On the first and third rounds of the Ivy Champions at the Metedeconk National Golf Club, not a single Ivy team bested the Bulldogs’ scores. But a disastrous second round relegated the Elis to a fourth place finish overall — their worst since 1995.
The Bulldogs shot a 309 in the first round and a 308 in the third round. But in between the Elis posted a disappointing 328 mark.
Steve Gray ’05 and the 2003 Ivy individual champion Brian Kim ’06 managed sixth and seventh place finishes respectively, earning each a spot on the All-Ivy squad.
“I had a couple of unfortunate breaks and did a very poor job recovering from that,” Kim said. “I didn’t do a very good job of gathering myself and finishing strong. Just the simple fact of playing poorly [was most disappointing.] Particularly that second round — it’s my worst competitive round probably since my sophomore or junior year of high school. Plus, it meant that I didn’t have a chance to defend [my individual title].”
Likewise, Gray pointed to the second-round slump.
“It’s obvious that it was the second round that killed [us],” Gray said. “It was probably the worst team round since I’ve been here, in any tournament, and we were still three shots out of second. We just collapsed in the afternoon.”
Princeton took advantage of the Eli slipup in the second round by posting the best round of the tournament — a 305 — Saturday afternoon. Yale, which was in the top spot by one stroke after the opening 18, shot a 328, essentially eliminating its repeat championship hopes. Princeton’s Jason Gerken shot nine over par, five better than the runner-up, for the individual title.
Captain Ben Levy ’04 did not play for the Elis, but he was there to root on his team.
“I’ve decided it’s definitely more nerve-wracking to watch than to play,” Levy said. “We sent the team that was most qualified, and I wanted to go down there and support them. You always like to be able to help out, and you’re helpless on the sidelines, but I figured showing my support was one of possibly helping the team.”
Levy analyzed the Bulldogs’ failures.
“I think the fatigue, more mentally than physically showed up in our games,” Levy said. “I think some of the guys stepped away from their game plans a little bit and maybe didn’t think through situations as well. They didn’t play the percentages, and it resulted in some big numbers.”
Gray agreed that it was the mental, not the physical, stress that weighed down the Elis.
“The problem in playing afternoon rounds is not so much physical fatigue,” Gray said. “But being out on the course and competing for over 10 hours. Being out there and focusing that long, apparently hurt us more than other teams. It’s obviously a level playing field, but that’s where we screwed up.”
Gray suggested that the mental breakdown was a result of the lack of tournament time this spring.
“We hadn’t competed much this spring– this was only our second tournament,” Gray said. “It takes really good control of your game to play 36 back to back, which we haven’t done since the fall, and we weren’t as sharp as we needed to be.”
Fortunately for the Elis, who will host the NCAA East Regionals in late May, this tournament’s faux pas should not preclude them from being selected for the NCAA regional draw. The top three teams in Yale’s New England district are selected.
“This tournament has very, very little bearing on our district rankings,” Gray said. “It just sort of depends on what the other teams behind us do. We’ll most likely be third [in the district rankings] right now. Even if we had won, we could have still dropped down to third.”
District rankings are based largely on head-to-head competition and of the seven other Ivies only Harvard, Dartmouth, and Brown share Yale’s district. Yale finished ahead of all three in the Ivy Championship.
“It was not a real positive weekend all in all,” Gray said. “It was good to rebound after such a bad round in a final round. If we’re just playing 18 each day, we’re going to be okay. And we don’t have any more 36 holes in one day events left.”