A lot of readers probably thought that Cooper would never write a match report, especially not this week after a scintillating performance in the first trial at Southfields. That day felt symbolic for OUGC - the crown, left vacant by the departure of titans from a previous era, now rested firmly on the head of the talented third-year veteran. However, even golf of his quality was not able to stop him from succumbing in an 18-hole shootout at the truest of golfing tests – Denham.
Such is the grandeur of Denham that the four rookies would be forgiven for feeling rather overwhelmed on arrival for the first fixture of the season. The course? Brutal. With penal rough and notoriously tricky greens, the Harry Colt design has been described as ‘the greatest meeting of mud and grass in the world’. The clubhouse? Top 3. The dining room bears a striking resemblance to the Serengeti and the bar is well-stocked with Wolfschmidt. The members? Highly entertaining and generous throughout, but the toughest of competitors around their home track.
Due to weather not seen since the 2002 Open, the afternoon round was called off on arrival. This left only 18 holes of foursomes to separate the sides. The rain was lashing down throughout, adding even more difficulty to the challenging layout.
Harry Fitzpatrick and Sam Sawyers led out, with a closely fought match going the way of the home side. However, Fitzpatrick thoroughly enjoyed the members’ chat, and was heard asking in the clubhouse after the round if they were Vinnies.
Henry Howard-Jenkins, perhaps buoyed after finally being paired with someone his own age, found form with new recruit James Sully. Sully brushed off any weariness admirably after taking in some interesting entertainment at a Linacre event the previous night. Unfortunately, they were to perish on the final hole.
Monty Cooper and Paul Rowlinson, another of the new weapons, were out next. Denham, clearly realising the importance of taking down this pairing at the nucleus of the side, sent out their very best in Phil and James. Together, the experienced duo pulled off a heist they could scarcely believe: cruising to a comfortable victory against Oxford’s golfing darlings.
Rory Giddins and Bruce Fitzpatrick restored pride for the dark blue with a classy 4&3 win. Bruce was clearly motivated by the thought of having both beef and lamb at lunch, while no-one was able to explain Giddins’ performance.
Old Faithfuls Jenks and Frey anchored the line-up and produced high-quality golf throughout. With Jenks notching greens in reg, Frey enjoyed notable success on the flat putting surfaces. The pairing recorded a 1up victory.
After much anticipation, expectations for the fabled lunch were high. Cooper is glad to report that it did not disappoint. Moving seamlessly between salmon, beef and sea bass, Cooper was on a culinary journey that will live long in the memory. Meanwhile, it is unclear whether Jenks ate at all. Thankfully, the staggering display of desserts was documented by Frey on the Whatsapp group for all to see. Towards the end of the meal, Fitzpatrick stood up to say a few words. Luckily for all, he was drowned out by the hum from the family gathering taking place behind us in the dining room. The lunch was made even more enjoyable by the members, who entertained us with fantastic golfing tales and kept the wine flowing. Rowlinson was particularly taken by the memorable dining room decorations, recounting to the table his younger years in the Kruger.
After finishing dessert, the crowd moved swiftly to the bar, where a number of significant events took place. The first of which was the consumption of the opening kümmels of the season. Jenks nodded approvingly but his mood was soon dampened by the lack of Huel on offer. There were worrying scenes towards the end, as Howard-Jenkins attempted to smuggle spare wine out of the dining room and back to Oxford. Thankfully, a responsible Denham member was on hand to stymie his efforts. The day was wrapped up by pitting the former partners, Cooper and Rowlinson, against one another in a pint race for the match report. Paul’s performance was particularly impressive given the nature of the lunch preceding it and he was able to secure a narrow victory. Cooper was unimpressed by the rain which thwarted any attempt to showcase his much-celebrated stroke in a putt-off.
OUGC would like to thank Denham Golf Club and its members for hosting us. A fantastic day was enjoyed by the team in this early-season match-up. Lunch was a particular highlight for all, with the only disappointment being the treacherous weather preventing us from taking on another post-prandial comeback. The final score for the fixture remained 3-2 to Denham.