Golf wins fifth straight Little Three crown

“Unbelievably insulted” at being mistakenly identified as a Hoosier last week, Chris Mihm ’03 concluded the spring season with competitive fires burning even more fiercely than before. On May 1, he and the rest of men’s golf traveled over the Berkshires and down Interstate 91 to Durham, Conn. for the Little Three tournament hosted by Wesleyan. The Ephmen played solidly across the board and won their fifth consecutive Little Three victory trophy.

Amherst and Wesleyan proved no match for the Eph golfers. Williams defeated Amherst by a score of 10-2 and beat Wesleyan 9-3. Amherst squeaked out a measure of consolation by besting Wesleyan 8-4 and taking second place, leaving the host Cardinals thoroughly embarrassed on their home course.

The tournament was played at Lyman Orchards Golf Club, a Robert Trent Jones layout that plays over 7,000 yards from the tips. The front nine wind through old apple orchards and past the Lyman homestead house, a large white colonial building overlooking the river valley. The course includes several long straight-away par fours, a lengthy uphill par three and a dogleg par-5 reachable in two shots for long hitters.

The back nine fall off into a low-lying area below the hillside orchards. Water comes into play on almost every hole on the back, and little streams wind across the fairway on the 11th and 14th holes. Jones designed the course with the philosophy “hard par, easy bogey” in mind on every hole. Therefore, with smart play one can avoid big numbers, but the long, undulating greens make pars and birdies difficult to obtain.

Little Threes are traditionally contested through match play instead of the usual stroke play scoring, meaning that players do not keep track of their overall individual scores but rather compete directly against their competitors on a hole-by-hole basis. Match play involves strategic dimensions that are not at issue during stroke play.

Because the golfers are playing against each other, their decisions are influenced by the play of their competitor. If one golfer hits into a water hazard with his tee shot, his competitor will play the hole extremely conservatively, because par will definitely win him a point while bogey should at least be good enough to tie.

As one might guess, match play is best suited for golfers with nerves of steel and an intensely competitive spirit. As such, the format was ideally suited to the veteran golfers on the Eph squad. Playing as underdogs from the start, the Lord Jeffs and Cardinals took too many risks early on and faded quickly, and with par after par, the Ephs punished mistakes and left little room for a counter-attack.

“We were obviously pleased to beat both teams by such convincing margins,” Mihm said. “It means a lot to say you’ve won Little Three each year you’ve been at Williams.”

Mihm also managed to finish off his personal career performance at Little Three’s with a symmetrical flair. “I played a great individual match in the afternoon,” Mihm said. “I never trailed and made a six-footer for birdie on the last hole to win, a great final memory on the same hole where, freshman year, my partner David Feigenbuam ’01 made an eight-footer for birdie to win our alternate shot match on the last hole.”

With their impressive showing, the team captured a bid to the National tournament, to be held from May 12 through May 15 in Delaware, Ohio. “Our goal is definitely a top ten finish,” Mihm said. “All of us are starting to play a little better now, and we’re hoping to continue that level of play, and improve on it in Ohio.”