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

Tufts moves on after missing cut for NCAA qualifiers in fall

Sophomore Owen Elliot shot the Jumbos' lowest score during September's NCAA Qualifier.

Thirteen strokes. That is how far the golf team was from placing in the top four in the NESCAC Championship qualifier. A remarkably small margin, yet just enough to drastically change the Jumbos upcoming spring season. As a result of placing fifth in the qualifier, the Jumbos' will not compete in the NESCAC Championships, the winner of which earns an NCAA tournament berth. Since the qualifier's first year in 2008, the Jumbos have never qualified for the conference championships. For Tufts, this spring season is now an opportunity to improve and gain experience for next year's qualifier.

There are three major tournaments that Tufts competes at in the spring: the Rhode Island College Invitational, the Hampton Inn Invitational hosted by UMass Dartmouth and the Johnson and Wales Invitational. While each tournament has an individual and a team champion, there is also an overall championship for both the team and the individual that score best across all three tournaments.

When asked about his goal for the season, first-year Taylor Nordan had a clear mindset.

“Win every tournament I play in," he said. "I feel if I practice and play well, I can do it. You have to believe before you can achieve. For the team also, to just play well. [Golf] is an individual sport -- you can only control what you do.”

Sophomore Owen Elliott, who earned a place on the All-NESCAC second team in the fall, is disappointed that Tufts did not qualify for the NESCAC Championship. Elliott said that he was less concerned with his NESCAC honor in the fall than whether or not Tufts scored well enough to advance past the NESCAC qualifier. Since the Jumbos fell short, Elliott has decided to refocus on the spring tournaments as a means for improving.

“We finished fifth out of the 11 teams in the fall, so we just missed out on the top four," Elliott said. "If you finish in the top four, then obviously the spring is more important [than the fall]. We just have three tournaments, [and] we don’t have the option to get in [to NCAAs]. Obviously you are going to go out and try to win. Long term, I’d rather make NCAAs than win [the spring tournaments].”

Elliot feels the focus for this spring should be improving, and he hopes new practice strategies and a new TrackMan simulator, which allows team members to practice their swings indoors, will help the team surmount its lack of winter practice time.

“We are going to change our practice schedule a little so [that] we include more time on the range, chipping green and the putting green, rather than going out and playing 18 holes," he said. "We are going to try practicing for two hours and then go out and play nine [holes] instead.”

Elliot also mentioned the difficulties that come with golfing in the northeast.

“Given that we are in Boston, it’s not like we can play right now; we need to wait for the snow to melt," he said. "In the winter it’s like this big cavernous black hole [without] golf, so if we qualify in the fall, [the TrackMan] will allow us to get ready for the bigger tournaments in the spring next year.”

Nordan sees the extra practice time as making a major difference. He points to large schools on the west coast as having the advantage of being able to practice eight hours a day year-round, an impossibility in Boston. Also, Nordan believes that Tufts has a disadvantage relative to its NESCAC peers because many other NESCAC schools have golf courses or ranges nearby, while Tufts rotates its practices between three country clubs.

Although the team is currently young -- there are only three upperclassmen on the roster, including senior captain Alex Zorniger -- the Jumbos will have the opportunity to strengthen their already strong bonds and gain valuable experience for next fall.