Men's Golf Headed To NESCAC Qualifier
September 28, 2011
Members of the conference will converge on Lyman Orchards Golf Club in Middlefield, Conn. this weekend when Wesleyan University hosts the NESCAC Golf Championship Qualifier.
The two-day, 36-hole event includes defending NESCAC champion Middlebury, which has finished first at the qualifier twice in the past three years. The Panthers hope to make it three-out-of-four this weekend, as the highest finisher earns the right to host the spring championship round at their home course along with the remaining top four teams from the qualifier. Action gets underway on Saturday, Oct. 1 around 11:30 a.m. and wraps up on Sunday, Oct. 2.
There was no stopping the Panthers a year ago. During the qualifying round at Shuttle Meadow last fall, Middlebury was tied Williams following day one with a score of 295. The Panthers came back on day two and shot a blistering 290 - the lowest round of any team at the tournament - to finish with a two-day total of 585, 12 strokes ahead of the Ephs. Although Middlebury was unable to host the championship round at Ralph Myhre, the Panthers’ regular home, due to unplayable conditions, the obstacle didn’t disrupt Middlebury’s drive for a fourth NESCAC crown. Holding a nine-stroke lead after day one, the Panthers left little doubt on day two with a 292 performance, taking the 2011 conference title by 19 strokes. This season, a youthful Middlebury squad has carded three top-five finishes in the three invitationals it has participated in, most recently taking fifth in the annual Duke Nelson at Ralph Myhre two weeks ago and fourth at the Williams Invitational this past weekend. Although the Panthers will be without the services of NESCAC Player of the Year Brian Cady, who graduated in May, they return junior William Prince (New Canaan, Conn.). Prince led the championship field last spring with a two-over performance of 146. Along with Prince, sophomore Rob Donahoe (Canton, Mass.) will look to help Middlebury outmaneuver the field this weekend. Donahoe’s best showing so far this fall came at the Duke Nelson, tying for seventh overall.
Among the teams hoping to gain an advantage by finishing first this weekend will be Williams. The Ephs boast more conference titles than any other program with 10 among their collection, their most recent coming in 2008. Last season, Williams came in behind Middlebury at the fall qualifier with a score of 597, one stroke ahead of rival Amherst, then finished behind runner-up Trinity in the spring by two strokes with a two-day total of 615. Williams has benefitted from a deep and talented group of linksmen in recent years, however consistency has been an area the Ephs have struggled with. Any consistency problems have not been apparent so far this fall, as the Ephs have plenty of momentum heading into the weekend following some stellar performances. At the 28th annual Duke Nelson, Williams was the top NESCAC squad among the seven conference teams at the event, finishing second among the 24-team field with a score of 607. At their own invitational, the Ephs were tops amongst NESCAC teams, as their third-place showing bested fourth-place Middlebury by 11 strokes. Some of the strongest play has come from the sophomore trio of Ross Bowen (Winnetka, Ill.), Dylan Dethier (Williamstown, Mass.), and Cody Semmelrock (Pomfret Center, Conn.). Bowen and Dethier were both among the top 10 golfers at the Williams Invitational, finishing sixth and ninth, respectively. Semmelrock took seventh place at the Duke Nelson two weeks ago. All three have never competed at a conference championship event.
Looking to continue a string of recent success in conference play will be Trinity. After coming within striking distance of the program’s first conference crown in 2006 and 2009, the Bantams broke through in 2010 for their first NESCAC title. Trinity nearly repeated last spring, coming in second to Middlebury with a score of 613. Over the past three years, the Bantams and the Panthers have taken the top two spots at the spring championship round. While at first glance a fourth-place finish at the 2010 qualifier may raise some concerns for the Bantams, there was little doubt that they would make the cut after finishing one stroke off the lead after day one and 11 strokes ahead of Hamilton on day two. Along with Middlebury and Williams, Trinity has had solid showings this fall, placing behind both the Ephs and the Panthers at the Duke Nelson and the Williams Invitational among conference teams. The Bantams turned in a score of 621 at the Duke Nelson on Sept. 17-18, good enough for eighth place. A week later, Trinity came in fifth among the field of 18 with a 620 score, just four strokes back of Middlebury. Heading up a youthful and deep Bantam group are senior Alex Bermingham (Bedford, N.Y.) and junior Jack Palley (Pelham, Mass.). While Bermingham missed out on All-NESCAC honors last fall, he has carded top-three finishes during the spring championship in each of the last two years, finishing first in 2010. Palley, third among his teammates last October, placed just outside a top five group that featured four Middlebury players at the April championship.
