Jumbos just miss at NESCAC Championship Qualifier

Senior tri-captain Owen Elliott drives from the third tee at the Newbury Invitational on Sept. 23, 2015. This invitational was the first golf tournament he has won. (Evan Sayles / The Tufts Daily Archive)

Coach George Pendergast’s squad narrowly missed out on qualifying for the NESCAC championships last weekend, as the Jumbos placed fifth at the NESCAC qualifier tournament. A week prior to the NESCAC qualifier, Tufts put together a solid two-day performance at the Williams Invitational that saw the team secure its highest finish thus far this season, tying Middlebury for third place.

Tufts followed up on its strong performance at the Williams Invitational with an encouraging display at the NESCAC qualifiers, hosted by Middlebury College at The Ralph Myhre Golf Course. Though the Jumbos just missed out on qualification, their performance was vastly improved from the beginning of the season. Just two weeks ago, the Jumbos scored 626 at the Duke Nelson Invitational, also held at Ralph Myhre. This time around, they shaved 21 shots, posting a 605.

“I think the team played terrifically well,” senior tri-captain Owen Elliott told the Daily in an email. “On Sunday, four out of five of us had our career-best scores at the Ralph. 605 is a great team score, it just came up a bit short this week. The thing that is super disappointing is that all of the NESCAC schools were at Williams the weekend before and we finished T3 which would have qualified. It just happened that Amherst careered the week of the NESCAC qualifier and thus a merely good week by us was not enough.”

Tufts was also shorthanded for the day, as first-year Ethan Sorkin caught norovirus the day before the tournament, leaving sophomore Justin Feldman to take his starting place on short notice. Feldman successfully stepped in, posting a 158 total on the back of a 75 on Sunday. Only Elliott had a better round for Tufts on Sunday with a 73.

“A half hour before we were going to leave for the NESCACs I got a call from Health Services saying Ethan Sorkin can’t go, he’s got the norovirus,” Pendergast said. “He couldn’t even go on the van because its a highly contagious virus, so we literally had to pull Justin Feldman out of bed a half an hour before we left and he played well.”

A tie-breaker was necessary to determine the winner of the tournament because Williams and Trinity both finished with a two-day score of 585. The Ephs emerged victorious since, according to NESCAC rules, the team with the best score from its fifth golfer wins. Senior tri-captain Jacob Watt-Morse won the day for Williams with a total score of 154. 

Elliott was impressive in both tournaments, especially at the Williams Invitational where seven birdies across two days carried the senior to a first place finish. It is no surprise, then, that on Tuesday, Elliott was named to the NESCAC All-Conference Second Team for the third consecutive semester.

“It was special to win at Taconic,” Elliott told the Daily in an email.  “It is a phenomenal course with a rich history. I finished bogey, birdie, birdie, bogey, birdie, so it was a real rollercoaster coming in.”

Elliott’s birdie on 18 ensured the first under-par round for a Tufts golfer this year — he finished the tournament with an 143 — but it took more than just Elliott’s brilliant weekend to secure a top three finish for Tufts. Junior tri-captain Taylor Nordan posted two sub-80 rounds and finished tied for 12th with a combined score of 152. Tufts’ third and fourth scorers, junior tri-captain Aaron Corn and first-year Brandon Karr, were consistent both days as Corn hit 79s and Karr 83s. Sorkin rounded out the Jumbo scorers with a two-day total of 169.

The Jumbos have three weeks of practice before their next tournament, and despite missing out on the NESCACs, the team is in high spirits.

“The team is terrific; chemistry, talent and commitment are all super high,” Elliott told the Daily in an email. “We’re going to have a couple of fun weeks of practice where we have some internal competitions.”

Tufts will look to continue its good run of form into the New England Championships in Brewster, Massachusetts on Oct. 23-24.