Williams won the NESCAC Fall Qualifier at Middlebury’s Ralph Myhre Golf Course in a tight match that was decided by a tiebreaker, securing a place and home field advantage in the spring championship.
The four teams that qualified finished within two shots of each other. Williams and Trinity both finished with scores of 585, but Williams’ fifth-highest scorer on Sunday outplayed Trinity’s, giving the men the tiebreaker. Amherst was one stroke off the pace at 586, and host Middlebury will join the field in the spring due to its two-day total of 587. These four teams were all nearly 20 shots clear of the rest of the field thanks to some remarkable individual performances.
No player from any team played quite as well as Amherst first-year Cameron Clark, who backed up his two-under 69 on Saturday with a one-under 70 on Sunday that made him the medalist of the tournament and NESCAC Player of the Year. Normally, a score of 139 would win this tournament by several shots, but Will Rosenfield of Trinity fell short of Clark’s number by just one shot, firing a second round score of 68 that was the lowest of the weekend. Three Middlebury golfers finished at 73 or below: Rodrigo Andrade, Jeffrey Giguere and Reid Buzby.
For Williams, after tri-captains Grant Raffel ’17 and Ross Hoffman ’17 recorded matching rounds of 70 on Saturday, it was the underclassmen’s turn to lead the way. Will Kannegieser ’20 and Sam Goldenring ’20 finished the final round with scores of 71 and 73 respectively, initiating the Eph charge to the top of the leaderboard. Raffel and tri-captain Jacob Watt-Morse ’17 added a 75 and 76 to give Williams their second day score of 295.
Williams held the overnight lead over Trinity by one shot, which Trinity made up for with their final round score of 294. The tiebreaker is the fifth-highest individual score from day two, which Williams won because Hoffman edged Trinity’s Cam O’Connell 79 to 80. One shot over the course of two rounds could have come from anywhere, but, in this case, it seems clear where the one-shot difference came from. Hoffman stepped onto the eighteenth tee box needing a birdie to shoot 79, but also knowing that his score probably would not count toward the team total. He promptly striped a drive down the middle of the fairway, knocked his approach to six feet and drained the putt. The meaning of that putt became clear 20 minutes later when the scores were finalized.
“The entire team has been playing well for the past few weeks and just now are really coming into form,” Head Coach Josh Hillman said. “We set a game plan and stuck to it.
“As the day grew on you could tell the four teams we were playing with were close. Very close. Not many putts were dropping for us until the very end and then Ross Hoffman made birdie on 18, Will Kanneigier made birdie on 17, Grant Raffel birdied 18, Sam Goldenring birdied 17. It was exciting.”
The win for the men will give them home course advantage at the NESCAC Championships this spring after three years in a row of the championship being played at Middlebury. The Ephs have one more event on their schedule this fall, a tri-match with Middlebury and Trinity that will be played at Ekwanok Country Club in Manchester, Vermont on Oct. 11.