Men's Golf Team Set For NESCAC Qualifier
September 26, 2007
HADLEY, Mass. - Middlebury College, the 2006 NESCAC Golf Champions, will begin its title defense this weekend when the Panthers join the rest of the conference for the NESCAC Golf Championship Qualifier. The two-day, 36-hole qualifying event will be hosted by Hamilton College at the Skenandoa Club in Clinton, N.Y., with the top four teams advancing to the championship round in the spring. The first group will tee off on Saturday, Sept. 29, at 11:00 a.m., and the qualifier will conclude on Sunday, Sept. 30.
The format for the NESCAC Golf Championship has changed for 2007-08. Beginning in 1994, all 10 conference teams competed for the conference crown over one weekend in the fall and the team with the lowest score earned the championship. This year, the four teams with the lowest score during the fall event will qualify for a championship round to be held during the last weekend in April, with the team that finishes the fall qualifier with the lowest score earning the right to host the two-day spring championship. The team that wins the championship round in April will receive the conference's automatic bid to the 2008 NCAA Golf Tournament in May.
Middlebury staged a thrilling comeback on day two of last year's championship at the Brunswick Golf Club to claim its second NESCAC crown (1999). The Panthers, sitting in a two-way tie for sixth with Bowdoin with a score of 318, shaved a remarkable 18 strokes off their day one score and finished in a two-way tie atop the leader board with Trinity for the closest finish in championship history. Middlebury was awarded the NESCAC title via the tiebreaker, as the Panthers' fifth player carded an 81 as compared to an 85 by the Bantams' fifth player. Leading the way for the Panthers this fall has been the tandem of junior Harrison Bane (Marblehead, Mass.) and senior George Baumann (Mequon, Wis.). Bane has finished as the runner-up at the last two NESCAC championship events, accumulating a two-day total of 149 as a rookie in 2005 and 148 last fall, just one stroke shy of the leader. Baumann recorded his best performance in NESCAC championship play last year, finishing in the top 10 for the first time by placing fifth with a score of 154. Bane and Baumann went one-two for Middlebury at the Williams Invitational on Sept. 22-23, as Bane tied for 19th with a score of 152 and Baumann tied for 23rd with 153 to help the Panthers finish fourth on the weekend.
Among the teams looking to make the championship cut this weekend will be Trinity, as the Bantams are out to prove that last year's second-place showing was no anomaly. Trinity travels to Clinton with a youthful squad that recently finished seventh at the 19-team Williams Invitational. Sophomore Reid Longley (Atlanta, Ga.), the 2006 NESCAC Player and Rookie of the Year, finished first last fall with a score of 147 as he helped Trinity record its best showing ever in championship play. The biggest challenger for Longley in his individual title defense may come from within his own team, as newcomer Jay Driscoll (Milton, Mass.) has had an impressive start for the Bantams. The freshman finished fourth at the Duke Nelson Invitational at Middlebury on Sept. 15-16 with a score of 147 and tied for 15th at the Williams Invitational with a team-best 151. Both individuals will not only vie with their Bantam teammates to ensure that a Trinity linksman takes home top NESCAC honors in the fall for a third year in a row but also that the Bantams will be in contention for the NESCAC title come April.
Arguably the hottest NESCAC team heading to Central New York this weekend is Williams, as the Ephs have finished in the top five in their three invitationals this fall, two of which featured second-place showings. Winners of five NESCAC championships this decade, Williams held the lead last autumn after day one but faltered on day two and finished in third. The Ephs return this year looking to make the cut with a balanced team of veteran leadership and strong rookies. Senior co-captain Brendan Conley (Rye, N.Y.) is the top returner for Williams from last year's championship, as he finished tied for fifth with Middlebury's Baumann, while junior Tyler Zara (New Canaan, Conn.) is the only other returner that placed in the top 10, carding 155 to finish in a tie for seventh. Conley led the way for the Ephs at the Williams Invitational this past weekend, shooting 148 and finishing in sixth, just five strokes behind the leader. Rookie Jack Killea (Ridgefield, Conn.) has shown steady improvement throughout the fall, most recently finishing tied for ninth at the Williams Invitational with a score of 150.
Other teams to watch during this weekend's qualifier include Bowdoin and Hamilton. The Polar Bears had a program-best fifth-place showing at last year's tournament and return two of their top three finishers from the 2006 championship in junior captain Jeff Cutter (Medfield, Mass.) and sophomore Ryan Blossom (Concord, N.H.). The pair paced Bowdoin at the Williams Invitational, as Blossom shot 146 to finish in a three-way tie for third, while Cutter came up with 152 to finish tied for 19th. Hamilton, which finished fourth at last year's championship, will need consistent performances from senior Mike Hayes (Homer, N.Y.) and juniors Dave Christie (New Canaan, Conn.) and Jeff Corbett (Stoneham, Mass.) if the Continentals hope to make the cut. Hayes and Corbett both placed in the top 10 last fall.
The Skenandoa Golf Course is part of the beautiful 175-acre Skenandoa Club, located just five minutes from the Hamilton campus in Clinton. Hamilton has had ties with the Skenandoa Club since its inception in 1890, when six Hamilton graduates were part of a group of 12 Clintonians to organize what started as a social club. The 18-hole course was designed by Russell D. Bailey and opened in 1954 on the site of the Albert Mair Farm. The challenging course features a hilly terrain with narrow fairways, fast greens that are large, and sand bunkers protecting just about every hole. The relatively open front nine precludes a back nine where water comes into play on no fewer than six holes. The scorecard for the course, which has a rating of 71.6 and a slope rating of 122, is a par-72 that totals 6,563 yards.
Results for the NESCAC Golf Championship Qualifier will be available at the completion of each day at www.nescac.com.