Buoyed up off the back of an imperious victory against their old rivals The Society last weekend, it was a confident, maybe even overly so, Blues squad who assembled to take on an always-dangerous Hankley Common Scratch team this Saturday.
A sequence of buttery 5 irons and neat chips dispatched around the practice ground upon arrival did nothing to dampen the Blues’ optimism. But when key player Will Trinkwon was spotted suddenly pegging it across to the clubhouse toilets, clutching his stomach and grimacing into his sweater, the teams’ previously high spirits began to waver. The outlook was further bleakened by the arrival of heavy rain, gale-force winds and the news that Hankley’s first team had recently been bolstered by the enlisting of a big-hitting scratch handicapper. It was of no surprise, then, that when Trinkwon emerged from the Boy’s room sporting a pallor expression and – in case his stomach gave him trouble on the course – a fat bog roll, even the eternally effervescent captain Adam Parkes was beginning to have doubts.
Regrettably, Parkes’s reticence was to prove prophetic as Trinkwon’s latrineal woes showed itself a fitting metaphor for the Blues’ morning performance. The last match out but the first match in set the tone for the opening session as Condron and Trinkwon spent much of their morning crouching in bushes (only a small portion of which trips could be accounted for by the latter’s troubled bowel system) en-route to an embarrassingly swift routing by Hankley’s anchormen Kevin Quinn and Michael Kfouri. The same fate was shared by Nick Winder and Rohan Gupta who also had difficulty finding Hankley’s narrow fairways as they suffered a similarly chastening defeat to Chris Brown and Roger Bathurst. The final two games of the morning were much tighter fought affairs, but the end results proved no different, leaving Cambridge trailing 4 points to nil as the teams broke for lunch and with a mountain to climb in the afternoon singles.
As the afternoon session got underway, though, the Blues looked to be up to the challenge. Parkes and Trinkwon went out first and second and promptly pulled clear of their Hankley opponents, and, while Winder, Gupta and Davey were to start less auspiciously, Condron, Chapman and Baron also took off hot, the latter reaching the 10th tee 3 up. But as the wind picked up and the rain returned with a vengeance, Hankley’s difficult back nine was to prove to be Cambridge’s undoing. Trinkwon’s stomach and Parkes’ driving deserted them both simultaneously around the turn, as both players squandered their early advantages and in the end lost convincingly to Scott Green and Harry Green (no relation) respectively. Further behind, Nick Winder caught the chipping ‘yips’ against Bill Bathurst and was all done by the 13th. Just ahead of him, Rohan Gupta also failed to recover from a rough start versus Alan Quinlan, sinking 6&5 and, like so many of the Cambridge side, only one more wide tee ball away from offering up his driver on Ebay. New recruit Matt Davey joined Rohan in falling afoul of Hankley’s famously populous heather, and when George Baron missed something like 6 fairways in a row to fritter away his 3 up lead against Anthony Gerrell, only Andy Condron and Joe Chandler remained to try and salvage respectability for the Blues.
It was Chandler who would return to the clubhouse first, where he would be greeted by a noticeably dour roll call of soundly defeated teammates. Captain Parkes, fearing a whitewash, remained cowering behind a head-dwarfing slab of chocolate cake and a similarly conveniently titanic pot of tea. A flurry of anxious small talk then ensued until the one of the Blues (perhaps Baron?) finally plucked up the courage to ask Chandler how he had got on. Parkes sunk even further behind his screen of food. Trinkwon’s stomach churned ominously. But before Chandler could answer, the silence was broken by his opponent, Roger Bathurst’s, hearty droll of congratulations at the former’s afternoon play. The (relative) miracle had happened; Chandler, Bathurst would attest, had fought gallantly to a face-saving half point for the Blues and when Andy Condron came through the clubhouse doors registering another gritty halve for the scoresheet, Parkes felt finally secure enough to emerge from his castle of tea.
The end result was far from a vintage one for the Light Blues, crashing out 11-1 in their worst loss of an otherwise promising early season. But the score-line didn’t really tell the whole story and Hankley Common is always one of the most difficult matches on the Blues’ rota. A result to forget, then, but lessons to be learned and remembered for Adam Parkes’s young side: never mix brown sauce, coffee and bacon butties on a weak stomach and tighten up the driving – if the Blues can master these two things then the rest of season should prove a successful one to which Saturday’s disappointing defeat will be only a small footnote.