The Yale men’s golf team enjoyed its first home tournament since October this past Saturday, hosting the Yale Spring Invitational. Against a field of 11 other teams that included Ivy League rivals Brown, Cornell and Dartmouth, two different Bulldog teams managed to post scores among the top four at the event.
In a one-day, two-round tournament on the par-70 Yale Golf Course, the official team for the Bulldogs shot a 597 (+37) to place third behind Bucknell and Dartmouth. Topping that performance was a second team from host Yale, which unofficially won the invitational in comeback fashion with a score of 594 (+34), just one stroke ahead of Bucknell.
“I currently have one of the deepest lineups in the eight years I’ve been here at Yale,” head coach Colin Sheehan ’97 wrote in an email to the News. “So I wasn’t shocked to see the Yale II post the score they did and unofficially win the tournament.”
Six Bulldogs finished inside the top 19 scores, and as a team, Yale led all competition in par-4 and par-5 scoring.
The winning squad comprised captain Joe Willis ’16, Henry Cassriel ’18, Jake Leffew ’19, James Park ’17 and Yale men’s squash player Jay Losty ’19, who participated as a temporary walk-on to fill out the five-man team. The golfers shot a 303 (+23) in the first round, leaving themselves in sixth place, but the group’s second-round score of 291 (+11) — the best round for any team in the tournament — catapulted it into first.
The Bulldogs’ official team earned its third-place finish in more consistent fashion, shooting a 299 (+19), followed by a 298 (+18). That group was made up of Eli starters Will Bernstein ’18, Jonathan Lai ’17, Eoin Leonard ’19, James Nicholas ’19 and Li Wang ’17.
Yale’s top performer was Willis, who finished tied for second at the tournament with a two-round score of 146 (+6). The captain shot a 76 in the first round before posting an even-par 70 in his final 18, which was tied for the second-lowest round score by any player. The dominant second round, in which Willis was 3-under at one point, played a major role in the comeback victory of his team.
“[Willis] had not been playing to his standard leading up to the event, and for the first time in his four years on the team, he wasn’t in the starting five,” Sheehan said. “His strong finish illustrated the very type of dogged, tough-minded competitiveness that has been the hallmark of his time at Yale.”
Willis added that he putted well, and that his consistency on the greens helped him save par on several holes throughout the day.
Cassriel finished just a stroke behind Willis. He shot very consistently throughout the day, following up his first-round score of 73 with a 74 in the second.
“I hit the ball well all day, which was nice given that I’ve been working a lot on the range the past few weeks,” Cassriel said.
A pair of Bulldogs, Bernstein and Leonard, finished just two strokes behind Willis at 148 (+8), good for a tie in fifth place with two other golfers. Leonard shot a 75 and 73 over two rounds and finished with six birdies, the second-most birdies of any player. Along with Willis, Bernstein led all competitors in par-5 scoring, with each finishing 2-under on holes 16 and 18.
Finishing at 150 (+10) were Leffew and Lai, who both shot a first-round 77 followed by a second-round 73. Park fared just one stroke worse, shooting the same opening score before a 74 in the latter round of the day. Wang finished 12-over with a 75 and 77.
Nicholas and Losty, who recorded scores of 154 (+14) and 177 (+37), respectively, were not counted in their teams’ final tally because each golfer’s score was the highest on his team.
While the second Eli team’s win does not count officially, this would have been the Bulldogs’ first victory since September for either the Yale men’s or women’s team. The previous one was the men’s first place finish at The Doc Gimmler tournament.
Both the men’s and women’s teams now look towards the highly anticipated Ivy League Championships, which will take place next weekend. The men’s tournament will be held at Metedeconk National in Jackson, New Jersey, while the women will be at The Stanwich Club in Greenwich, Connecticut.
“We feel good about our chances to perform well next week at Ivies,” Leffew said. “Our team has a lot of depth and we hope that will serve us well.”
The Ivy League Championships, a three-day event, will begin on April 22.