After a disappointing opener three weeks ago, the men’s golf team again found success this weekend on the links.
The Bulldogs finished in second place at the two-day Macdonald Cup hosted at the Yale Golf course this weekend with a score of 868, finishing eight shots behind champion Oklahoma. The Elis dominated their fellow Ivy League foes in the tournament, finishing 24 shots ahead of sixth place Harvard and 37 shots ahead of ninth place Dartmouth.
Strong individual showings included captain Colby Moore ’09, who finished in third place at 2-over par, and Tom McCarthy ’11, who tied for fifth at 4-over par.
The Bulldogs came into the tournament on the heels of a disappointing last place finish at the Gopher Invitational. The contest was an early test for the Elis against many teams from the top conferences in America.
“Last tournament was such a strong field,” McCarthy said. “I don’t even know why we played so poorly.”
Several players said they thought the team learned from its experiences and struggles in Minnesota.
“We saw the best players in the country playing, and recognized that there was not much of a difference between us and the best college players,” McCarthy said. “Despite the poor finish, it was actually a confidence booster.”
Such difficulties were not anticipated at the team’s home golf course, where the team expected to place much higher in the final standings.
“Our expectations were to win; last year we finished second to TCU, a top 50 team in the nation,” Moore said. “Coming in, we knew Oklahoma, another top 50 team, was the team to beat.”
As always, the Yale Golf course proved to be a formidable foe to the visiting teams, who lack knowledge of its intricacies, playing only a practice round on Friday prior to the tournament.
“The greens are very undulating with lots of subtle breaks; you can’t pick up all the breaks in a practice rounds,” Moore said. “Lots of players would be surprised after hitting puts to see which way the ball broke.”
Besides the greens, McCarthy noted that the team knew how to avoid trouble off the tees, aiming the ball away from rough spots on the sides of the fairways. Where other teams found themselves in bad lies and tough up-and-down situations, McCarthy explained, the Elis managed their way out of trouble on the course.
With this knowledge, the Elis managed to stay near the top of the leaderboard all weekend, moving up from third to second after the morning rains on the final round of competition.
Leading that charge was Moore, who posted the lowest tournament score for the Bulldogs. After finishing T-62nd last week, Moore’s third place finish this weekend was a return to normal form for a player who won last spring’s New England Division I Championship.
“I never got acclimated with my swing last tournament,” Moore explained. “This was one of the best tee-to-green tournaments I’ve ever played; I was striking the ball better.”
Still aiming for improvement, Moore cited putting as the difference between a first and third place finish at the cup.
“I didn’t putt well enough to win,” Moore said. “I missed a few par putts today that would have kept me in it. The putter needs to start working.”
Other Elis saw their games similarly jump in success this weekend.
“My iron game was really good,” Michael Feder ’11 said. “I gave myself a lot of close looks at birdies.”
In addition to improving golf skills, McCarthy noted the team’s inspiration and focus on their home golf course as key to their success. The Bulldogs would persevere through strings of bad holes, McCarthy said, pressing on and trusting that the rounds would turn around.
With the success of this tournament and of their practices so far, several players believed this was the most talented Eli team in years and one that is the favorite for the Ivy League Championship.
“I think we are the best team in the Ivies; we are such a strong team this year,” McCarthy said. “We were good last year, but are even better this year.”
The Bulldogs return to the links next weekend for the ECAC Championships in Rhode Island. With many of the same New England teams competing, the Elis anticipate finally bringing home the first place trophy.
“We are expecting to win after what we did this weekend, especially with teams like Oklahoma not there,” Moore said.