The young men’s golf squad assembled the first building blocks of confidence this past weekend at the Dartmouth Invitational.

Finishing fourth overall out of 12 teams present, the Elis took an early look at rivals Harvard and Dartmouth and got much-needed experience to start the fall season.

Mark Matza ’07 finished fourth overall, with a three-round score of 219. He left satisfied but with a bittersweet taste in his mouth after entering the final round just three shots off the lead but failing to make a move. Though Matza began the first five holes at two under par, he gave several strokes back and settled for fourth.

“I always go to a tournament looking to win, but I felt pretty good about how I played,” Matza said.

Rookie Taylor Hakes ’09, in his first appearance as a Yale golfer, placed 15th overall with rounds of 74, 79 and 74 for a total of 227.

Both Matza and Joe Hernandez ’07 said although fourth was respectable, the Bulldogs could have easily finished second. But there was no catching reigning NAIA national champion Johnson and Wales, which led wire to wire and shot an impressive total of 873; Yale shot 912.

Facing the familiar field whetted the focus of the more inexperienced players. The Elis enter with an impressively young squad. Captain Rick Reissman ’06 could be the only senior playing, and the majority of the team will be a mix of underclassmen.

Two newcomers, Hakes and Colby Moore ’09, saw their first career collegiate action and gave solid performances.

“I think the freshmen played very well,” Hernandez said. “Taylor played well for the first performance of his career, and Colby was stellar.”

Experience may have cost the Elis several strokes on the course, which Matza said played especially difficult because of consistently tricky pin placements and slick, small greens.

“I think I may have psyched myself out a little bit, resulting in some poor play,” Moore conceded.

Matza agreed that mental errors probably cost the Bulldogs significantly.

“I think as a whole we could’ve done a little better,” he said. “It was clear a few people didn’t play up to their potential.”

Nevertheless, every young team needs a chance to find early experience. The Dartmouth Invitational provided a good start, with a difficult course and familiar competitors.

“This weekend made me realize that I can still hang with [college players] and I have the game to do well here,” Moore said. “The great thing about golf is that it’s always you against the course no matter who you’re playing with.”

Regardless of scoring, this weekend’s experience is likely to benefit the team’s younger players, especially Moore and Hakes.

Nipping annual rival Binghamton University on the final day also provided a boost of confidence, as did placing well ahead of the Cantabs. Harvard and Dartmouth’s presence gave a small preview of the Ivy competition to come, and the team’s confidence seems high.

“The Ivy League is very competitive this year,” Matza said. “Brown and Dartmouth are good, but we’re usually right there, almost always first or second with Princeton.”

Hernandez said the team unquestionably had the skills to compete in the Ancient Eight.

“We have some high expectations, but we’re a young team; it’s simply a question of confidence,” Hernandez said. “We just need to get out there and play, and we’ll be fine. Give it a couple more weeks, and we’ll be right where we want to be.”