Appearances can be deceiving, particularly for the men’s golf team at their most recent tournament.
The Bulldogs competed Monday and Tuesday at the Sycuan Collegiate Invitational in El Cajon, Calif., tying for 13th out of 20 teams total. The Elis shot 17-over par over three rounds, well behind first place Colorado State at 27-under par. Individually, the Bulldogs were led by Ben Wescoe ’10, who finished T-46th at 1-over par, and by Tom McCarthy ’11, who finished T-61st at 3-over par.
The Elis went into the tournament on a roll after winning the ECAC Championships in Riverhead, N.Y., nine days prior, and finishing in second place at the MacDonald Cup a week before that.
But another top two finish in the standings was not to be expected, players said, citing the fact that the field featured eight teams among the Top 100 in the country. The field was on par with the similarly tough competition at the Gopher Invitational back on Sep. 12–14 — a tournament which saw the Bulldogs finish last among 12 teams.
The Elis returned to the course at Willow Glen Country Club for a second year in a row,and saw the tournament as another opportunity to play with the best.
“It was good to go out west to play in a big-time tournament, and enjoy some of the perfect San Diego weather,” McCarthy said. “The teams were very good, and it was another great learning experience to see how these teams play.”
The Bulldogs played two rounds on Monday, arguably among their best this season. In particular, Captain Colby Moore ’09 mentioned that no team he has been on in his four years at Yale has scored under par, a feat achieved during the team’s second round. Furthermore, Wescoe said that the two-round team score of three-over was also the lowest score by far the last few years.
Part of the reason for the low scores was the friendly golf course, which set up nicely for golfers of all teams. Highlighting this fact, seven teams were 11-under par or better after two rounds.
“I wasn’t amazed by the scores that the teams shot, because the course really was there for the taking,” McCarthy said. “It was perfect weather and pretty simple hole locations on the first day, which just sets up for low scores.”
Even with that great play on Monday, the Elis stood in 11th place heading into the tournament’s final round on Tuesday. With expectations for another great round like the one-under par the team posted in the second round, the Bulldogs somewhat disappointed themselves by shooting a 14-over par 302 for the final round.
“We played pretty well the first two rounds, but we just seemed to be unable to put together a good low round like it seemed the other teams were doing,” McCarthy said. “It was frustrating, for me especially, playing on a course where you could literally birdie almost every hole.”
Other Bulldogs cited some tougher course conditions on the final day as contributing factors to their higher numbers on Tuesday. Moore specifically pointed out tougher pin positions on the final day, as well as winds that picked up during the final round.
Even with those struggles, the team finished with an 881 team score over three rounds on the par-72 course, eleven shots better than the 892 team scores that won the ECAC Championship on a par-71 course a week earlier. These facts support that in contrast to their lower finish, the Elis may have improved this week. However, the different course conditions may have also played a factor.
“The course at the ECAC was definitely tougher [and] played a lot longer, and there weren’t as many birdie chances,” Moore said. “The winds were a lot tougher [as well].”
Emphasizing this point, Wescoe, who won the ECAC Individual title last week, posted the exact some scores (71, 70, 76) in San Diego as he did in Long Island, albeit in a different order. While the competition was certainly tougher, the Bulldogs continued their streak of great golf.
Among this great competition was individual champion Dustin Garza of Wichita State, who shot an 11-under par 61 during the second round of competition on his way to the title.
“The eventual champion and his second round 61 [were] just absolutely amazing,” McCarthy said. “He had 11 birdies, and really, a round like that regardless of the course is really unheard of.”
Looking ahead, the Elis will enter into their winter off-season with their next tournament almost five months from now. During that time, several players mentioned the need to fine tune their putting and chipping as a key to success in the spring.
“I think we have to focus on just becoming a bit more consistent with our short games,” McCarthy said. “It is very important to maintain and develop an exceptional short game, so when you are struggling, you can still make a [good] score.”
Wescoe also mentioned the advantage of the Bulldogs’ new indoor technology center, which will help keep the team’s swings sharp in the winter. In the end, the training will be focused toward the ultimate aim of winning Ancient Eight conference title in the spring.
“Our goal is to win the Ivy Championship and we will push ourselves this off-season to make sure we are in the best shape possible, physically and mentally, at the start of the spring,” Wescoe said. “We will build off our tremendous success this fall, but know that we still have unfinished business with the Ivies.”