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Golf at St John's

An exploration of the vast expanse of the College Archives, which have recently been moved to the newly refurbished School of Pythagoras, brings up a variety of different mediums. Tucked away in a few boxes is the AV collection, which comprises of several videos of Johnian life and other related activities (including an episode of Bargain Hunt featuring two Johnians).

Amongst these is a silent 1-minute film of some Johnians, including Fred Hoyle, playing golf. Through watching, the viewer shares in the trials and tribulations of these enthusiasts, who at all times remain chipper even when the balls stop just short of the holes. One can also appreciate the somewhat dubious fashion choice of a knotted handkerchief sported as a headpiece by one player. The video can be seen at the end of this article.

In connection to this is the record book, spanning from 1925-2000, for The President’s Cup, a golf competition that was held at St John’s from 1929 to 1998 and was later revived in 2007 by Dr AC Metaxas. The book contains accounts of the competitions, accompanied by photographs and score cards of the competitors, alongside cuttings from newspapers and other publications, including a cartoon from Punch (9 May 1951) on the difficulty of concentration whilst playing the game.

The minutes given for each day are often detailed in their telling of both the technical aspects of the game and social aspects of the players. The 1990 account gives a good example of the latter:

Brightly dawned our Golfing Day on 18 July and thereafter the sun shone continuously from an almost cloudless sky on eight competitors for the President’s Cup…We should have been ten but Morgan, alas, was again unable to play – ‘As you may know’ he wrote ‘I continue to…find it difficult to swing a golf club consistently.’ Interjection: ‘don’t we all.’

The 1990 ‘golfing day’ was also the last of which would be won by Guy Lee, the famed Latinist and Fellow of the College for 60 years, who participated sporadically from 1947 to 1997, winning six times (the accompanying photograph was taken in 1954). Other notable participants include Fred Hoyle, the famed astronomer, and Edward Appleton, who received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1947.

For more information on the history of The President’s Cup, please refer Dr Metaxas’ in-depth article 'The President's Cup 1929-1963' in volume 111 of The Eagle (2009).


This Special Collections Spotlight article was contributed on 24 November 2014 by Richard Sellens, Library Graduate Trainee 2014-15.