The team began the week with an early morning walk of the course, accompanied by our two coaches, John and Matt Cook. Course management and strategy were addressed, the key matchplay holes were highlighted, and the main focus was on short game and putting. Attention started to wain towards the end of the course, evidenced by the full 8 iron challenge between new players Karl Frey and Harry Fitzpatrick. Frey emerged victorious.
The first practice round followed that afternoon, with some of our players experiencing the full force of Northern weather for the very first time. It is fair to say that the gorse bushes won on the day. The greens were rolling fantastically, and the course was in excellent condition. The team returned to the house in high spirits after both a constructive and enjoyable day on and off the golf course.
Tuesday brought more windy weather, forcing the team to work on ball flight on the driving range, before heading out to the course for a full practice round. Matches were played within the team to ensure everyone was comfortable under pressure on some of the tighter driving holes. The Blues then joined the crowd for the last few holes of the Ladies Match. Some clinical finishing from the Cambridge team saw them secure a convincing victory.
On Wednesday, the Blues team, with the exception of our Dinner Blues, travelled down to Lindrick Golf Club to caddy for the Divots in their afternoon singles. Wet weather was endured, but unfortunately, Oxford came up short with a final score of 8-7 to the Stymies. Notable Dark Blue performances included a 7&6 ‘Dog Licence’ victory for Ed Jenks, and a 5&4 victory for Tom Gibbs.
Thursday of Varsity Week brought the Dinner Match, and the first battle between the Blues teams. Montgomery Cooper and Karan Bali (Oxford) found themselves 2 down with three to play in the morning foursomes against Lt. Col Sam Cates and Thomas Descroix. The finishing three holes of Ganton are three of the toughest holes on the course, and Oxford felt confident that all was still to play for. A missed fairway off the 16th meant Cooper had to chip out. Bali’s mid iron approach finished 20 feet from the hole, leaving Oxford with a guaranteed bogey and a chance to make par. Meanwhile, Cambridge found the green side bunker in two, but took 4 to get down. Oxford won the hole, moving back to 1 down with two to play. However, the 17th brought trouble, producing a disappointing double bogey from Bali and Montgomery. Descroix then missed a short putt to win the match, and the ball rolled down the hill to 5 feet. Lt. Col Cates was not able to make the return and, against all odds, Oxford won the hole. The momentum was at this point undoubtedly with Oxford. Cooper found the punishing green side bunker with his approach on the 18th. A spectacular recovery from Bali rolls up to two feet from the whole, leaving Oxford with an almost certain par. Cambridge missed their par putt, and Cooper holed to win the match. Phenomenal courage from the Oxford Dinner pairing.
A solid victory from Bali in the afternoon meant that Oxford claimed the Dinner Match 2-1, giving them the momentum heading into Friday.
Friday arrived and brought clear blue skies. More like a putting green than a tee, the first tee at Ganton presents the player with a sea of gorse bushes and several fairway bunkers. First year Harry Fitzpatrick had the honour of hitting the first shot of the match, putting his partner Anton Persson in the fairway, only to be followed by Andre Neto-Bradley for Cambridge.
Midway through the first round, news spread around the course that Cambridge were up in four of the five matches, and A/S in the fifth. Surprising news maybe, but nothing that would upset Oxford, and they pushed forward to a more promising position at lunch.
Matches began to finish; Persson and Fitzpatrick won 6&5 after a score of -1 for the first 11 holes in the afternoon. This was answered with a 2&1 victory from Maxwell and Winder (Cambridge) against Henry Howard-Jenkins and Tim Jukes in the second match of the day. Maxime Saxena and Robin Sullivan (Oxford) shot back with a 3&2 victory over Hickman and Slim, but a 3&2 defeat for Adam Barker and Freddy Bruce then followed. The match was poised at 2-2, and Oxford were all square with three to play in the final match, being played between Haven Barlow III and Karl Frey for Oxford, and Freddy Bastianello and Will Entwistle for Cambridge. The crowds started to thicken on the 16th hole, a long and tight par 4. Both teams find the fairway off the tee, but Barlow’s high ball flight finds more of a hurting breeze and Oxford are left with a long approach. Frey unfortunately finds the trees with a lay up, as Bastianello manages to advance Cambridge just short of the green side bunker. The Oxford team now decides to discuss their strategy for the hole and chip out sideways rather than advance the ball to the green side bunker, much to the crowd’s confusion. 115 yards to go for their fourth shot, and Frey dispatches a sand wedge 60 yards into the air. The crowd urges the ball to go and seem sure that it will come up short of the bunker. Unusually, they were wrong, and the ball pitches and stops 5 feet from the hole. Frey fist pumps to the crowd, and the momentum seems to swing Oxford’s way. Entwistle steps up to the bunker shot, and plays to the back of the green. Bastianello strolls the putt up to 4 feet, and a half is agreed. The long par 3 17th saw Cambridge find gorse off the tee, and, several minutes later, after a drop and two attempts to get out of the bushes, Cambridge concede the hole. Oxford were 1 up heading down the 36th hole of the match. Both Barlow and Entwistle find the fairway off the tee. Bastianello to play first for Cambridge, and he finds the middle of the green. Frey finds the back of the green with a 9 iron, leaving Barlow with a testing downhill right to left putt. Barlow lags the putt to tap in range, and the par is secured. Oxford win 1 up to head into the singles 3-2.
Oxford quickly established a commanding lead in the singles matches on Saturday. Early victories came from Persson, Fitzpatrick, Sullivan and Saxena for Oxford, and Haven Barlow III recorded an especially impressive winning margin of 11&10 over William Entwistle. A defeat for Oxford in the captain’s match meant the score stood at 8-3, and Oxford had by that point done enough to win the match overall. Attention turned to the four final matches, which all hung in the balance. Frey found himself 1 down to Elliot Ebert, after losing the 16th hole. Frey’s long iron off the par 3 17th found the left hand green side bunker, with Ebert’s ball finding the bunker on the right. Ebert was first to play, but took two attempts to get out. The ball rolled over the back edge of the green, leaving him with a testing chip shot. Frey’s bunker shot finished 10 feet from the hole, leaving him with a good chance of par. Ebert left the chip short, and conceded the hole. Both players found the fairway off the 18th tee. Ebert’s approach finished in the green side bunker, whereas Frey left himself 15 feet for birdie. A good shot out of the bunker left Ebert with a 5 foot putt for par, but Frey birdied to win the hole and the match. The remaining three matches were halved, producing a final score of 10.5 to 4.5 to Oxford.
It marked the 8th victory for Oxford in a row. The dinner followed the end of the match, and the Oxford team returned to the house for some well deserved celebrations.
Oxford University Golf Club would like to express its deepest gratitude to Ganton Golf Club for an incredibly memorable week.
Oxford Blues Team:
Henry Howard-Jenkins (President)
Maxime Saxena (Hon. Secretary)
Anton Persson (Hon. Treasurer)
Haven Barlow III