‘One of golf’s oldest love stories’ was the vaguely homoerotic and conclusively soppy phrase which ex-Cambridge captain Douglas Maxwell, in a rare burst of effluence, deployed to describe CUGC’s relationship with Royal Worlington. Excretable though his wording might have been, he was, in sentiment, not far wrong. Worly and Cambridge have been lovers since seemingly the beginning of time itself, but even the best couples have their tiffs and the annual match between the Light Blues and Royal Worlington’s 1st team is, for all the close ties between the teams, never less abrasive because of them. Like, depressingly, so many of the stalwarts of the Light Blues fixtures list, the match against Royal Worlington is one Cambridge have often come home empty handed from. With Adam Parkes’ back still playing up and two of the Light Blues’ top point scorers, Nick Winder and George Baron, absent from the fray, the Blues team looked likely to get ‘duffed up’ (in Joe Chandler jargon) by their old flames once again, but golf is a funny game and Royal Worlington a funny course – anything, as Ellie Goulding well knew, could and would happen.
In light of his ailing frame (and definitely NOT, Parkes was keen to assert, because he wanted a better chance of picking up points on the Road to Porthcawl), Captain Parkes chose to forgo his usual predilection for leading the team out first in the morning foursomes and instead sent Elliot Ebert and Will Trinkwon out top for the Cambridge side, staring down a formidably-alert-looking Martin Priestley and Jeremy Baldwin. Trinkwon, seizing the initiative, took charge of the opening tee shot, promptly hooking it away down the adjacent 8th fairway which he would later very dubiously try to attest as ‘completely deliberate and 100% strategic’. Whatever the degree of motor control Trinkwon exerted over his tee shot, the trans-fairway gander appeared to have paid off when he and Elliot Ebert claimed the opening hole with an unconventional birdie 4. But though the Cambridge pair were to play some solid stuff, Priestley and Baldwin and the latter’s resplendent-looking brand-new Titleist AP3’s proved too much for them, and the first match was lost 2&1. The Light Blues also lost the second game of the morning, Douglas Maxwell and Seb Hickman making sure to take in all of Worly’s scenic copses and forestry enroute to a comprehensive 4&3 defeat to Richard Palmer and Ian Pattinson. Fortunately for Parkes and the team, however, Rohan Gupta and Joe Chandler were to profit from a Bellingham and Southwick meltdown in match 3, winning very comfortably by the same 4&3 margin, while Captain Parkes, teaming up with Stymies’ counterpart Mihir Patel, also did enough to secure a victory, battering a beleaguered-looking Martin Ebert and Chris Bartram 6&5. When Matt Davey and Andre Neto-Bradley didn’t pull any punches in their 5&4 drubbing of Christopher Southworth and Dai Rowley-Jones, Cambridge found themselves the beneficiaries of a rare 3 to 2 lead after the morning session. Buoyed from the unexpected advantage, the Light Blues would enjoy their gammon and redcurrant sauce lunch to the full.
Having strategically avoided taking too generous a drafts of the post-lunch kimmels, however, Worlington’s players looked worryingly sober and even determined when they emerged from the clubhouse for the afternoons tourneying. Cambridge, on the other hand, had taken liberal advantage of the club’s famously wide-ranging liqueur selection and were noticeably worse-for-wear for their indulgence. Will Trinkwon and Joe Chandler had succumbed particularly badly to Worlington’s hospitality, a state of affairs reflected in their afternoon scoring as they never made a birdie, and only a very stingy number of pars, on their way to enduring a 6&5 bludgeoning from Dai Rowley-Jones and Jeremy Baldwin. One of the last matches out, they also had the unenviable honour of being
the first match in. Eliot Ebert and Seb Hickman also lost, the former suffering the embarrassment of being bested by none other than his very own father (I resist the urge to make some kind of Darth Vader-Luke Skywalker comparison) who, stylishly outfitted in a very dapper looking pair of plus fours and a plaid cap (a stout, wooden pipe and a panting black lab would have completed the retro ensemble), played some imperious stuff to set his boy to rights 2&1. A less-than-ideal start to the afternoon session for the Light Blues then, but Cambridge’s fortunes were soon to be brightened by a win from Douglas Maxwell and Andre Neto-Bradley and then another well-earned W from Adam Parkes and, somewhat miraculously, Nick Winder, supernatural forces of some kind apparently intervening to prevent him – as has been his want in every prior Cambridge fixture – from oversleeping. With 4 games of 5 in and accounted for then, Cambridge still held onto their slender 1 point lead. A half in the final match would be good enough and when Rohan Gupta and Matt Davey found themselves only 15 foot away on the 18th green in regulation (their opponents admittedly just inside them at about 8 or 9) the Blues pair looked right on the precipice of achieving it. Bartram and Priestley had been putting flakily all day: realistically, a two-putt was probably going to be good enough. But when Gupta dropped his lipstick and left the first one 2 and a half feet short, suddenly even that became far from an automatic feat. True to form, Christ Bartram’s 8 footer was nudged wide. Only a yard separated Matt Davey from sporting glory, Cambridge from a historic(ish) 5.5-4.5 win over Royal Worlington. Davey’s putter quivered over the ball. It made contact. The ball juddered towards the hole. The roll was suspect, but it looked to be holding its line, tracking in, tumbling inside the hole on the right edge and then – OUT! A horseshoe. 360 degrees. Davey crumbled to the ground in anguish, his Greg Norman aesthetics on point. Sometime, somewhere a lonely Coyote howled. A butterfly died in an adjacent meadow. An empire crumbled to dust. A 2 and a half foot putt was missed. And Cambridge would have to be content with a half.