The Yale men’s golf team battled poor weather conditions and tough competition to finish sixth at the Primland Collegiate Invitational this week, marking the Bulldogs’ third-consecutive top-10 tournament finish to begin the fall season.
All four Eli classes had representatives in Meadows of Dan, Virginia for the tournament, which was cut short after two rounds as a result of heavy rain on Tuesday. Captain Joe Willis ’16, Jonathan Lai ’17, Li Wang ’17, Will Bernstein ’18 and Eoin Leonard ’19 collectively finished with a two-round score of 590, which was 32 strokes behind the eventual champion, the University of North Carolina.
“While this event might have been a slight letdown, over the past two or three events, there is no question that we are off to a good start and a solid season,” head coach Colin Sheehan ’97 said.
With an even score on the par-72 course, Willis performed well enough individually to tie for 12th overall in the 51-player field. The Lake Forest, Illinois native, who has notched two top-five finishes in tournaments this season, shot one under par during the first round but turned in a 73 in the second round.
Willis credited his success this fall to his putting ability, which has improved since last season and allowed him to shoot lower scores more consistently.
“I want to lead by example for my teammates in all areas, and scoring is just one aspect of that,” Willis said. “It is more important to me that it is my last time playing in these events, so it is nice to have played well and made the most of them.”
Leonard finished just one stroke behind Willis with a one-over-par score of 145, while Bernstein came in third for Yale with a tally of 149 in two rounds. Leonard has progressively improved to open the season for the Elis, tying for 19th overall at the Primland after contributing an 18-over tally to Yale’s team total at the Inverness Intercollegiate.
“This is the second strong tournament result from Eoin Leonard,” Sheehan said. “He played what was, at times, a long and difficult course very well. He was very steady, and I am very pleased with [Leonard’s] performance through three events.”
The top four individual scores are calculated into Yale’s team score, and Wang rounded out that quad of players. He shot eight strokes over par for a 152, tying for 40th in the individual rankings. Meanwhile, Lai dealt with a streak of three holes in both rounds that drastically affected his score. Although he was two over par in the first 15 holes of the course, he lost eight strokes on the final three, including a triple bogey on the 18th hole of the second round, to bring his final score to a 10-over-par 154.
The Highland Course at Primland is known to allow for longer drives and increased yardage because of its location high in the Appalachian Mountains, Sheehan said. However, that effect was neutralized by the weather conditions, which made for two difficult rounds and ultimately became so severe that the Bulldogs needed to drive back to campus rather than fly.
“In order to play well there, you have to capitalize on the par fives,” Lai said. “It was unfortunate that we played the course in soggy conditions, because I feel that the course would’ve played much different under normal conditions.”
There were many top collegiate teams in attendance at the Primland, including North Carolina, Auburn, Penn State and Pepperdine. The Bulldogs were paired with the victorious Tar Heels, an experience Sheehan described as a good opportunity to measure Yale’s talent level against a top-tier squad. North Carolina ranked 20th in the country as a team last season, but Sheehan said that the Bulldogs, who were 69th in the same rankings, do not feel far behind.
“In the past, we have often only gotten once-a-year opportunities to play against such top fields,” Sheehan said. “However, now that we are doing it two or three times a year, I am noticing that the players increasingly feel in the tier group. We do by no means feel out of place or that we cannot compete and contend with the best teams.”
Though New Haven’s rainy weekend forecast may preclude play, the Bulldogs are currently scheduled to host The Macdonald Cup this weekend at The Course at Yale.