The 129th Varsity Match

On Saturday 24th March, Cambridge finally snapped a losing streak against Oxford in one of the most important and hotly anticipated sports fixtures of the university calendar year. I am talking, of course, not about the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race (though congratulations to our light blue rowers), but about the equally as distinguished, though, admittedly, somewhat less conspicuous, event of the Oxford and Cambridge Varsity Golf Match.
This year’s match took place at Royal Porthcawl Golf Club in Wales. Although the varsity match proper would begin on the Friday, both the Light Blues and their Dark Blue opponents arrived earlier to cheer on the Ladies’ match (played on the Tuesday), the Men’s Second Teams (affectionately nicknamed the ‘Cambridge Stymies’ and the ‘Oxford Divots’), and then the infamous Thursday Dinner Match, contested between the two reserve players of both Universities’ Blues’ Teams, and with the losing side picking up the bill for a celebratory final dinner. Continuing a recent run of strong showings against ‘the other place’, the Cambridge Ladies and Stymies both registered strong victories and though Oxford’s Ben Proos and Moritz Diekgraf played some stellar stuff to triumph over Mihir Patel and Andre Neto-Bradley in the Dinner Match, the Light Blues were feeling good about their chances.
When Friday finally dawned, however, it was Oxford who got off to the faster start. As the teams paused for lunch after the morning 18, Cambridge were up only in one of the five foursomes matches, having struggled to find the pace of the Porthcawl greens. A lengthy stint on the practice putting green cured some of the wobblier of the Light Blues’ strokes, however, and after the first of a number of impromptu pep talks by captain Adam Parkes, the Light Blues were ready to return to the fray. Joe Chandler and Douglas Maxwell led the team out in the afternoon and quickly started eating into Oxford’s lead. Rallying under the former’s conviction of ‘they’re 1 up and sh*tting themselves’ Chandler and Maxwell kept up their great play and, courtesy of a clutch 10-foot putt on the 18th by Maxwell, captured the first point of the Varsity Match for the Light Blues. George Baron and captain Parkes also lunched well, they too coming from behind in their game to triumph over Oxford’s Conley Hurst and James Woolsey 2&1. Although Elliot Ebert and Seb Hickman fought hard they were simply outputted by Henry Howard-Jenkins and Rory Giddins. In contrast Matthew Davey and Andy Condron couldn’t miss, their victory notching up a third straight point for the Cambridge cause. In the final match of the afternoon, Nick Winder and Will Trinkwon battled back to salvage a half to complete the Light Blues’ comeback and despite a sluggish morning start then, Cambridge led Oxford on Friday by the modest margin of 3.5 points to 1.5. With double the points still to play for the next day, however, and a pair of Braveheartian monologues from Parkes and the Blues’ coach Paul Ashwell impressing the importance of maintaining good focus, the Light Blues were in no danger of becoming complacent.
As it was they couldn’t afford to be, as Oxford were once again quick out the gates, worrying Cambridge’s slender advantage almost from the very first tee shot in the morning singles. The scores were still tight when the first match of the day, Cambridge and Oxford captains Adam Parkes and Anton Persson squaring off as is traditional, arrived at the 16th tee in the afternoon with Parkes, who had started the afternoon 1 hole down, now 3 up with 3 to play and on the threshold of securing an important early point for the Light Blues. However 16 and 17 were captured by Persson and when Parkes thinned a 3 wood fully 45 degrees right off the 18th tee, failed to get a purchase on a 3 iron, and then pulled his third shot into tall grass, Cambridge’s challenge looked to be slipping away. A bad break for Persson, however, in the form of a steep greenside bunker, offered Parkes the opportunity to rally, thrash a wedge onto the green and hole out from 15 feet for an unlikely win. The 18th green was to smile kindly upon the Light Blues as Douglas Maxwell also turned his match around on the final hole to muster an important 1 up victory over Tim Jukes. And when fresher Andy Condron walked in a putt on the very same hole minutes later, the 129th varsity was all but officially won. It was left to George Baron, Seb Hickman and Joe Chandler to add 3 more points to the Light Blues’ tally and confirm a historic Cambridge victory as the dusk gathered around Royal Porthcawl.
All that was remained now was the Varsity Match dinner, celebrating both Cambridge’s success on the golf course as well as the relationship between the two universities and their golfing alumni in the Oxford and Cambridge Golfing Society. An excellent meal was enlivened by speeches from Parkes, Persson and current captain of the OCGS Andy Edmond, all of which were variously entertaining, thought-provoking and even quite moving as the three captains reflected on what is always a special event in both Universities’ golfing calendars. As Oxford avenged their defeat by racking up an implausibly large bar tab, it was a rare man who did not find himself thinking of the OCGS’s motto ‘serious fun’; an ideal in which is captured the very best about CUGC, OUGC and the Oxford and Cambridge Golfing Society and which this year’s varsity match embodied, as ever, to the very full.
Link to the full scores below:

2018 Result