The first weekend in November is always a special one in the CUGC calender. November the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, whenever it falls, tends to be the time by which the Light Blues are just beginning to enter into their stride for the season, having shaken off much of the early Michaelmas rust. It is also (a little more pertinently as far as this match report is concerned) the weekend in which the Blues side voyage to the wind-swept but picturesquely dune-spotted Norfolk coast-line to take on the forces of Royal West Norfolk Golf Club (Branny to the CUGC mainstays) and Hunstanton. While victories against the two clubs have been sparse in recent years, the fixture is always one of the highlights of the Blues’ golfing rota and even with many of the side’s autoimmune systems still struggling under a hangover from their (drinking) match against Denham last Sunday, the CUGC cars hummed with optimism and animus as they pulled in at Brancaster club house 8am on the Saturday morning.
Though the course was suffering under a barrage of strong wind and sleetish rain, Cambridge and Brancaster golfers are a resilient lot, and with a thorough armour of Galvin Green Waterproofs and umbrellas, the teams advanced into the storm. First off to brave the weather was the all-blond Cambridge pairing of Adam Parkes and Seb Hickman. Parkes – still suffering visa vi a ‘large night’ on the Friday (a ‘truly great one’ which apparently saw Cambridge’s captain breaking and entering some poor biddy’s garden in search of some elusive and mysterious ‘natural swimming pool’ – Trinkwon would later quip that Parkes should have just waited to swim in Brancaster’s tide, which in fact he would after leaving his tee shot 100 yards right on the infamous 8th) – persuaded Hickman to take on the first tee shot and when the drive hit the short stuff, Cambridge looked to be off to a hot start. But though they battled hard, Parkes and Hickman would lose on the 18th and the precious inaugural point slipped by. The Light Blues’ slow start, though, looked likely to benefit from a some momentum when form-man Rohan Gupta and the ever-dependable Douglas Maxwell pulled up to the first tee off second. Maxwell – he of Iron Bru, haggis and Scottish links golf disposition – was looking right at home in the wet weather, but Rohan – who’s answer to the question ‘have you played any links golf?’ (“I’ve played YAS Links”) didn’t bode well for their chances against Branny veterans Simon Hardy and Jamie Warman – looked less comfortable, and though both Cambridge players would play some good golf their loss was a sound and comprehensive one. With 2 matches in from the rain and drinking away their sorrow at the open bar, things were beginning to look bleak for the Light Blues. The next few matches, however, saw a well-welcome shift in golfing fortunes; Nick Winder and Andre Neto-Bradley found form to triumph 4&3 over a formidable Branny pairing of Alistair Hardy and James Harrison, while courtesy of what he would indubitably declare to be ‘the purest struck 9 iron of his life’ (to 2 foot on the tricky 14th) George Baron and Will Trinkwon also won by the very same margin to haul Cambridge back to a level pegging on the scoreboard. Though Elliot Ebert and Joe Chandler would register a 3&2 loss in the final morning match, Cambridge were only a point shy of Branny as the teams donned their shirts, ties and blazers and tucked in to a well-deserved lunch.
The great club chairman in the sky was evidently watching over both teams in the afternoon, as the driving rain blew away to trouble some other golf course and though a strong wind remained swirling across the links, the afternoon’s 18 holes looked a much more inviting prospect than the mornings. Gupta and Trinkwon led the team off, started as they meant to go on with a brace of pars and birdies on the front side, and would hold off a late Brancaster rally to close out their match on the 18th. Point Cambridge and the score sheet splattered light blue once again. George Baron and Andre Neto-Bradley wouldn’t be so fortunate in the afternoon’s second match, losing on the last to Fergus Hardy and Paul Freeth in an exact reversal of the score in the game before. For the second time in the match it looked like Cambridge were falling behind but Eliot Ebert and Seb Hickman quickly put paid to any suggestions of a Light Blue roll-over when they fended off a charging Jamie Warman and Ben Stocks to make the rogue point up yet again. Nick Winder and Joe Chandler looked destined to chalk up another important victory for the Blues when they stood on the 12th tee box 4 up with 7 to play. 5 holes later they were one down and though they dug in hard to steal a half point with a win on 18, the duo were left ruing a late run of bogeys and harbouring the horrible suspicion that they may have just cost Cambridge the match. Their fear looked to be founded on good reason with Cambridge’s final pairing consisting of Captain Parkes who, as of that moment, had yet to earn even a half point against Brancaster across his entire university career, and an apparently out-of-form Douglas Maxwell. But the Light Blues needn’t of fretted for by hook or by slice Maxwell and Parksy would stride into the clubhouse triumphant, sealing a closely-fought 5.5 point to 4.5 victory for the Blues and ensuring the post-match refreshments – Gunners, Earl Grey, accompanied by a generous helping of chocolate cake – would be liberally and fully enjoyed.
