The points buffet could not come at a more critical time in the season; the weekend before selection brings pressure only comparable to the back 9 on Masters Sunday.
Only at such a weekend could the writer of the match report have accrued 2 out of a possible 4 points, but, despite initial disappointment, this marked the third win in five games for OUGC; an unprecedented start to Hilary Term.
Acres of car park stood waiting for the team on Saturday morning as they returned to Worplesdon for the second time in three weeks. After a closely fought 10-2 defeat against the Moles, OUGC were ready to take blood; nobody more so than Ed Springett, who devoured his bacon roll like a wild dog.
Fear was rife in the Worplesdon camp; their leader, John Hargreaves, was even unable to mutter the names of the OUGC players present on the day. Of course, it would have been a waste of breath; legends were still being told of their half against fellow ‘W’, Woking, just two weeks ago.
Despite Hargreaves’ best efforts, his players went 5-1 down in the morning after some clutch performances from the Dark Blues. The Brexit pairing of Karl Frey and Carl Rietschel delivered their point against Worplesdon’s top two men, followed by two more wins, from Monty Cooper and Bruce Fitzpatrick, and Ed Springett and Rory Giddins off third. Apparently their chat was enough to make their opposition retire after 16 holes.
Off fourth, Harry Fitzpatrick and Ed Jenks put on a display of which Brad Faxon would have been envious, dispatching Hargreaves and Tillbrook 3&2. Hargreaves, in a state of disbelief, requested a double or quits ‘rig-off’, which Oxford also won. Sorry, John, but we take our nutrition very seriously, and, famously, abs are indeed made in the kitchen.
Four points up through the first four matches, and the foursomes whitewash, never before achieved in the history of OUGC, was on the cards. Sadly, Nick Wells and Will Howlett couldn’t deliver on the day, and Oxford lost the 4th match. The match was apparently worryingly close despite an unfortunate number of topped drivers from a certain individual of the dark blue persuasion.
After such a heroic morning performance, several members of OUGC sportingly self-imposed a handicap for the afternoon round, in the form of kümmel. Needless to say, the afternoon singles were a lot closer.
Bruce Fitzpatrick came agonisingly close to beating the English Senior Amateur Champion, succumbing on the 18th. Asked for his thoughts after the match, Bruce simply commented “if I could have putted today I’d have beaten him 7&6”.
The circumstances were terrible for OUGC’s second man, Karl “quartie” Frey, who faced Hargreaves. Karl lost both his match, 3&2, and the rig-off, by an embarrassing margin. Clearly a few too many tortillas over the Christmas Vac.
The first kümmel casualty came in the third match; Monty “wheelhouse” Cooper, who suffered a galling 5&4 loss. It suffices to say that Mr Cooper was disgruntled upon receiving the news.
OUGC’s first win came for Carl Rietschel in 5th, followed by Will Howlett in 7th, and Giddins, Barker, and Jenks in 8th, 9th and 10th, respectively. Even though Howlett’s opposition was just 16, a full point was kindly granted.
Mention must be made of a first for OUGC,a threatened walk-off in the 6th match, as Harry Fitzpatrick brought his opposition to mental breaking point only to have to console him on the back 9 and eventually lose down the last.
Losses were also suffered by Springett, and Wells, and last time James Sully was seen, he reported ‘down’. We assume he is still out there.
Despite a lacklustre singles performance, OUGC emerged victorious, and Hargreaves was sent home with his tail between his legs for the second year in a row.
At this stage, 4 players were still on for the fabled four point weekend; Giddins, Jenks (!), Barker (!!), and Rietschel (fair). Sunday would be exciting.
A later alarm was welcomed by the squad on Sunday morning, but the lack of bacon rolls certainly wasn’t. Bruce Fitzpatrick could be seen frothing at the mouth that his fast would continue for another 4 hours until lunch, risking severe disruption of his circadian rhythm.
Nevertheless, the morning foursomes commenced, with Harry Fitzpatrick and Adam Barker stepping up for the first match. As previously stated, Barker was still on for a four point weekend, and the fire could be seen in his eyes as he shanked one into the bushes off the first tee. It must have been the lack of bacon roll. The second was halved after a disappointing three putt bogey, but we’d found our rhythm. The third hole was played via a somewhat circuitous route, with Fitzpatrick having 230 yards for his second shot after he’d waited for the artisans to clear the 4th green. Onto the fourth, and another three putt bogey. The nightmare Freddie Bruce start had occurred; 3 down through 4. Spirits remained high though, and we battled hard for the remainder of the front 9. Some fantastic golf was played around the turn, when our first par of the day, on the 10th, was followed up with Barker putting a tee shot in play on the 11th. The comeback was on. Sadly, reality struck, and handshakes took place on the 14th green, ready for a long lunch. One four point candidate had bitten the dust.
A double death occurred in group two, as Jenks and Rietschel failed to get a point on the board. All hope now rested on Giddins, who was carried around in the morning by Will Howlett. Howlett, when interviewed after the game, suggested that, despite the win, Giddins would not be his foursomes partner in the VM; “Golf has been a lovely weekend escape from teaching, and having to babysit this clown really ruined that for me”.
A big win came in from the bottom pairing, Frey and Moore, despite ‘shocking’ putting efforts on the 3rd green. This left a stadium finish for Fitzpatrick and Springett, who were coming up 18 just as the first refreshments were being ordered. The rest of the team watched from the clubhouse as jets of steam erupted from Sponge’s mouth, who, rather unfortunately, sent their third shot to the back edge of the green with a slightly clean chip shot. Unfazed, Fitzpatrick drained a 45 foot putt to save par. This forced Matthew Puddy to hole a 6 foot slider to win the match, which, of course, slid by the right edge. One could almost see a smile on Ed’s face.
At lunch, the match stood at 2.5-2.5, with all to play for in the afternoon’s foursomes. At this stage, Huntercombe made the very questionable move of subbing in fresh legs. OUGC answered by defeating the fresh-legged pair 8&7; well done to Jenks and Fitzpatrick superior.
A point was also delivered by Moore and Fitzpatrick Jr., playing foursomes against a single; never an easy task. However, it was made slightly easier by the fact that Lucas also played him in the morning, and the poor chap was so fed up of his banter that the match was effectively won before the first shot was struck. OUGC’s third afternoon point was delivered by Springett and Frey, the latter of whom had doubled his points tally for the season by the weekend’s close.
Sadly, though, the top pairing of Howlett and Rietschel unexpectedly lost, leaving the overall score poised 5.5-4.5, with one very important match to come in; both the result and Giddins’ 4 point weekend were on the line. The Captain was surprised to see this match last until the 15th green, given that his morning partner, señor Barker, was partnering Giddins. He was even more surprised to hear that it was in fact a 4&3 victory for Oxford, and disappointed to hear that the 4 point weekend had been secured, and the treasure chest claimed.
Only the putt-off remained, and it was possibly the longest of the season so far. Fresh from the course, the captain stepped up for the first putt, and lipped it in comfortably from 4 feet. Rietschel followed. Back to 7 feet we went, and added some right to left break. Or was it left to right? On Huntercombe greens you’re never quite sure. Rietschel holed, putting the pressure on. Large cheers then erupted as the captain missed. Just what team spirit is for.
OUGC would like to thank the members of Worplesdon GC and Huntercombe for their very generous hospitality over the weekend. We look forward to returning next year.
OUGC 10 – 8 Worplesdon
OUGC 6.5 – 3.5 Huntercombe