Rain and 30 to 40 mph wind would spoil the spring breaks of many a Yalie. Last year’s Ivy League champion — the Yale men’s golf team — did not let that happen on its two week trip this year to England and Scotland.
In addition to playing on traditional links-style courses common in the British Isles, the Elis played the house rules of match-play, rather than the stroke competition that is generally used in U.S. intercollegiate competition. Even with a formidable home-course advantage stacked against them, the Elis bested the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Glasgow, St. Andrews, and Edinburgh.
“[We] got to play five British Open courses,” Yale captain Ben Levy ’04 said. “[Including] the old course at St. Andrews. Tournament-wise, we don’t play one links-style course. Most of the British Open courses are links-style courses. We also normally don’t deal with 30 to 40 mile winds. It was probably the longest stretch of time on any trip where we’ve dealt with conditions that are that difficult.”
Levy said that St. Andrews was the second best university team in Scotland and he was happy with the Bulldogs’ play.
“The trip was unbelievable,” reigning Ivy League champion Brian Kim ’06 said. “I hate to be cliche about it, but it was really a once in a lifetime opportunity. Coach [Dave Paterson] arranged an awesome trip.”
The Elis went undefeated in Europe — without last year’s captain and first-team All-Ivy Neel Williams ’04. Williams left the team after helping it to a convincing Ivy League championship last spring.
“[Williams] had a fantastic junior year,” Levy said. “Neel was the best player in the Northeast, I’d say by far. There were things outside of golf that he wanted to pursue. There was nothing like conflicting personalities.”
Williams said that having a good season last year and being part of the championship team helped him to make the decision.
“It wasn’t because I wasn’t getting enough playing time,” he said, jokingly. “Winning the Ivies [as a team] was one of the goals that I wanted to see heading into Yale. I do [still play], but not very often. It was a hard decision because I love golf, and it is one of the things that I do best. But I think it was a good decision.”
Without Williams in the mix, Paterson mentioned Levy, his brother Dan Levy ’07, Kim, Steve Gray ’05, Gabe Borrud ’06, and Rick Reissman ’06 as those most likely to make first team. Five players participate in each event, but only the top four scores count.
Yale’s first event will be the Yale Spring Opener held the weekend of April 2. The Elis are ranked No. 2 in the New England District, and without No. 1 University of Rhode Island and No. 3 Binghamton in the Spring Opener, the Elis are the favorites according to Paterson.
“This team is very, very talented,” Paterson said. “I would say the factor that let us down in the fall was probably tee-shots. We kept running into a bad tee-shot leading into a double-bogey, and sometimes triple-bogeys. We’re focusing on a little more control, trying to plan and be consistent.”
Levy hopes that the trip abroad will help patch up another weakness that presented itself in the fall.
“Conditioning-wise we constantly got tired and always played the second 18 poorly,” Levy said. “Playing under the conditions we did, it definitely toughened us up as a team. I don’t think we can run into conditions this spring that could parallel what we dealt with in Britain.”