Golfers finish disappointing ninth at Yale Spring Opener

The sun finally came out for an extended visit this weekend, just in time for the annual 36-hole Yale Spring Opener and the final two rounds of the Masters at Augusta National in Georgia. The sunlight poured down onto Tiger Woods and his fourth Green Jacket, but for Yale men’s golf it was still a wash as the team posted a disappointing ninth-place finish on its home course.

The Elis posted a cumulative score of 615, 25 strokes and nine places behind top finisher Boston College. The Elis’ top four carded a cumulative score of 311 on Saturday, leaving Yale in ninth place in the 20-team field entering Sunday’s final round. On the second 18 the Bulldogs bested their first round score by seven strokes, carding a 304. But 16 out of the 20 teams bettered their Saturday scores, leaving the Elis stuck in the middle of the pack.

“I was optimistic about our chances of playing well this weekend,” head coach Dave Paterson said. “But they were dashed pretty quickly after the first round.”

Elis Mark Matza ’07 and Rick Reissman ’06 posted the team’s best scores, with both players finishing at 150 in a five-way tie for nineteenth place among all players. Reissman scored the team’s lowest round of the tournament with a three-over-par 73 on Sunday.

Several players and Paterson noted that the aerated greens were particularly difficult this weekend.

“We certainly didn’t perform our best, that’s for sure,” Paterson said. “We had a lot of trouble on the greens. They were very bumpy, quite erratic. There was a lot of luck involved and there were a lot of four-putts.”

The greens are aerated every fall before the ground freezes over and they remain bumpy early in the springtime. The weekend’s rounds were the first on the course this season and it did not open officially to members until yesterday.

Matza said the unpredictable greens affected the way the Elis played the course.

“I think it threw players off quite a bit,” Matza said. “My playing partners got very frustrated, as did I, because you’re not sure if you’re going to make a three- or four-footer. On nice greens you’d expect to make them all the time, but you just couldn’t tell. So you try to get your approach shot as close as possible, hoping to make an easy two-put. Normally on Yale greens, because they are so big and so difficult, you want to hit to certain positions rather than go right at the pin.”

The University of Connecticut was the only team to crack 300 on day one, posting a score of 297 to take a six-stroke lead over Central Connecticut State University. But on day two Boston College carded a 286, the best round of the tournament by eight strokes, and charged to the top of the leaderboard. The Eagles finished with a cumulative score of 590, one stroke better than UConn.

The Huskies’ A.J. Sierskierski played the best golf, finishing at three-over-par with scores of 72 and 71. Boston College’s Kyle Kelly had the best single round of the tournament and the only sub-par 18-hole score, finishing with a one-under 69 on Sunday.

Paterson said he will likely change up his top five before this weekend’s Ivy Championship at Ballyowen Golf Club in Crystal Springs, N.J. One change that is almost certain is the transition of freshman Joe Hernandez ’08 into the group.Hernandez carded the lowest score of any Yale golfer and one of the top ten scores among all players with a two-day total of 147, seven-over-par.

Eli captain Steve Gray ’05 said Ballyowen should play to the Elis’ strengths with long fairways, requiring big drives off the tee.

“Nobody on the team has actually played the course yet,” Gray said. “But it’s pretty long and flat, with no trees. It normally would have tall prairie grass growing, but coming off the winter that should not be too big of an issue. I think it suits our team.”

With poor performances in their last two tournaments, the Elis have fallen out of the race for the New England district title, which carries with it an automatic bid into the NCAA regional tournament. The Elis’ only remaining avenue to the NCAAs is the Ivy title this weekend. But Paterson said that the Bulldogs have a tough task ahead of them to try to come out on top over their Ancient Eight rivals.

“Cornell has a competitive team, they’ve beaten us the last two weeks — it’s the first time they’ve beaten us in 39 years,” Paterson said. “We’ve beaten Princeton once this year and they beat us equally as badly in the second meeting. It’s going to be very competitive. A lot of teams have the players to win this thing.”

If the Elis fail to take the title, they will miss the NCAA regionals for the first time in five years.

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