Under dark skies and on soggy fairways, the men’s golf team finished fourth this weekend at the New England Division I Championship. Captain Steve Gray ’05 finished first in the 65-player field in his final collegiate tournament.
Gray shot a one-under par 143 for the 36-hole tournament at Triggs Memorial Golf Club in Providence, R.I. — the only sub-par score at the Championship. The Elis carded a 41-over par 617 for the tournament, 24 strokes behind first-place Rhode Island University, which won for the seventh time in eight years.
“It wasn’t a great tournament team-wise,” Gray said. “We struggled again at the bottom of the lineup. It was a tournament where we really needed to go for broke, and it didn’t work out for some guys. We can’t carry this on to next year and be pessimistic.”
As the field of 13 teams struggled through rain and wind on Saturday, Gray recorded the lowest 18-hole score of the tournament, a two-under par 70. He nearly repeated that performance on Sunday, shooting a one-over par 73. He finished the tournament two strokes ahead of Rhode Island’s Jason Pannone.
In this, his final tournament as an Eli, Gray finished under par and in first place for the first time in his collegiate career.
“It’s a really good feeling,” Gray said. “I didn’t come into this tournament with a lot of expectations. I just wanted to attack the course and it worked out. I think [Sunday’s] round was more impressive because I got off to a really bad start. I was five over after five [holes], then I went on a birdie tear. I made five birdies coming in.”
The Elis were tied with the University of Connecticut in second place after shooting a team score of 308 on Saturday, seven strokes behind Rhode Island. Most of the field took advantage of Sunday’s clearer skies, but the Elis shot a stroke worse than their first round, carding a 309 to drop into fourth place behind second-place UConn and third-place Central Connecticut State University.
The Elis conclude a disappointing season ranked out of the top three in the New England District, which means they will miss the NCAA Regional Tournament for the first time in seven years and only the second time ever.
“It hasn’t been a great season for us,” head coach Dave Paterson said. “We went up to Rhode Island with the intent of doing better and showing that we can still compete. We were tied for second Saturday and we would have hung in there if our two tailenders hadn’t [struggled].”
The Elis’ fourth and fifth starters, freshmen Joe Hernandez and Andrew Denenberg, could not break 80 over the weekend. Hernandez shot a nine-over par 81 on Saturday and an 84 on Sunday. Denenberg shot an 82 on Saturday and a 91 on Sunday.
Rick Reissman ’06, who finished in 10th place after carding solid rounds of 77 and 74, said iron play onto the small greens was crucial to scoring well.
“I think the key was not trying to do too much,” Reissman said. “Just swing easy and do whatever you can to keep it in play. The greens on this course were pretty tiny, so iron shots onto the greens were important.”
With the tournament, the Eli golf team closes one of the less illustrious chapters in its long history. Next year’s campaign will be without Gray, who said he is ready to hang up his Yale spikes.
“I’ve put in my time and enjoyed it, but I’m definitely okay with moving on,” Gray said. “I’m going to miss a lot of things, but I’m not too sad about it.”