With winter fast approaching, most Yalies would jump at the chance to spend a weekend in sunny California. For the men’s golf team, that chance came at The Prestige at Palm Desert, Calif.
Playing in sunny, 90-degree weather, the Bulldogs posted a 17th place finish in the 20-team tournament. Chris Eckerle ’02 had the best Eli showing, tying five other players for 33rd place with a 1-over-par finish and a score of 217, 74-70-73. The tournament, hosted by the Desert Willow Golf Resort, featured the toughest competition Yale will face all year. Several teams, including tournament winner University of Washington, are consistently among the top-25 squads in the country.
“Although we finished kind of in the back of the pack, it was good from the standpoint that we got to play with some of the best teams in the nation,” Alex Fulton ’04 said. “It showed we had the potential to compete with these other programs even though we fell short this week.”
Dustin Bray of the University of North Carolina and Brock Mackenzie of the University of Washington tied for first place in the individual standings. Both players finished at 13-under-par, with Bray tallying a score of 203, 65-71-67 and Mackenzie finishing with a score of 203, 68-65-70. Eckerle was paired with Mackenzie and witnessed his golf prowess firsthand.
“He didn’t really make many mistakes, basically he just got it done,” Eckerle said.
The Prestige marked the Bulldogs’ poorest placing this fall. Eckerle said the strong competition and a long break between tournaments contributed to Yale’s low finish.
“[The outcome was] not really expected, but we knew that it would happen if we didn’t play very well,” he said. “We hadn’t played in three or four weeks. With a layoff like that, it’s tough to come out and start right back up.”
After Eckerle, Neel Williams ’04 finished the next highest amongst Yale players at 59th overall. Steve Gray ’05 placed 66th and Fulton and Adam Cyrus ’02 finished 92nd and 93rd respectively.
“It was the worst I’d played,” said Fulton of his performance. “It happens sometimes, I just didn’t have a very good day.”
Yale had to contend with temperatures that exceeded 90 degrees. Eckerle himself suffered from heat stroke during the first day of the tournament. In addition, the long trip took the bite out of several Bulldogs.
“We left at 3:30 in the morning on Saturday and didn’t get into Palm Desert until 3:00 in the afternoon their time,” Eckerle said. “That took a toll; I think we’re all pretty much worn out. We only got to sleep in our beds three out of five nights.”
Four of the five Bulldogs who made the transcontinental trip had played in The Prestige the previous year and knew what to expect not only from the competition, but also from the Firecliff course.
“[The course is] out in the middle of a desert,” Eckerle said. “You hit from green tee boxes to green fairways, and if you hit it off line, you’re playing in the cactuses.”
The Bulldogs now head into their winter hiatus. The team will continue to practice in indoor facilities and complete a fitness program, but will not compete again until the spring.