West Sussex & Hankley Common
After two weekends on the links, OUGC returned inland to face West Sussex and Hankley Common as preparations for the Varsity Match intensified. Having turned his nose up at the prospect of a weekend’s golf on the Norfolk coast, Rietschel returned reinvigorated and hungry for points of any kind. The team was further buoyed by the absence of Giddins. As a result of his and Barker’s absences, Harry was forced to draw deep from the reserves of golfing talent lying dormant in Oxford – Robin Sullivan was pried away from his mapping project while Divots Reserve June-Ho Chung was a more than able replacement for Giddins.
The morning started positively for Cooper/Rietschel as the German golfing god slid in a 10-footer for an opening birdie. On the very next hole, I was informed of the superlative educational background of one of our opponents. Colin Jones was revealed as an alumnus and current Hewitt player of that finest of institutions, its name synonymous with golfing excellence since its foundation in 1553. Rietschel shuddered, he knew this meant two things: first, it would be nigh on impossible to out-chat him, and second, he was a golfer of the highest pedigree. Needless to say, we succumbed to a 3&2 loss.
The surprise of the morning came in the form of the reserves, with Robin and June-Ho somehow delivering half a point for the dark blues. There was more good news up the order, as the Fitzpatricks carved out another impressive victory.
At this point in the season, roast lunches are part of the routine for these elite athletes. As such, nothing of particular note can be remembered apart from OUGC veterans reminiscing about Jenks’ post-lunch range session two years prior and Karl Frey describing something as ‘absolute filth’. Even these are events which occur with some regularity on the circuit.
The afternoon round promised an exciting singles match-up with the eye being drawn to Cooper v ‘Ben’. After building a commanding 4up lead through the opening 11 holes, Cooper found himself up against it with the match in the balance with two to play. However, the Oxonian dug deep to produce two long-irons of the highest quality on the treacherous closing holes and seal his point.
Bruce, meanwhile, was aided by a few fortunate bunker bounces in overcoming CJ in a tight contest. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much Lucas could do as he was quite simply outclassed 7&6 by one of their dangerous 12-handicappers in a one-sided contest.
In the end, OUGC managed to wrap up a 10.5-7.5 victory to build some momentum into a tricky Hankley fixture. John Bushell, meanwhile, delivered a rousing battle-cry to the team that will live long in the memory of those present - “Come on Oxford!” Stirring words indeed coming from the former tab.
The team split up with half going to Peter’s house and the other half to Kevin’s. At Peter’s house, once again the fabled quiz returned, giving Karl Frey the opportunity to showcase his impressive intellect, delivering a clutch answer in the form of the Ural Mountains. Meanwhile, those at Kevin’s house watched intently as Keith Mitchell and Wyndham Clark battled it out at the Honda Classic.
Few jumpers strike fear into opponents in such a way as the purple Scratch Team knitwear of Hankley Common. OUGC would have to be on serious form to prevail here. Unfortunately, the weather put a dampener on spirits on Sunday morning. Not to be deterred, the teams headed out to hammering rain.
Cooper and Rietschel struggled to find the clubface, running up unspeakable numbers en route to a 7&6 loss off top. This did, however, afford them a significantly enlarged lunch slot as they made their way inside circa 10.30am. Slightly better numbers were recorded elsewhere as the contest remained close. Mention must be made of Jenks and Howlett’s efforts, with the pair fighting for a gruelling 36 holes in torrential rain for 1.5 points. In addition, the Fitzpatricks’ weekend only got better as the day wore on. Playing near the bottom of the order, they both cruised to a four-point weekend in as much style as is possible for a Fitzpatrick to display. Highly commendable. Meanwhile, the team gasped in disbelief as Cooper and Rietschel suffered back-to-back losses. The key moment was when their opponents mis-judged a 40-foot birdie attempt on the 17th green. Instead of travelling a further 20 feet, the ball cannoned into the flagstick and dropped for a heart-breaking birdie. This proved to be the difference in a high-quality tussle. With this, OUGC finally succumbed to a 7-5 loss.