Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club, 20th March 2013
On the back of the best season’s record in living memory, the Stymies arrived at Royal Cinque Ports for the 63rd Stymies Varsity Match on an impressive run of eight consecutive wins to do battle against the Oxford Divots.
The morning foursomes started out with decidedly colder and windier conditions than for the previous two days’ practice rounds. In the top match, Will Pearmain and David McCluskey lost a narrow match on the last, despite McCluskey holing out for a par and half on the 16th from 100 yards and finishing with four pars. In the second match, Captain Felix Hill and fellow returning Stymie Cameron Smith won on the last hole, with Smith chipping from a muddy lie beside the green to gimme range to secure a par. Tommy Hodgson and Adam Barker had a tough time of it in the third match, with a “splash” out from the water in front of the first green by Barker to 10 feet their highlight. Owen Williams and Sydney Burlison comfortably won 6&5 in the fourth match, despite Williams hitting the pair’s opening shot over the road and out-of-bounds. In the anchor match, Tom Chase and Henry Ellis (the pairing also known as “Chellis”) fought back after losing the first five holes, but it was ultimately not to be, as they lost on the 16th, meaning that the lunchtime score was 3-2 in favour of the Divots. Despite being down, the Stymies were still in a positive mood, in the knowledge that their previous two Varsity Match wins came from the same lunchtime score.
In the Captains’ match out first, golf was played of many qualities, one of which was unfortunately not quality. The match ended up going down the 18th, with a half being the final result. In the second match, the ailing Ellis, struck down by flu, was 4-down with five to play before launching an incredible comeback, winning the final five holes against the Divots’ number one player to earn an unlikely 1up victory. In matches 3, 4 and 6, Williams, McCluskey and Barker beat their returning Divot opponents, before Chase won his match on the 16th.
With the Stymies now on 7.5 points, they only required a further half point to secure victory. Ex-Captain Hodgson, playing in his 4th and final VM (tying the VM appearance record for a Stymie) got to dormie-3up and then finished his Stymies career with the best shot of it, hitting a hybrid straight down the flag on the par 5 16th, setting off walking towards the green as soon as it left the clubface. The ball pitched on the front of the green, just missing the hole and finishing 20-feet away, much to the delight of the large Cambridge contingent behind the green. The conceded birdie lifted the Stymies beyond the threshold for victory, cue massive celebrations amongst the team.
With victory now safely in the bag, the Stymies set about trying to avoid defeat in any of the singles matches. Burlison, the first lady to play in the match since 2002, and first for the Stymies for even longer, closed out her match on the 15th, despite constantly being massively outdriven, before Pearmain holed a tricky short putt on the same hole in the anchor match, a point which ensured he claimed the Captain’s Tankard for most points scored in the season. This left just two-time returning Stymie Smith left out on the course. 1 down with 3 to play, a par on 16 drew the match back level. On the 17th, after missing the green long and left, leaving an impossible recovery shot, Smith showed why he carries a 64° wedge, managing to get the ball to within 10 feet of the hole. His opponent, after finding trouble off the tee, holed a putt down the slope at the back of the green at pace for par, throwing his putter down and letting out a roar in celebration. Not to be done, Smith calmly rolled in his own par putt, causing the Stymies gathered around the green to go crazy. In pitch blackness, despite not being able to see the fairway or green, Smith got to the green in 2, with the 3-putt bogey being enough to win the hole, and secure with it an unbeaten singles performance and 11.5-3.5 victory.