Runners were not the only busy athletes over marathon weekend. The sunny Saturday and Sunday in Rhode Island were home to the Wildcat Spring Invitational and the first team tournament victory for the Tufts program since 2007. The tournament was hosted by Johnson and Wales University at the par-71, 6,495-yard Cranston Country Club. While Tufts had a very successful tournament, first-year Taylor Nordan led the pack as the top individual finisher in the event. Nordan shot a 74 on Saturday and a 71 on Sunday for a combined total of 145, the lowest score at the tournament. He narrowly beat Kevin Wheeler of Nichols College, who scored a combined 146.
“I didn’t really have any expectations, just go out and play well,” Nordan told the Daily in an e-mail. “We [could not] qualify as a team for the NESCAC championship, so this spring was about playing well and proving to ourselves that we have the ability to win.”
Sophomore Owen Elliott, who has himself had a stellar spring, was impressed with his teammate’s clutch play.
“Taylor’s 71 on the second day in the wind was remarkable,” Elliott said. “Also, the performance freshman Michael Lefkowitz put in was amazing in his first tournament of the spring.”
Lefkowitz shot a five-over-par 76 to tie for 12th on Saturday and then shot an 80 on Sunday for an impressive 156 total. Junior Jay Wong had a consistent weekend as well, shooting two 79s as the fourth Tufts scorer on both days.
Elliott also had a successful weekend, shooting a 71 on Saturday, the first day of the tournament, and then shot an 80 on Sunday, putting him in seventh place overall. With four Jumbos posting scores in the 70s, the team ended day one in first place.
“We all hang out before and after the round. But during it, we are out there by ourselves,” Elliott said. “It’s funny, I was standing on the 18th green the second day and I hadn’t played great, so I thought we were out of contention. I had no information about how anybody else on the team was doing until I made that last out, and I heard we had won.”
It turned out to be a great day across the board, as all four of Tufts’ scorers finished in the top 30 out of the 104 golfers in the field.
The first-place finish was an exciting one for the Jumbos, who last won a tournament at the Husson Tournament in Maine on Oct. 7-8, 2007. While now-junior Brendan Koh won the Rhode Island College Spring Invitational in April 2014, no other golfer from Tufts placed first until Nordan’s victory this weekend.
Both Nordan and Elliott described the win as a season highlight. This year, the Jumbos also tied for fifth out of 17 at the Rhode Island College Invitational at Valley Country Club, Warwick, R.I. on April 3-4. The team also tied for eighth of 17 teams at UMass Dartmouth at the Hampton Inn Invitational on April 10-11. The team, coached by Bob Sheldon, ended the spring season on a high note with this victory.
When asked about his thoughts on this season, Elliott was optimistic about the team’s improvement.
“It has been a big step in the right direction,” he said. “We have placed ourselves at the door of breaking into the elite ranks in the NESCAC and qualifying for NCAA next year.”
Nordan agreed with the sentiment.
“[This] season has been better than years past,” he added.
Both Elliott and Nordan are already looking forward to next season. When asked how they felt about the team’s future endeavors, both golfers responded positively.
“I don’t want to make predictions, but we are in a better place now to make the jump up to the top tier of teams in the NESCAC than Tufts golf has been in a long time,” Elliott noted.
Nordan agreed, adding that he hoped the Jumbos would be the best team in the NESCAC and qualify for nationals.