And so the team had been picked. The twelve finest golfers that Oxford has to offer were selected and given the task of waging war against Cambridge on the East Sussex coastline at Rye in a little under a month’s time. But before all of that, the team headed down to the nearby Kentish shores to face The Royal St. George’s Golf Club at Sandwich and Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club at Deal, two of the finest links courses in the Country who would treat the Blues to an unrivaled weekend of golf and provide a stern test for the newly founded team. There are many analogies I could use here to describe the twelve, perhaps likening them to the Norman invaders of 1066 who conquered these lands, or even to the slayer of dragons himself, St George. Instead I’m going to punt for the spiritual metaphor of the twelve disciples- a merry band of brothers hard set on spreading the dark blue gospel to all corners of the earth. Let’s see how this goes.
With Oxford being one of the most land locked places in the UK, it was inevitable that the trip to the coast would be a long one, and so the team set off for Kent on the Friday evening, checking in to Oxford’s home from home in the South East- The King’s Head pub in Deal. After a quiet night, the team congregated bright and early at Royal St. George’s on a stunning Saturday morning. The weather could not have been any kinder- barely a cloud to be seen and only a whisper of wind; golf doesn’t get too much better. The matches got away promptly after breakfast with Ryan (James the younger) and Van Wijk (Andrew) making 9 straight pars on the front side in a Faldo-esque performance that would lead to them gaining a foothold on their game that they would eventually convert into a dark blue point on 17. Not to be outdone, Reynolds (Simon Peter) and Wilson (Bartholomew) went out in one under before winning their match convincingly. Van Wyk (James the elder) and Hardy (Simon the zealot) kept the Blues opening salvo alive with another solid win in the third match giving Oxford a temporary vice grip over the fixture. The home club did, however, fight back in the next two matches with both Charteris-Black (John) and Nichamin (Philip) as well as Crummey (Thaddaeus) and Mercurio (Judas; we’ve not forgotten about the Society fixture) being pipped in their games. In the final match on the course, though, Oxford steadied the ship with Cansfield (Matthew) and Bastianello (doubting Thomas; unless he can touch your flesh, he’s a better putter than you) playing some stellar golf to secure the Blues’ fourth point of the morning.
After a typically excellent lunch where water was forcibly turned into wine, the players returned to the course for the afternoon foursomes. The home club, throwing caution to the wind, stacked their top order and were rewarded when they took both of the points in the first two matches. Oxford rallied in the next two games, with the experienced Van Wyk and Cansfield pairing combining for a resounding win followed by another hard fought victory from Van Wijk and Mercurio. That left Oxford only needing a solitary half point from the remaining two matches to win the overall fixture. Some fine golf from the home club in the final matches, however, made that half point rather elusive for the blues and so the match ended in a 6-6 half.
With time to fill between the end of play and the start of the black tie dinner which had very kindly been put on by the club, the teams bedded down to watch the England-Ireland 6 Nations game. With loyalties in the team being split between the two countries (as well as Crummey still taunting Bastianello for the earlier Scotland-Italy result), the game was watched eagerly. Hard lines Paddy. Dinner did not disappoint either, with a delightful piece of lamb taking centre stage. Bastianello ate his pudding with a wooden spoon.
After dinner, the team headed back into town to experience the sights and sounds of Deal. Deal is a town in mourning at the moment with its beating heart, Rivals nightclub, having been recently ripped from it. The Oxford team, resonating with this loss more than most, gave the mighty club the wake it truly deserved, sharing fond memories of the place with each other over a few drinks. The lighter blues, who had been playing at Cinque Ports that day, were nowhere to be seen in Deal- something to do with rules and regulations.
Waking up for the first tee times at Deal on Sunday morning was probably the most accurate reenactment of the raising of Lazarus since the original event 2000 years ago in Bethany but, drawing inspiration from OUGC’s official film, Gladiator, and a rousing speech from skipper Reynolds, all the players were raring to take on a Royal Cinque Ports team which had held Cambridge to a draw on the previous day: “Some of you are thinking that you won't fight. Others, that you can't fight. They all say that, until they're out there”. It worked, with Oxford taking 2.5 points from the first 3 matches. A middle order fightback from the home club saw the match leveled up at 2.5 points each after 5 matches. In the morning’s anchor match, though, Van Wijk and Hardy combined for an Oxford win that gave the team a narrow edge going in to lunch.
More Gladiator quotes were exchanged over the roast beef, with OUGC now surely the university sports team with the most strength and honour in the UK. Maybe the image of the Colosseum, a symbol for Christian persecution under emperor Trajan, spurred the disciples on in the afternoon matches, because they stormed out of the blocks in the early matches. Hardy and Reynolds led the charge in the top match before the Ryan-Crummey and Van Wijk-Van Wyk pairings added two further Oxford points. The attentive reader will, at this point, realise that Van Wijk scored a perfect 4 from 4 this weekend- he will do that to you. With the fixture now mathematically decided, Oxford coasted home with Charteris-Black and Nichamin as well as Cansfield and Mercurio adding further half points for the dark blues. That left the overall result at a win to Oxford by 7.5 matches to 4.5 rounding off a very successful weekend.
OUGC found the east Kent coast a happy hunting ground this weekend and will hope that this form on the links turf will not desert them in three weeks’ time during the Varsity Match. In the words of Maximus: “If you find yourself in green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled. For you are in Rye, and you’re probably winning (sic)”.