For most teams, finishing fourth in a competitive league’s championship tournament is a solid effort. But if you are the 21-time NCAA champion men’s golf team, a fourth place finish in the 2004 Ivy League Championships is nothing short of disappointing.

The Bulldogs will attempt to put a frustrating season behind them and start the 2004-2005 season with a strong performance at the Blue Devil Classic from September 17-19 at Stanley Golf Course in New Britain, Conn.

“The Blue Devil Classic is a tournament that we should win,” captain Steve Gray ’05 said. “The competition will be New England District teams, so a win would put us in good shape to earn a regional bid.”

Despite coming off their worst Ivy League finish since 1995, the Elis are confident that last year was not a reflection of what the team can achieve. In fact, Rick Reissman ’06 and his fellow Bulldogs have found positives in last year’s disappointment.

We still made it to [NCAA East] Regionals in the spring, which is encouraging,” Reissman said. “Because if we made it there having played as poorly as we did, who knows what we could get done if we all start playing up to our abilities.”

Yale brings back a deep, talented and experienced group of golfers led by seniors Gray, Jason Shin, and Andrew Vitt, who were a part of the 2002-2003 Ivy League Championship team. Gray also expects big contributions from the sophomores who have one year of college play under their belt.

“So far in team tryouts the sophomores have stepped up and shot some good numbers,” Gray said. “They’ll have a chance to contribute right away.”

One of those sophomores is Mark Matza who shot a team-best total 231 at last year’s NCAA East Regional. Matza’s recent win at the Borsodi Student Championship — a school tournament open to all Yale undergraduate and graduate students — further illustrates that he is primed for a big season for Yale.

Although Matza performed very well at the East Regionals, as a whole, last year’s freshman class found its rookie year full of growing pains. Chris Holmes ’07 said the lessons he and his fellow sophomores learned last year will go a long way.

“Personally, I know the course and am much more comfortable now playing golf in college,” Holmes said. “Last year the class of ’07 was a bunch of chefs. We pretty much chopped it around the whole year.”

Another reason to be positive is the infusion of new talent to the team. Andrew Denenberg ’08 leads a promising new batch of freshmen who are enthused to be a part of the NCAA’s most successful golf program.

“Yale has a very rich tradition, and it’s exciting to be a part of it,” Denenberg said. “It’s something that we’ll enjoy for four years and be able to look back on proudly.”