Neel Williams ’03 needed to carry more than his golf bag this weekend — he needed to carry the entire men’s golf team.
But Williams, who was the medalist March 29 to 31 at the George Washington Invitational to lead Yale to second place, struggled at the Yale Spring Opener this weekend with a 157. Yale placed third behind the University of Connecticut and the State University of New York at Binghamton and ahead of 19 other schools.
Steve Gray ’05 and Brian Kim ’06 tied for 10th with 155s to lead Yale. Ben Levy ’04 carded a 156, and Andrew Vitt ’05 finished with a 160.
The Elis, who won the tournament last year, were disappointed with their play.
“We expected to win,” Vitt said. “Everyone had their two bad rounds of the season the same weekend. It was a fluke.”
The rough conditions at The Course at Yale did not help the Elis’ cause either.
“It’s come to be expected at the spring tourney,” Williams said. “It rained on the first day and was windy on the second. Last year, it snowed. As tough as the Yale golf course is, it was that much tougher.”
Despite falling short of expectations, a third place finish this weekend does not hurt Yale’s chance of a trip to the NCAA Eastern Regionals.
Teams qualify for the NCAA Regionals by either winning their conference or finishing atop their district. Each district is allotted a different number of bids based on its size. Yale is currently in second place in District 1, which will send three teams to this year’s Regionals at Auburn University, from May 15 to 17.
The loss to Binghamton, which is in third place in District I, is Yale’s first of the year. The Elis defeated the Bearcats in their two previous meetings.
“We pounded [Binghamton] at George Washington and Dartmouth,” Williams said. “So we’re pretty much locked in for the Regionals.”
Yale won the Dartmouth Invitational last fall but has not since claimed a first place finish and has struggled this spring.
“We have underachieved in every tournament this year, except for Dartmouth,” Williams said. “It’s about being able to have the right lineup. We go pretty deep. There are seven or eight guys that could do just as well on a given day.”
But parity is as much a mixed blessing. Putting together the best team for a match can be trying and has been a “perennial problem” for Yale.
“There is no crystal ball to see who is going to play well, so we have to go by scores and recent play and hope that works out,” Williams said. “In golf, there is no set out plan or system. It’s not like in basketball. You can’t play zone or man or combat the opponent’s weaknesses. You just have to go out there and do it.”
The Elis will look to “do it” when they travel to Providence, R.I., for the New England Championships this weekend.