Men’s golf ends season 3rd in NESCAC

Men’s golf finished the season with a disappointing third-place finish at the NESCAC Championship at Neshobe Golf Course this weekend. The men posted rounds of 314 and 302 on Saturday and Sunday to finish 21 shots behind host Middlebury, who earned the conference’s sole bid to the NCAA tournament. The loss overshadows the 14th consecutive Little Three Championship that the Ephs captured earlier in the week. The competition featured a Ryder Cup format in which players team up in the morning for alternate shot matches against pairs from both schools and then play individual matches against a single opponent from each school in the afternoon. The men dispatched Amherst 9.5 to 2.5 and Wesleyan 11 to 1 on their home Taconic Golf Club for the title.

“The cool weather and gusty winds played some factor in the higher scores Saturday,” Head Coach Rick Pohle said of the NESCAC championship.

“We struggled with a few bad breaks, some poor execution and mentally some breakdowns in decision making. However, I was proud to see how we responded on the second day of the tournament; our players showed a lot of character in a situation where they could have just packed it in. We had a nice discussion before the round and I let them know that I wasn’t disappointed in them, but that I was disappointed for them because they wanted to go out on a high note and probably pushed a bit too hard in round one.”

The men stepped onto the tee Sunday afternoon looking to stage a dramatic comeback and close the 12-shot deficit that separated them from Middlebury. Unfortunately, there were a few too many tough breaks and bad swings to apply any pressure. Jack Ervasti ’13 led the way with a two-over-par 74 for a two-day total of 154 and a ninth-place finish. Co-captains Jake Wagner ’11, Bob Camp ’11 and Jack Killea ’11 followed close behind with rounds of 75, 76 and 76 for two-day totals of 153, 153 and 158, respectively. Wagner and Camp tied for seventh overall, while Killea finished in 16th. Co-captain Drew Murray ’11 battled for a 78 – a one-shot improvement on his first round – and a two-day total of 157 for a 13th-place result.

“We didn’t have the magic this weekend,” Wagner said. “[We] got beat pretty soundly by Middlebury. They played inspired golf, and we are obviously pretty disappointed with our play right now.”

On Wednesday, the men hosted Amherst and Wesleyan at Taconic Golf Club. The Ephs jumped out to a quick start in the morning in the alternate shot matches, as the teams of Wagner and Murray, Killea and Ervasti and rookies Ross Bowen ’14 and Dylan Dethier ’14 each won both of their matches against their counterparts from Wesleyan and Amherst. Camp and Wyatt Sparks ’13 also attained a decisive seven-and-six victory over their opponents from Amherst, giving the men a 4-0 lead over the Jeffs and a 3-1 lead over the Cardinals heading into the afternoon singles session.

The men continued to dominate in the afternoon matches. Bowen and Dethier set the tone, closing their opponents out by the 12th hole and bringing the Ephs within a half point of clinching the title with six matches still out on the course. Camp, Ervasti and Murray also swept their afternoon matches after some hard-fought battles. Murray was the first to finish and earned the decisive point that retained the title for the 14th year in a row. Killea then earned a convincing five-and-four victory over his opponent from Wesleyan and halved his Amherst match. Finally, Wagner and Sparks were each able to earn a victory against the Cardinals, but they fell short in their matches against the Jeffs.

Despite their unsuccessful bid for the NCAA championship, the men finish the season having won the Little Three, as well as four other titles in the year.

“It’s hard to believe four years of NESCAC golf are over,” Wagner said in reference to the end of his collegiate career. “But we know the team is in good hands for years to come. On behalf of all the seniors, I want to thank Coach Pohle for everything he has done over the last four years.”

“I told the seniors that falling short of their goal to win the championship should not diminish what they have accomplished over the past four years,” Pohle said. “They rank up among the top classes that I have had at Williams in my 28 years here. We have some very big shoes to fill in the fall, but I am confident that we have the players already on board to step right in and continue the success our program has enjoyed for so many years.”

The senior class graduates as the winningest class in recent memory, but the team will return 12 members next year. The men also expect to add a few rookies to the roster for its fall season.