Men’s golf struggles on second day of Princeton Invite

by Jasper Bingham | 4/13/15 5:15pm

For the second week in a row, the men’s golf team could not maintain a consistent performance throughout a two-day weekend tournament. This past weekend, the team traveled south for the annual Princeton Invitational, ultimately tying with Cornell University for 10th place in a field of 13. The Big Green finished the first day of competition in sixth, but fell four positions after shooting 26 over par Sunday as a group, sliding them far out of reach of a top finish.

Rather than playing at host Princeton’s home course — the Springdale Golf Club in Princeton, New Jersey — the men traveled to the Keystone State, competing at two different courses in the Philadelphia area — Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square and Merion Golf Club in Haverford, Pennsylvania. Merion, an internationally-recognized club that has hosted five U.S. Open tournaments, was also the home course for two Big Green golfers in high school — Sean Fahey ’17 and Scott Jaster ’17, the team’s top performer. Jaster did not compete due to a wrist injury sustained last weekend when he hit a tree root with his club. Five other Ivy League schools also attended the invitational, with only Harvard and Columbia Universities not represented.

The first day at Aronimink saw Edric Wung ’18, the only Big Green athlete competing as an individual, put up the best numbers on the team, as he scored one over par and finished fifth overall. Among the team competitors, Fahey was at the top, shooting a 72 on the 6970-yard, par-70 course, which put him in 10th. He was followed by Charlie Edler ’15, tied in 18th with a 74, Ian Kelsey ’18, tied at 26th with a 75 and Charles Cai ’16, who finished with a 78 to tie in 40th. Jeffrey Lang ’17 got off to a slow start, rounding out the group with an 82.

Although the Big Green would golf on a course nearly 500 yards shorter on Sunday, they could not take advantage of the change in venue, and the team’s position in the top half of the field slipped away. Fahey, who anchored the team on the first day, shot 20 over par, putting him out of the scoring and dropping him 54 spots in the individual standings. Cai showed the best performance in the second round for the Big Green, recording a 75 — five over par. He was followed by Edler with a 76, Lang with a 77 and Kelsey with a 78. Wung could not quite repeat his impressive individual play from the first day, turning in a 79 at Merion and dropping to 24th overall.Head coach Rich Parker was surprised to see the discrepancy in Fahey’s play between the two days, but said the team as a whole could have put on a better performance.

“You just never know what’s going to happen when you go to your home course,” Parker said. “[Fahey] just got off to a bad start, and it turned into a snowball effect for him… [but] it’s not [his] fault we played bad… we didn’t make any putts, and it’s a team game.”The results at Princeton were disappointing for the team, who just last weekend experienced a similar letdown after dropping from first place on the opening day of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of the Lehigh Valley Collegiate Invitational to eighth by Sunday evening. There, the team carded a 296 in the first round — tied for the best score in the field — before turning in a 315 in the second, the worst overall score.

Parker noted that some of the team’s recent struggles can be attributed to a lack of effective practice space, particularly for chipping and putting.

“Our course won’t be open again this year until the season’s over, and the outdoor range at Fore-U [Golf Center] just opened,” Parker said. “These aren’t excuses, they’re just facts. My kids are getting frustrated, I can sense the frustration, but we just need to buckle down.”

Lang agreed, noting that there are tangible decreases in performance that result from having to practice at Leverone Field House.

“What you get in Leverone is artificial turf where you can practice your stroke and practice technically — but you really can’t get a feel for anything you would see out on the course,” Lang said. “A lot of the guys who are rusty will lose anywhere between three and five strokes a round just from lack of feel that you can’t get inside.”Edler, on the other hand, did not credit the team’s performance to the importance of the practice restrictions, remarking that the team is usually rusty at this time of year.

“Being confined to Leverone definitely plays a small role in our performance in the spring, but I think a bigger part of it — with all Northeast schools really — is just coming off of the winter break,” Edler said. “I think we’re still just brushing off the rust, I’m not really worried about our performance going forward — it’s just part of the winter.”

The team looks to make a strong showing next weekend against North Carolina State University in a head-to-head matchup in Raleigh before the Ivy League Championships, which start April 24 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Lang hopes the tournament against NC State will be an effective final tune-up for the Big Green before they square off against their conference foes.

“It’s a good place and a good setting to prepare for Ivies, and that’s the point because Ivies is obviously our Holy Grail — it’s what we work towards every year,” Lang said. “Heading to NC State, getting to play with some good competition, some warm weather, get some reps in…it’s a good way to prepare.”

Edler also commented that the matchup in North Carolina is an unusual opportunity for the team to see how it fares against non-regional competition, particularly because this marks the first time the team is playing in this tournament.

“We usually stick to the Northeast in the spring and try to keep the traveling nice and simple,” he said. “We’re trying to get out of our comfort zone, play some teams in the South, play some players we aren’t used to playing and just see how we stack up nationally.”