5-1 lead going into lunch on day one.
After a quick lunch, players returned to the course in an attempt to squeeze in the planned twelve singles matches before the light faded. The Society, clearly riled by Oxford’s fast start in the morning, found some much more fluid golf in the afternoon taking all of the top four singles games, causing Oxford’s lead to completely vanish. The next four games were much more equally contested with the points being shared equally between the teams. Oxford, though, led by a stellar performance from Captain Matthew Reynolds against ex Varsity foursomes partner Samarth Ghorpade, fought back valiantly in the bottom matches. Bastianello, Cansfield and Wilson also came out on top in their games meaning that the afternoon session was halved six-all and Oxford retained their four point lead after the first day’s play.
Shortly after the close of play, the teams reconvened at Trinity College, together with the University Ladies team and Ladies Society for a black-tie dinner. The dinner, a truly international affair, at times played out to the sound of ‘Chase The Sun’ by Planet Funk was superb and was very much enjoyed by all. After dinner, the night continued for some members of the teams at Vincent’s and later one of Oxford’s finest nightclubs where a solid plan was put forward, soon to be taken up by the BoE, on how to deal with liquidity issues.
The golf continued on a Sunny but cold Sunday morning at Huntercombe with the match all still to play for. The top match was a hotly contested affair with Ryan and Crummey taking on Slowther and Mercurio. Seemingly brushing off the effects of the night before, the match went all the way to the 18th and ended in a half. It was a very similar story in the second match where Hardy and Van Wijk earned another half against Burnik and McPhail. Further wins for Reynolds and Cansfield, Warren and Rathore and a half from Nichamin and Wilson left the state of the overall match at 14.5-9.5 at lunch. With only six more points to play for on Sunday afternoon, Oxford only needed one more point in the final session to cross the winning line.
With the exertions of the weekend catching up with everyone, the afternoon games were a real test of stamina. The Society kept their hopes of a Van de Velde-esque capitulation from Oxford alive by taking the first two matches after lunch. However in the third match, the Blues points machine Patrick Cansfield and David Ryan dealt out a defeat to the strong Society pairing of Gems and Burnik. The win for Oxford meant that the fate of the fixture was decided, and with a further two half points won for the Blues in the remaining matches, the overall score for the weekend was a win for Oxford by 16.5 matches to 13.5. The silver lining for the Society, however, was that their Captain, Anthony Goodrich, playing in his last match in charge, went into the final session with zero points for the weekend but managed to put in a stellar performance with ex-dinner blue Simon Hind to half against the sturdy Oxford pairing of Reynolds and Wilson.
Oxford's first victory over The Society in a number of years capped a wonderful term of golf for the team. The blues go into the Christmas break riding a wave of positive momentum and will look to build upon it when they return in January for the packed Hilary schedule which will eventually lead to Rye for the 125th Varsity Match.