Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

Tufts shows improvement at Williams Invitational

With the NESCAC qualifiers looming closer, the golf team showed signs of improvement at this weekend's Williams Invitational. The Jumbos finished 11th overall as a team in their final tournament before NESCACs next weekend at Hamilton College. Tufts' four best scores totaled 310 on Saturday and 315 on Sunday, for a two-day score of 625, 27 strokes behind tournament champions Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI).

"I think the team did very well, it was probably the strongest showing [for us] as a team in a while," junior Brendan Koh said. "The course was a very scorable condition, meaning that if you play well, you really do well. If anything, it’s a good prediction of how we can perform next week for NESCAC qualifiers."

The result is a significant step forward for a team that had finished near the bottom of the draw -- 23rd out of 25 teams -- at the 31st annual Duke Nelson Tournament, played over the Sept. 13-14 weekend at Middlebury College. The Jumbos shot for a total score of 672, finishing above just two teams: Springfield College, which shot a 689 for the weekend, and Wesleyan University, which shot a distant 723.

But the tides began to turn this weekend, with the Jumbos finishing above four NESCAC opponents: Hamilton (633 for 14th overall), Amherst (652 for 15th overall), Bowdoin (665 for 17th overall) and Wesleyan (708 for 18th overall). The only two NESCAC teams that placed above Tufts in the tournament were Williams and Middlebury, which placed third and fourth overall, respectively. This bodes well for the Jumbos, who barely missed out on the NESCAC playoffs last fall.

"We know where we stand in the NESCAC," senior captain Alex Zorniger said. "In golf anything can happen on any day -- you can come in first, you can come in last. There are three big teams in the NESCAC [Williams, Middlebury and Trinity], and then there's another tier. We feel that we stand at the top of the tier, and there are four spots next week [in the NESCAC qualifiers], so we could win it if we play well."

This weekend, the short game plagued many teams' scores at the Taconic Golf Club Champ Course.

"Putting was very tricky ... their greens were very challenging, [and]  you had to be very careful," Koh said. "As my coach said, you had to putt from a lot of different angles and appreciate how [the ball] is going to roll. I think that generally speaking, putting was challenging, but for people like [sophomore] Owen [Elliott] and [freshman] Taylor [Nordan], they managed to score. I think the general consensus with the other teams was that putting was challenging."

Another key to the Jumbos' success over the weekend was the strong play by its underclassmen, who hold seven of the 10 roster spots. Over the weekend, the Jumbos were led by Elliott (76, 73, 149) and Nordan (75, 77, 152). Nordan tied for 18th overall in the individual draw in his first collegiate tournament, while Elliott's tie for seventh overall marks the second consecutive tournament at which he has led the Jumbos in scoring, after shooting for a total of 166 at the Duke Nelson Tournament.

The Williams Invitational was also the last at which the coaching staff could test its lineup before NESCAC qualifications are on the line. In addition to Nordan, three other freshmen have seen playing time:  Glenn Van Winkle, Aaron Corn and Michael Lefkowitz, giving four of the five freshman on the roster collegiate playing time before the starting lineup for the NESCAC qualifiers is set in stone.

The Jumbos have a young team lead by Zorniger and Koh, the only two upperclassmen who have played this fall, but the team is not concerned about the relative lack of experience on the team.

"Owen [Elliott] and Taylor [Nordan] have performed very well," Koh said. "Owen played in the spring, and I think of all our players he’s probably one of our strongest, [if not] the strongest player now. He’s always set to perform well, and reacts very well under pressure. This was Taylor’s first tournament, and he did well. For the rest of the freshmen, all they need right now is experience. [But] I’m not concerned about the lack of experience; we’re developing these guys and we [have a balance]. We don’t know who’s actually starting for NESCACs, but I’m sure the coaches will factor [experience] in."

Whatever the composition of the Jumbos' final roster for the NESCAC qualifiers, the team will look to channel its momentum from this weekend at Williams into another strong performance next weekend at Hamilton.