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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

Jumbos' quest for first conference berth delayed another year

Despite Tufts' strong play on Sunday -- it recorded the third best team score of the day (300) -- the golf team placed fifth overall at the NESCAC Qualifier this weekend, 12 strokes short of receiving a berth into the 2015 conference championship.

Traditional NESCAC powerhouses Middlebury, Trinity and Williams were among the three teams to qualify. Middlebury won the qualifier with a two-day score of 599, while Trinity and Williams tied with a total of 603. Tufts' four best scores on Sunday equaled 300, one stroke better than Trinity on the day, but the Jumbos were unable to overcome the 10-stroke deficit from Saturday.

In its last tournament, Tufts edged out all NESCAC competitors besides the powerful trio of Middlebury, Trinity and Williams, and were arguably the favorites to claim the fourth and final championship berth this week. But at the Skenandoa Golf Club, the home course of the Hamilton Continentals, the hosts impressed and finished second in the qualifiers with a two-day score of 600, just one stroke behind Middlebury.

"The thing we didn't take into account this year was Hamilton," sophomore Owen Elliott said. "We beat them last weekend at Williams, [but] Hamilton are familiar with this course, they practice [here] three times a week and they had a home field advantage. They shot [a] 600, which was 33 strokes better than they shot last week. We definitely didn't expect them to come out and shoot such low numbers. Even though we played well, they just played extremely well."

The Jumbos dropped 15 strokes on the second day of competition, with all four scorers shooting in the 70s. They attributed these successes to an increased familiarity with the course. They were, however, unable to make a comeback in the face of consistent play from their competition.

"I think that getting comfortable on the course was the main difference between the two days," senior captain Alex Zorniger said. "We probably could have used a little more challenging circumstances, because the course wasn't the toughest and the weather was perfect. So it wasn't the [kind of] environment where teams would fall back."

Tufts was led by Elliott, who shot a one-under 71 on Sunday, tying for the second best round of the weekend. Elliott finished the tournament seventh individually five over par, 149 (78, 71).

"I was four-under with four left to play, but I double bogeyed [the 15th hole] and bogeyed [the 18th hole] to shoot 71, which is still a great round," Elliott said. "Four under would have been a personal best for me, although it wouldn't have affected how the team placed."

Junior Brendan Koh finished second for the team with a two-day score of 153, which tied for 15th overall after shooting 79 on Saturday and 74 on Sunday.

"On an individual basis, Brendan [Koh] shot phenomenal," Elliott said. "He shot 79, 74 which any year in the past...would be the team best and he finished 15th in the tournament. That's great."

The third Jumbo to place among the top 20 finishers -- at 18th overall --  was Zorniger, who went 78-77-155. Freshman Taylor Nordan was steadily the fourth scorer on both days, garnering an 80 and then a 78 for a 158 total, while classmate Aaron Corn shot a pair of 82's for a two-day score of 164.

According to coach George Pendergast, the team's close finish this year is because of the depth of the team the team. The team is much bigger and as a result, much more competitive than previous years.

"The key word is depth," Pendergast said. "We've been pretty solid over the years at the one and two spot, but now we're just much better in the three, four and five spots. We have the luxury of choosing -- we have a team of ten this year, a deep team of ten. We've never had that many guys, but now that we have five upperclassmen and five freshmen, we can really put our five best guys out there, instead of taking five out of seven kids."

Tufts might have finished 12 strokes out of qualifying, but it was 32 strokes ahead of sixth-place Bowdoin, a result that could be the turning point for the team.

"We've turned a corner," Pendergast said. "One thing I sensed from the other teams -- among the other NESCAC schools -- was kind of a newfound respect for Tufts as a golf team. We used to be at the back of the bunch, so the [other schools] didn't really treat us seriously. But now we're fifth, just one place away from qualifying, so I think they're finally giving us the respect [we deserve] -- and maybe they're a little scared."

Tufts finishes their season at the New England Intercollegiate Golf Association Championships over the Oct. 26-27 weekend, another stepping stone for the team striving to advance to the NESCAC Championship -- a goal that has eluded the team since the conference began the qualifier in 2008.

"Recruiting has been better, practice facilities have been good, it's just all coming together," Pendergast said. "For the NEIGA Championship, we're going to use the same recipe -- good practice time, and just trying to get the five best kids we've got to go out there.  This season is gone [in terms of NESCACs], but when next season comes around, we'll have two or three new freshman coming in next year so we can add even more to the depth [of the team]."