Men's Golf Headed To NESCAC Qualifier
October 1, 2009
Middlebury College, the winner of two of the last three NESCAC Golf crowns, will begin its pursuit of a third conference title in the last four years this weekend when the Panthers journey to Williamstown, Mass. for the NESCAC Golf Championship Qualifier. The two-day, 36-hole qualifying event will be hosted by Williams College at the Waubeeka Golf Links and will showcase all 10 conference teams. The first group will tee off on Saturday, Oct. 3, at 11:00 a.m., and the qualifier will conclude on Sunday, Oct. 4 at 11:00 a.m. The top four teams from the weekend will advance to the championship round in the spring, with the top finisher earning the right to host the final rounds.
The Panthers put their home course to good use last September, winning the 2008 fall qualifier at Ralph Myhre by one stroke over Trinity and earning the right to host the 2009 championship last April. After day one at the spring championship, though, Middlebury had an uphill battle to contend for the title with the Panthers sitting in last place and seven strokes off the lead. Similar to its 2006 championship victory, Middlebury rallied and shaved 13 strokes off its day one showing to finish the event in a two-way tie for first with Trinity, and once again the Panthers were awarded the NESCAC title over the Bantams via tie-breaker. A big part of Middlebury's comeback last year was due to the performance of junior Jim Levins (Rutland, Vt.). After earning All-NESCAC First Team honors with a third place showing at the 2008 fall qualifier, Levins came in third at the 2009 championship with a two-day total of 150 (+8), as his Sunday score of 73 was the second-lowest of the day among all players. Levins has been the leader for the Panthers so far this fall, carding a 146 to lead his squad to a sixth place finish at the Williams Invitational on Sept. 19-20 before pacing Middlebury a week later with a 152 at the 26th Annual Duke Nelson Invitational at Ralph Myhre.
Finishing just ahead of Middlebury at last weekend's Duke Nelson was the team that has come up short to the Panthers for the NESCAC title twice at the past three championships, Trinity. The Bantams edged host Middlebury by two strokes, and of the seven conference teams competing at the Duke Nelson, Trinity was the top conference squad for the second-straight year. In addition to their second place finish overall among the 20 teams at the tournament, the Bantams claimed a tie for second in their only other event this fall, the seven-team Trinity Invitational on Sept. 12-13. While Trinity is still in search of its first league crown, the Bantams have been a formidable foe in championship play recently. After falling just short of the 2006 title, Trinity won the first-ever Fall Qualifier in 2007 and the right to host the 2008 Championship round, eventually finishing fourth. Last April, Trinity was tied with Hamilton for second after the first round, just two strokes behind leader Williams, but during the second round was once again thwarted by Middlebury for the NESCAC title. Looking to lead the Bantams this weekend will be senior Reid Longley (Atlanta, Ga.) and sophomore Jay Driscoll (Milton, Mass.). Longley, the two-time NESCAC Player of the Year (2006, 2008) and a three-time All-NESCAC First Team member, finished first at both the Fall Qualifier (141, -1) and the Championship round (147, +5) a year ago. Driscoll, who earned First Team honors as a rookie last September, had a solid outing at the Duke Nelson last weekend with a fourth place showing (150, +8) to lead the Bantams.
While Williams will serve as the host of the fall qualifier, the Ephs may be on equal footing with the rest of the conference this weekend at Waubeeka. The Taconic Golf Course, which normally serves as Williams home course, had to be scratched as the fall qualifier site only a few weeks ago after problems popped up with the greens. Although the Ephs will benefit from practice at Waubeeka this week, they will need to be sharp if they hope to host the championship rounds in the spring. Last April, Williams looked primed to repeat as the NESCAC Golf champs after day one at Middlebury, holding a two stroke advantage over Hamilton and Trinity with a score of 306. However, a dismal day two score of 325 put the Ephs at the back of the pack with a combined total of 631. Similar problems plagued the Ephs last weekend at the Duke Nelson, as a two stroke lead over the 20-team field after the first round evaporated during the second round and put Williams in fifth with a combined total of 626. In other events this season, Williams finished fifth at the nine-team Bowdoin Invitational on Sept. 12-13, then placed first at their own invitational a week later, edging out 14 other squads by 10 strokes. Junior Jack Killea (Ridgefield, Conn.) paced the Ephs at the Williams Invitational, as the two-time All-NESCAC honoree finished second overall (137, -3). Junior Jake Wagner (Wilmette, Ill.) and sophomore Chris Valle (Victor, N.Y.) were not far back of Killea, tying for sixth (143, +3). Valle led the Ephs at the Duke Nelson last weekend (T-10th 154, +12), while Wagner was just one stroke behind (T-13th 155, +13).
Other teams that will be looking to finish among the top four this weekend will include Amherst, Hamilton and Tufts. The Lord Jeffs came in behind only Williams and Middlebury among conference teams at the Williams Invitational, finishing seventh overall, before completing the Duke Nelson in 17th. Pacing Amherst this fall has been the tandem of junior Trip Wray (Walpole, Mass.) and sophomore Nate Belkin (Needham, Mass.), as the duo have been the top linksmen for the Jeffs at their last two events. The Continentals have been a perennial member of the top four finishers in recent years, and their last conference crown came during a weather-shortened 2003 championship. This fall, Hamilton has been led by multiple individuals, most notably junior Brad Roche (Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.), an All-NESCAC Second Team selection in 2008. The Jumbos have been solid through September, tying for 10th at the Williams Invitational before tying with Hamilton for seventh at the Duke Nelson. Since coming in second in 2002 to Williams, Tufts has finished as high as fifth three times, most recently in 2007. Individually this weekend, look for Wesleyan sophomore Pete Taylor (East Greenwich, R.I.) among the challengers for top honors. An All-Conference Second Team member a year ago with the second-best score among rookies competing at the qualifier, Taylor has been stellar this fall as he tied for fourth at the Williams Invitational (142, +2) followed by a three-way tie for seventh at the Duke Nelson (153, +11).
Designed and constructed by Rowland Armacost in 1966, Waubeeka features large undulating greens, generous fairways and spectacular views of the surrounding mountain ranges. Considered straightforward yet demanding, Waubeeka's layout is playable for golfers of all skill levels. A tight front nine formation features bent greens that are small and relatively flat. The course opens up on the back nine, with plenty of hazards along with greens that challenge due to their elevation and undulation. The scorecard for the course, which has a rating of 70.9 and a slope rating of 127, is a par-72 that totals 6,394 yards. Results for the NESCAC Golf Championship Qualifier will be available at the completion of each day at www.nescac.com.