The men’s golf team played sub-par golf this weekend at the Ivy League Championships in the figurative, not the literal sense.

The Elis finished in seventh place in the battle of the Ancient Eight, eight strokes ahead of last place Harvard and 57 strokes behind run-away champion Princeton. The team finished with a 55-over-par 919 for the 54-hole tournament at Ballyowen Country Club in northern New Jersey.

“We clearly had a disappointing first two rounds,” head coach Dave Paterson said. “We weren’t pleased with out performance. We improved a little bit [Sunday], but we had no chance of winning. There was certainly a lot less pressure, other than redeeming ourselves. We tried to show the whole world that we can play golf.”

The team fell 17 strokes behind the Tigers after the first 18 holes, posting a first-round score of 310, 22-over-par. The Elis shot four strokes worse in their second round on Saturday, and they entered Sunday’s final round down 41 strokes. The Elis put in a solid Sunday round, carding a seven-over par 295 to retain sole possession of seventh place.

Captain Steve Gray ’05 had the best individual round for the Bulldogs with a one-under-par 71 on Sunday. He was the only Eli to record a round under par. He started his final round with a bogey on the first hole, but he said his swing felt good from the start. Gray said he started thinking about a sub-par round toward the end of the front nine.

“When I got through the sixth hole with a par — it’s a tough par three and the hole that plagued our team the most — and then I birdied the seventh,” Gray said. “I made back-to-back 12-foot puts, and I got going for the rest of the round.”

Gray finished at 13-over-par, good for 22nd place. Rick Reisman ’06 led all Elis at 12-over-par. Reisman finished in 21st place after carding rounds of 73, 81 and 74.

Mark Matza ’07, who finished at 20-over-par, said that the entire team struggled on the greens throughout the weekend.

“They’re not like Yale greens,” Matza said. “They’re man-made. They move dirt around, making greens to a ‘computer simulation,’ as coach would say, as opposed to Yale greens — a classic design, built into the land. They were artificial greens, quite difficult, and you really had to place your shots.”

The links-style course at Ballyowen is very open, with wide fairways and few trees. But the greens have built in ridges, creating several tiers and making it easy to put-around.

Matza said the course played almost the opposite of the El Diablo Country Club in Citrus Springs, Fla., where the Elis competed earlier this spring and beat Princeton by 29 strokes.

“I think [our finish] had a lot to do with the type of course,” Matza said. “El Diablo suited our type of golf. Ballyowen obviously suited Princeton’s style of golf.”

With one more tournament left to play, the New England Divisionals next weekend, the Bulldogs are left to wonder about a season that slipped away. The Elis will miss the NCAA regional tournament for the first time in seven years and only the second time ever.

Gray, the captain, said the team has lacked depth after Reisman, Matza and himself.

“It’s been sort of three guys playing fairly consistently, but not great, each tournament, and struggling to find the next two,” Gray said. “This tournament, I actually thought our four and five guys performed pretty well — it was our top three that let us down. Rick, Mark and I didn’t hold up our end of the bargain.”

Senior Andrew Vitt ’05 and freshman Joe Hernandez ’08 both finished at 22-over par.

Paterson echoed Gray’s sentiments, saying the team lacks a true anchor, akin to the ace of a pitching staff in baseball. But he added that the Ivy League and conference field is much more competitive this year.

Paterson and the Elis were left to ponder the nuances of the game of golf.

“Golf is a fragile game,” Paterson said. “It doesn’t have the spontaneity of hockey or football where it’s more of a reactionary sport. Golf is a more contemplative sport. You’re out there, you’re on your own. I think that’s where we’ve struggled. It’s difficult to be confident.”