A fast-incoming tide though (the causeway to Brancaster floods in the evenings) meant that Cambridge couldn’t revel in their pre-eminence with too much in the way of abandon, and so with spirits (pun-intended) soaring and fond memories of an excellent days golfing, the boys tore off into the darkening Norfolk evening in search of their beds for the night. Half the team were in air B&B (a wonderfully rustic little home, I am told, and hosted by an equally lovely lady called Pip) and the rest were with Dai Rowley-Jones. Those staying at the B&B found their lodgings with no difficulty, but for Trinkwon, Baron, Chandler and Gupta the journey to their bedstead was to be a more trying one as a poorly edited photograph of Dai’s email, in which roughly 2/3rds of the directions it contained had been sliced off (courtesy of that shakiest of handed of creatures, apparently using cameras just as much as he is using a putter, Adam Parkes), left them searching in vain for a ‘cluster of dirty white posts’ next to which Dai’s cottage was apparently located. Up and down Titchwell (???) the boys motored, their toils lightened by Trinkwon’s puzzling but amusing claims about the sexual practices of the Norfolk ‘rural’, as they searched for the by turns ‘naughty white posts’, ‘proper filthy white posts’ and ‘dirtier than George Baron’s road safety white posts’, all the while cursing their captain’s technological negligence. Dai’s abode would eventually be found, but the stress of George Baron’s ‘fundamentally not green-cross-code conducive’ driving had taken its toll on Trinkwon’s energy and while the rest of the boys reaped the subtle pleasures of a Rowley-Jones custom lasagne and enjoyed a DVD of Iron Man 2, Cambridge’s sleepiest team member was unconscious, slumbering soundly in his bedsit upstairs.
Morning dawned and, despite a still Morpheus-encumbered Trinkwon’s best efforts, the Blues found their way over to Hunstanton in time for an excellent breakfast of fat bacon butties and coffee. Small talk was pared to a minimum as light constraints meant that the teams could afford to waste little in the way of time if they were to get in 36 holes before dark. Representing Cambridge in the top game this time was the hitherto untested pairing of Seb Hickman and Will Trinkwon. When the two went 3 up after 9, Parkes was rubbing his hands together, eyes shining with a Mr-Burns-ian glee in the belief that he had landed upon another good potential duo in his VM 2K17 arsenal. But Parkes’ jubilance was to be short lived as Hickman and Trinkwon would, let down by a pair of cooling putters and a trio of the former’s thinned wedges, conspire to fritter away all of their 3 hole lead and fall to their Hunstanton opponents on the last. Eliot Ebert and Nick Winder fared similarly badly, losing 1 down on the 18th themselves and these early losses were followed by two more when Parkes and Neto-Bradley shuffled into the clubhouse and despondently reported coming up short 2&1, while Douglas Maxwell and Joe Chandler would admit they were fortunate to throw their game by only the relatively modest margin of 3&2. Though the Blues were 4-nil down, there was still room to salvage some respectability and the face-saving point was duly delivered by George Baron and Rohan Gupta, fighting back after an early 2 hole deficit to claim a win on the always difficult par 4 18th.
Buoyed up by a hearty beef main course and a calorie-loaded desert, the Blues began to moot hopes of a come-back in the afternoon foursomes. ‘Hopes’ though would turn out to be the operative word in that sentence as 4 of the 5 games went once again to the home team Hunstanton, only Winder and Trinkwon, going 1 under par through 13 to dust Richard Jessop and David Jones 6&5, contributing a point to the Cambridge cause. A mixed weekend then for Blues, with a win and a loss to return home with, but all things considered, a probably fair set of results.