This year, the men’s golf team has its sights set high.

Last year, the Elis posted three finishes outside of the top 10, including a win at the season-opening Dartmouth Open.

Along the way, the team recorded individual scores of first at the Dartmouth Open, fifth at the Yale Spring Opener, and 18th at the competitive URI Spring Invitational.

The team also earned a berth at the NCAA Regional Championship hosted on The Course at Yale, where it finished 25th, 10 places out of qualifying for Nationals.

This year, the team has a third place finish and a ninth place finish in their first two appearances of the season at the Blue Devil Classic and the Adam’s Cup, respectively.

Team captain Steve Gray ’05 was not satisfied with the result at the Blue Devil Classic, calling it a “disappointment.” He was quick to add that the team’s finish at the Adam’s Cup was strong, citing better team play as a factor in its success in the more competitive tournament. However, both tournaments were rain-shortened, which negated a major advantage of this year’s team over last year’s — consistency.

“We’re more consistent this year than last,” Gray said. “We were more up and down last year.”

Head coach Dave Paterson also cited the steady play of the Elis — most team members have a 75 stroke average for 18 holes so far.

Equally encouraging is the corps of sophomores rising to the occasion. Second-year players occupy three out of the five current starting positions. Paterson called the underclassmen “an energizing force for the team.”

Coach Paterson chooses the starters every week based on their performance in practice and level of play at tournaments, with everyone earning their position on a week-to-week basis.

Rick Reissman ’06, veteran of the 2004 campaign, lauded his team’s level of intensity regardless of the situation.

“Practice is always very competitive,” he said. “Whenever we go out, we are playing to win. We play hard even when it doesn’t count.”

Gray agreed with his teammate’s opinion.

“The top 10 guys are really pushing each other in a positive way at practice,” he said.

This weekend, the team will play at home in the Macdonald Cup, named for the legendary designer of The Course at Yale. The Course is acknowledged as one of the 100 most difficult courses in the country and is routinely the site of major championships, including last year’s NCAA Regionals.

Several Bulldogs said they feel good about their prospects on their own turf.

“I’m pretty confident about our team,” Reissman said. “This is our home course, if we play well, who knows what could happen. We know the shots we can take — we have confidence about where to hit the ball.”

Gray said the University of Rhode Island is the team to beat this weekend, adding that a second place finish would be acceptable but that less than second would be a disappointment.

Coach Paterson views the Macdonald Cup as an opportunity for the Eli golfers to do well.

“We’ve been getting a lot of average scores lately. It’s time for someone to reach down to par,” he said. “We’ve got the talent; we need to hole more putts.”

Yale has only one other tournament this fall, and then it is on to the spring season, with the Ivy League Championship and NCAA Regional Championships looming as the ultimate goals.

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