With the sun shining on the seaside town of Lossiemouth in the north of Scotland, the Men’s University Golf Team joined eight other Scottish universities to compete in the 2012 Scottish University Championships on the testing Old and New courses of Moray GC. The long week started with 72 holes of strokeplay spread over three days with Club Captain Matthew Wheeler making the most of the unusually good weather to shoot a pair of 69s for a share of second place after the first two rounds. And with 10 out of 12 St Andrews players making the cut after 36 holes, the week looked set to be a bright one for Saints Golf.
Morale remained high after the strokeplay tournament in which Matthew Wheeler and Elliott Dodds deserve special mention for their individual performances over a gruelling 72 holes in the heat. The close-knit team of 12 had played magnificently to achieve the crucial second seeding going into the matchplay and with spirits raised further by competitive games of football and communal cooking at our picturesque retreat, we were more than ready to take on Glasgow in the quarter finals of the matchplay tournament.
While victory against Glasgow was anticipated, there was no room for complacency and a 5-0 lead following the morning foursomes put the Saints in a commanding position, allowing the team a chance to rest a couple of players for the afternoon singles. The momentum generated by the morning foursomes continued and a 6-4 singles victory propelled the Saints into the semi-finals to face Aberdeen with a convincing 11-4 victory. While the team was delighted to reach the same position as last year’s Scottish University Championships, we wanted more. We all understood the test awaiting us in the form of Aberdeen the following day. The more senior members of the team stressed the need for total focus, reminding the rest of the team of the loss to Aberdeen in the league earlier in the season. That particular 7-4 loss had proven to be the biggest disappointment of an otherwise successful winter league and as such galvanised the team in the semis this time round. Once again, a strong showing in the foursomes, which the Saints won 4-1, put the team in the driving seat to reach the final the following day. Another 6-4 victory in the singles ensured a 10-5 triumph against Aberdeen and successfully banished the demons left over from the unexpected loss in November.
Despite Aberdeen’s obvious quality, everyone understood that the final against Stirling 1sts would be a much sterner test. Stirling have, without question, the best golf programme in the UK, with a team comprising 10 plus-figure handicap golfers, all of whom wish to become tour pros following graduation, and a former European Tour winner, Dean Robertson, as their full-time coach. They are the reigning BUCS champions, as well as the Scottish University Champions, so this year’s final could not have been a bigger occasion for Saints golf. As such an early night was the order of the day after a champions dinner, courtesy of Messrs Edmunds and Wheeler, as well as a brief team talk stressing the need for focus and importantly the need to enjoy the thrill of taking on our rivals in the final. It was always going to be an uphill task to beat such a strong team but going into the singles only 3½ – 1½ down was a valiant effort, particularly from Blair Pelling and fresher Conor Gask on their foursomes win, as well as Joe Marchbank for holing an important 12 foot putt on the last hole for a half after his match with partner Freddie Edmunds looked all but over.
The Saints now required a tricky 6½ points from the 10 afternoon singles matches, and while this seemed an uphill battle the team did not lose faith and those called upon in the singles put up a great fight in the hunt for the championship. Important wins from Matthew Wheeler, Elliott Dodds and Cole Sedgwick gave the Saints a lifeline, while Samir Nanji’s Seve Ballesteros-esque fist pump for the halve on the 18th against one of their top players, Jack McDonald, suggested the team had a fighting chance. Unfortunately it was not to be and Stirling 1sts strength through depth would ultimately prove superior. Nonetheless, the Saints’ held their heads high, receiving the consolation prize of silver medals at the prize-giving ceremony. The Stirling boys were gracious in victory, acknowledging the spirit of the Saints team throughout the long tournament in which both teams had played 11 rounds of golf in the space of six days! As the team regroups from a demanding week and recovers aching shoulders and legs, the 6-man team that has done brilliantly to reach the BUCS finals at Ganton Golf Club on 9th/10th May, will reflect on how to take revenge on Stirling in the semis of BUCS.
Written by Cole Sedgwick