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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, March 3, 2024

Elliott's third-place finish headlines Tufts' weekend

Playing in their penultimate tournament of the season, the Jumbos finished tied for eighth out of 17 teams at the Hampton Inn Invitational in North Dartmouth, Mass.

Tufts started the two-day tournament strong on Saturday, averaging a score of 80.25 among the four scorers on Friday. The total of 321 had the Jumbos tied for first heading into the final day and only seven strokes behind pole-setter and eventual winner Rhode Island College.

Sophomore Owen Elliott and first-year Taylor Nordan paced the Jumbos on the first day, both shooting 76. Senior captain Alex Zorniger and junior Brendan Koh rounded out the scoring, shooting 82 and 87, respectively.

The second round, however, did not go very well for the Jumbos. With suboptimal conditions, Tufts struggled more than the field, with all five golfers regressing from their strong first rounds.

"There was a lot of wind," Nordan said when trying to explain the drop-off in scores. "It was definitely a big factor."

Elliott, however, was able to maintain his form, shooting a 77 on the second day to finish with a 153 overall. The score put him at nine over par and in third place out of the field of 86 golfers. He was only three strokes off the eventual winner, Greg Martin, a junior from Husson University.

For Elliott, the consistency came from a variety of sources.

“I have been working a lot on my swing, so I am starting to see some payoffs from it," he said. "But honestly, I think I got kind of lucky, and the snacks they had out at the course were [a] big help.”

Regardless of his sustenance out on the course, Elliott has continued to make improvements in his second year on the team. In the fall, he tied for seventh in the NESCAC Qualifier to earn second-team all-conference, and in the spring, he has improved different facets of his game. He credited a strong putting performance on Saturday for keeping him in the hunt for the top spot in the tournament.

The rest of the scoring golfers would not fair so well, as all three of them shot in the high 80s. Both Nordan and Zorniger shot 89, while Koh was one better with 88. Tufts' cumulative second-round score of 343 pushed the team from the top three to tied for eighth with tournament host UMASS Dartmouth.

While 15 of the 17 teams fared worse in the second round of the tournament than they did in the first, Tufts and UMASS Dartmouth were the only teams to see such strong drops. Each had a 22-stroke split between their scores on Friday and Saturday.

The final results did not match the optimism held by the team, but that did not seem to hinder the overall momentum of the program. First-year Aaron Corn was the fifth member on the team for the tournament, joining Elliott and Nordan to form a cohort of young and promising golfers. The Jumbos have also been buoyed from a spring addition to the team, junior Jay Wong.

"It’s important to get Jay into the swing of things," Elliot said. "He was abroad in the fall, and he is a very good golfer. We are going to need him if we want to get into the NESCAC Championships.”

Wong did not compete at the Hampton Inn Invitational, but he posted the third lowest score on the team at the Rhode Island College Spring Invitational, behind only Nordan and Elliott, on April 4-5. That result showed coach Bob Sheldon and the team that he will be an important cog to the team moving forward.

The team may have given up ground on the second day of the competition, but so far, this spring has been an important factor to the team's growth. After falling two spots away from qualifying for the NESCAC Championships in the fall, next year's squad will need improvements throughout the lineup if it wants play in the biggest competitions next year.

The Jumbos will wrap up their season this upcoming weekend at the Johnson & Wales Invitational in Cranston, R.I.