After strong recruitment, golf chasing trip to Nationals

Junior tri-captain Aaron Corn drives the ball from the third tee at the Newbury Invitational on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015. (Evan Sayles / The Tufts Daily)

The 2015-16 golf season was not entirely successful for the Jumbos. Tufts narrowly missed out on qualifying for the NESCAC tournament, finishing sixth in the qualifier at Williams. That left Tufts 19 strokes behind fourth-place Amherst for the final qualifying spot.

The season nevertheless had its bright spots, the best of which was the team’s success at the Newbury College Nighthawk Invitational, where they shot an overall 7-over par. Senior tri-captain Owen Elliot and junior tri-captain Aaron Corn both shot even-par 70s for the best rounds of the tournament, and junior Mike Lefkowitz tied for third at 1-over 71. The remaining two Jumbos, Jay Wong (LA ’16) and junior Glenn Van Winkle, also finished in the top-20 to complete the best moment of 2015. At the Williams qualifier, the Jumbos shot 647 over the course of two days, while Elliot led the way with a 152 overall. His 12-over par score ranked 9th individually after two days.

The less successful season was due in part to a thin roster; there were too few players on the team and that lack of depth proved to be a disadvantage. However, after strong off-season recruitment, coach George Pendergast said that this issue should be resolved for the 2016-17 season.

“We had a couple of upperclassmen who were not playing because they were either overseas or doing internships… The pre-med players had [other commitments on the weekends] so they couldn’t play,” Pendergast said. “We had a difficult time getting five really good golfers into tournaments and so we didn’t do very well. But the contrast to that is recruiting has been awesome – we have 10 or 11 kids – including five to six [first-years] and sophomores. We’re going from being very thin to all of a sudden we have really good depth of really good quality.”

Golf graduated just two seniors last year, their co-captains, Wong and Brendan Koh (LA ’16), and the team is excited at the prospect of a large recruiting class. 

“We just wrapped up an informal preseason in the Berkshires last week where a few of the [first-years] came,” Elliot said. “We played a bunch of golf, hung about, swam and played pool. During those rounds, I think all of the returning players were very impressed with the level of play we saw from the incoming [first-years]. We have also heard good things about the other [first-years] coming to tryouts, so we are very hopeful for this upcoming season.”

As the team looks forward to the new year, Corn said that the team has worked hard to prepare for a better season.

“Golf is a sport where preparation is what wins us tournaments,” Corn wrote to the Daily in an email. “Yes, you have to play well to win, but if you don’t prepare the right way, you won’t play well. Each of us worked really hard on our games this summer, and hopefully that hard work will pay off this year. We had a really successful preseason where the team bonded and practiced together, and I am really looking forward to getting the season started.”

The Jumbos’ opening round is at the Detrick Invitational on Friday, Sept. 10. With their numbers increased, the team is quietly confident that they can perform better.

“Given the depth that we have this year, I’m certainly hoping for a top 10 but I think it’s a realistic goal to finish in the top five – and in a bigger picture way, we’re trying for a real goal that’s not been done which is to finish in the top four of NESCAC, which I think we’ve a realistic chance at this year,” Pendergast said.

Entering his last year on the team, Elliot wants to build on the encouraging performances that the team has demonstrated of late, moving past simply decent performances to actually competing for hardware.

“The team wants to win NESCACs, plain and simple,” Elliot said. “Although we grew up in the age of participation trophies, we are tired of finishing fifth. We have the talent to do it this year, and I would love to make it to nationals in my last year.”


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