The Yale men’s golf team hosted 12 NCAA schools this weekend at The Course at Yale for the 40th annual Macdonald Cup, one of the most prestigious full-field tournaments in the Northeast. Tournament founder and former Yale head coach David Paterson was on hand as the Bulldogs finished the two-day event in sixth place with an overall team score of +31.
Prior to this weekend, the Bulldogs had finished either first or second in each of the past eight iterations of the Macdonald Cup.
“It’s a great sense of pride for the team and the program, the players and myself, to host all of these teams at our home course,” head coach Colin Sheehan ’97 said. “The guys just got off to a slow start and in a 36-hole event, it’s hard to come back from that.”
The short recovery time — this was the Elis’ fourth tournament in just 22 days — and poor weather conditions combined to make the Macdonald Cup a challenging event for the Bulldogs. The tournament was moved up one day due to potential travel concerns for the visiting schools, shortening the Cup from three rounds to just two.
“While the conditions were tough, I suspect that the team may have been showing signs of being a little run-down,” Sheehan said.
With the exception of Nick McNiff ’17, every player on the Bulldog roster competed in the tournament. Before the Macdonald Cup, Sheehan designated five golfers to play as Yale’s primary squad.
Those five were captain Joe Willis ’16, Jonathan Lai ’17, Li Wang ’17, Will Bernstein ’18 and Eoin Leonard ’19. Bernstein recorded the best individual score for the Bulldogs, finishing tied for 13th at +6. Although he turned in a 75 in round one at the par-70 course, Bernstein bounced back to finish strong with a round two score of 71, tying for the eighth-best round on Saturday.
“I thought I played pretty solid given the conditions,” Bernstein said. “I was happy with how I dealt with the conditions, but I still think that I could have been better. I am looking forward to our match on Friday and for this spring to hopefully win the Ivy League this year.”
Bernstein was followed closely by a set of teammates. Leonard, Willis, Lai and Wang — in that order — all finished within five strokes of Bernstein, though Wang’s score of +11 did not count since only the top four scores contribute to Yale’s team score.
In addition to those five selected by Sheehan, Henry Cassriel ’18, James Nicholas ’19, James Park ’17 and Jake Leffew ’19 all competed in the Macdonald Cup as individuals. Cassiel’s +9, good for a tie for 28th, put him alongside Willis, and ahead of both Lai and Wang. Nicholas and Park pitched in with rounds of +13, while Leffew rounded out the Bulldogs’ play with a +17.
All nine players improved their scores from the first round to the second, highlighted by Leonard’s 10-stroke improvement. His 69 on Saturday tied for the second-best round score in the entire tournament.
“In the second round, I think every player on the team improved and it’s a shame the event was cut to two rounds instead of three because I think we would have improved even more and would have finished [closer to] the top,” Leonard said.
The tournament featured seven of the eight Ivy League schools, with only Columbia absent from action. Harvard dominated the event as four Crimson golfers rounded out the top five individual scores after the Cup’s individual winner, Jon DuToit of Minnesota. Besides Harvard, Dartmouth was the only other Ancient Eight school to finish ahead of the Bulldogs. The Big Green finished in 5th place, three strokes ahead of Yale.
“It’s always a joy [to compete against other Ivy League schools],” Sheehan said. “It’s a healthy, friendly rivalry as a conference. The conference is getting stronger every year. It’s so easy to be excited about the matchups.”
The University of Stirling traveled across the pond from Scotland to participate in the Macdonald Cup. Stirling finished four strokes behind Harvard, which would have been good for second place in the final team standings, but since Stirling is an international school, the team’s results are not officially recognized by the NCAA.
The Bulldogs tee off for the last time of the semester on Friday at the inaugural Bush Cup in a match-play event against Army, which will be hosted at Winged Foot Golf Course in Mamaroneck, New York.