Men’s golf opens season with back-to-back tournament wins
This weekend’s two-day tournament came down to just one stroke for the men’s golf team, in its second straight tournament win, this one at Cornell University’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Course. Driven by Ian Kelsey ’18 in his first college tournament, the Big Green won the 15-team tournament by just one stroke over the University of Delaware and the University of Pennsylvania.
Kelsey was Dartmouth’s top performer in the tournament, finishing with a seven-over-par 220 through three rounds. This score tied Kelsey for third, just two strokes behind the eventual winner, senior Blake Carter from Longwood University.
The freshman was in the catbird seat entering the final few holes, but a mishap cost him a chance at an individual victory in his debut.
“I ended up putting one OB [out-of-bounds] on 16,” Kelsey said. “It turned out to be pretty costly because I had the tournament pretty much won if I had parred those last three. I’m just glad that we ended up winning by one stroke, so every shot really counted.”
Though the Ivy League championship comes each spring season, the fall’s five tournaments allow the men’s team to train and assess players’ strengths, Charles Cai ’16 said.
Cai, Scott Jaster ’17 and Dylan Rusk ’16, who all finished inside the top 20, were other standout performers. Rusk competed as an independent in the tournament, so his scores did not count toward the Big Green’s total, though he gained valuable experience, head coach Rich Parker said.
Parker also lauded Jaster’s performance, saying that, besides Saturday’s final three holes, he “has pretty much played perfect golf.”
“He made a 20-footer on the last hole for a triple bogey, and since we only won by one stroke, he was joking that that was the putt won it for us,” Parker said.
With 75 players competing over 54 holes, the close margin of victory stood out to Parker.
“You can do the math,” he said. “For it to come down to one stroke is crazy, but it’s a valuable lesson.”
The Big Green’s win at the Cornell Invitational marked its second straight tournament win, after a two-stroke victory at the Bucknell Invitational the previous weekend.
Dartmouth’s worst score of the day came in the third round, where it slotted last of the top-four finishers. By that time, however, the Big Green had built enough of a cushion to hold on for the win.
“The second and third place teams were also struggling in the third round, and we weren’t playing as well,” Cai said. “We thought there was a chance that a team in fourth or fifth place could catch us. At that point, we’re not sure what’s going on with the rest of the field, so we’re all just trying to shoot the best score we can.”
Weekend conditions were trying in Ithaca. High winds made the fast, slick greens even more difficult for putting, changing the break of a number of putts.
The hardest part of “playing the wind,” Parker said, is putting.
“It’s hard to keep your balance, and if you get a little left-to-right putt and the wind’s blowing left to right, it really affects the ball,” he said.
Kelsey led all golfers in scoring on the par-fours, closing at three-over-par on the par-four holes over the course of the tournament.
Cai’s specialty for the weekend was the par-fives. He finished five-under-par on the par-fives over the tournament, second among all of the golfers in the field.
“The interesting thing is, I’m definitely not one of the longer hitters on our team,” Cai said. “The par-fives are the longer holes where typically some of the bigger hitters can reach [the green] in 2. I was just playing the par-fives smart and hitting it close and giving myself good looks to make putts. I didn’t have a specific strategy, but it happened that the holes I played well on were par-fives.”
This is the only time in Parker’s 10-year tenure that the team has opened its season with back-to-back wins. The Big Green had not won multiple tournaments in the same fall since 2011.
The Big Green looks to continue its success this weekend against competitive teams, including Harvard University, Temple University, the University of Hartford and the University of Connecticut at the Quechee Club Invitational.