Other teams vying for a top-four finish at Lyman Orchards this weekend include Amherst, Bowdoin, and Hamilton. The Lord Jeffs broke through last fall as they finished among the top four at the event for the first time ever with a two-day total of 598. Amherst went on to finish fourth in the spring, as the Lord Jeffs came up short in their quest for a ninth NESCAC title and their first since 1997. This season, Amherst placed 10th at the Duke Nelson (624), as sophomore Nicholas Koh (Singapore) came in second overall with a 145 (+3), and 12th at the Williams Invitational (647). While Amherst made the field of four, Hamilton missed the cut for the spring round for the first time ever. The three-time champion Continentals (1990, 1998, 2003) shaved four strokes off their day one score of 312 but could not close the gap to fourth and ended in fifth at 620. After coming in 13th at the Duke Nelson (629) two weeks ago, Hamilton placed seventh at the Williams Invitational (632), 12 strokes back of fifth-place Trinity. The Polar Bears finished just three strokes behind the Continentals at the Eph invite and have turned in top-five showings this fall at their own invitational to open the season and the Maine State Tournament. Bowdoin has placed ninth in each of the last two years and its best recent fall finish came in 2006, placing fifth.
Individual medalist honors at this weekend’s fall qualifier could go to a first-time participant. Potential candidates include Middlebury sophomore Chris Atwood (Rochester, N.H.), the Williams tandem of Bowen and Dethier, Trinity freshman Alex Lynch (Greenwich, Conn.), and sophomore Julian Ophals (Cave Creek, Ariz.) of Hamilton. Hoping to defend his home course in what will be his final fall qualifier is Wesleyan senior Pete Taylor (East Greenwich, R.I.). Taylor has earned All-NESCAC honors in each of the last three years, garnering First Team recognition in 2010.
Located 30 minutes north of New Haven, Conn., Lyman Orchards features two championship-caliber courses. The first course, which the qualifier will be played on, opened in 1969 and was designed by architect Robert Trent Jones, a well-known designer who has worked on over 500 courses throughout the world. Affectionately known as “The Jones Course”, this breathtaking set of 18 holes features rolling hills on the front nine and varying dog-legs on the back. The course meanders through acres of woodlands, wetlands, and grasslands. On the back nine, water comes into play on seven holes and the undulating slope of the greens will challenge both astute and novice players. The scorecard for the course from the blue tees is a par-72 that totals 6,614 with a rating of 71.5 and a slope rating of 131.
Results for the NESCAC Golf Championship Qualifier will be available at the completion of each day on the NESCAC website.
2011 NESCAC GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP QUALIFIER
at Lyman Orchards Golf Club - Middlefield, Conn.
Day One - Saturday, Oct. 1
Wave 1 - Colby, Middlebury, Wesleyan - 11:30 a.m.
Wave 2 - Bowdoin, Trinity, Tufts - 12:15 p.m.
Wave 3 - Amherst, Bates, Williams - 1:00 p.m.
Day Two - Sunday, Oct. 2
Wave 1 - Three teams with Highest Cumulative Score from Day One - 11:45 a.m.
Wave 2 - Next three teams with Highest Cumulative Score from Day One - 12:30 p.m.
Wave 3 - Remaining four teams with Lowest Cumulative Score from Day One - 1:15 p.m.