Men’s golf falls just one stroke short of third NESCAC title

So close yet so far was the order of the day as men’s golf fell by a single stroke this past weekend to fall short in its bid to earn a third consecutive NESCAC tournament title.

Though the team was motivated by the urge to avenge its loss to Middlebury at the Skidmore Invitational a week earlier, for the second straight week a solid team effort fell just short of victory.

With a school record score on the final day of competition, the Middlebury Panthers edged the disappointed Eph squad by the narrowest of margins.

The tournament opened on Saturday at Middlebury’s Ralph Myre golf course, where the Ephs had emerged victorious over a strong field in their first tournament of the year.

Low scores were difficult to come by on the first day. Strong winds made it tough for players to keep the ball in the fairway and hold the greens with their approach shots.

The greens themselves had been recently aerated, which meant that many well-struck putts were diverted offline by bumps and holes.

Putting proved especially difficult for Aaron Flink ’04, who struggled en route to an opening 82.

“I was obviously disappointed with my first round,” Flink said. “I actually hit the ball all right, but my putter was very unreliable and let me down on numerous instances.”

Will Sicks ’03 and David Mihm ’03 both had their swings working on Saturday, and turned in impressive rounds of 74 and 76, respectively.

The Ephs went into Sunday’s second round of competition trailing Tufts by seven shots, but two strokes ahead of Middlebury.

Although the early golfers teed off in temperatures around 40 degrees, the weather warmed up as the day went on, and without much wind the course played easier than it had the day before. The team rose to the occasion. Flink rebounded from his disappointing Saturday round with a 74, and Sicks and Mihm shot a 76 and a 75, good enough to be named to the all-NESCAC first team.

The scoring was rounded out by Will Sirignano ’06, who struggled slightly and finished with an 82. Having turned in an impressive two-day total of 614, the team had to wait and see if their score would hold up against Middlebury and Tufts.

Tufts faltered from its strong opening performance, finishing at 617. However, Middlebury took advantage of their knowledge of their home course to shoot a 301 on Sunday, giving the Panthers a two-day total of 613, one stroke better than the Ephs.

“It was too bad that we couldn’t pull out a victory,” Flink said. “It would have been nice to end my Williams career with three straight victories at the NESCACs. Middlebury had their school-best tournament round, so you have to give credit where credit is due.”

Mihm also expressed disappointment over the near miss, but felt optimistic about the team’s chances at future tournaments. “I think that the four seniors are excited to have played well in our last round at that golf course. Our scores there on Sunday may actually give us some confidence as we wind down the fall season.”

The team endured another frustrating finish earlier in the week at the ECAC qualifying tournament in Saratoga Springs, NY. Williams came into the day ranked 13th among Div. III schools, the best of any school in the Northeast and four spots ahead of Skidmore, which always fields an excellent team. Every Eph golfer played reasonably well. The team turned in five solid rounds in the mid to high 70s, led by Sirignano’s 76.

Williams was the only team in the field to have all five golfers shoot in the 70s, but as only the top four scores of each team count in the final standings, the impressive demonstration of depth was ultimately inconsequential.

As no one shot a particularly low score, the day’s total of 308 put the Ephs in eighth place. The top seven teams advance to the ECAC championship, so Williams fell just short of the mark and will not compete in the championship at Rochester next week. Skidmore took home the top prize with a score of 290.

The next test for the linksmen will come at home on Oct. 12 and 13, when the team hosts the Eph Classic.