Tufts wrapped up its fall campaign on Monday with a respectable seventh-place finish at the 84th annual NEIGA Championship, hosted by The Captains Golf Course in Brewster, Mass. Tufts finished with a total score of 636, powering through both the 23-team field and challenging conditions. The mark was 23 strokes behind eventual winner Babson, which finished with a score of 613 and leapt the first-round leader, Williams, on Monday to capture the top spot.
The Jumbos posted a score of 320 on Day 1 to place ninth and improved their score by four strokes on Sunday to move up two places. Tufts’ second-round mark of 316 was one stroke off of Western New England’s 315 but it propelled the team ahead of both Johnson & Wales and Endicott, who finished tied for eighth with matching 638s.
The tournament occurred during an ugly stretch of weather, which significantly affected the players’ performance. Coach George Pendergast revealed that the Jumbos battled through windy, rainy and cold conditions, with sub-50° temperatures.
“It was probably the toughest conditions I’ve ever played in,” sophomore Alex Honigford said.
The challenging weather reflected in the teams’ performances. Williams took the first-round lead despite shooting a 22-over 310, while Babson, the eventual winner, finished the tournament at 37-over par. Strong winds veered shots off-course, forcing players to play low punch shots, and a saturated course led to uneven lies and slowed balls from the fairway to the green. Of the top 10 teams, the average two-round score was 52.6 shots over par.
While the course did not do the Jumbos any favors, Pendergast praised his players for their preparedness.
“One of our strong points is [that] we always seem to play well with bad conditions,” Pendergast said. “We usually prepare well; we dress warmly. We thrive in bad conditions, and we take some pride in that.”
The Jumbos focused on minimizing mistakes on a course latent with danger and working with the conditions they were given. Pendergast praised the team’s putting, which was made more challenging by soggy and unpredictable greens.
Tufts also played the match without some of its more experienced players, as Pendergast revealed that junior Brandon Karr and senior co-captain Justin Feldman sat out to focus on midterm exams. The veteran duo was replaced by players who played sparingly throughout the fall in senior co-captain Brian Creonte and first-year Travis Clauson. In his first college appearance, Clauson was a bright spot on the Jumbos’ scorecard, carding an eight-over 80 in the first round and a four-over 76 in the second round. The Martinez, Calif. native’s Monday score was especially impressive, as only 11 other golfers in the 113-strong field carded a score of 76 or better on Day 2.
“We were happy to play a couple of the new players, and they did really well,” Pendergast said.
Honigford led the way for the Jumbos, finishing in a tie for 11th thanks to a superb pair of rounds. He closed out the first round with a 5-over 77 and showed a steely consistency by carding a 6-over 78 the next day. Honigford’s Day 1 score of 77 was just four strokes behind the tournament’s individual champion, Middlebury senior co-captain Reid Buzby. Meanwhile, Buzby’s co-leader after the first round, Worcester State first-year Jake Poitras, fell into a tie for 16th after posting a 12-over 84 on Monday.
Meanwhile, Tufts sophomore Harry Theodore finished tied for 30th with a 16-over 160, Creonte (21-over 165) tied for 59th and first-year Mac Bredahl carded a 25-over 169 to tie for 81st.
The Jumbos were pleased with their performance at Cape Cod, feeling that it wrapped up their fall slate on a positive note.
“Overall, we did a good job battling through the conditions to finish out a very successful fall season with a solid effort,” Honigford said.
Earlier this month, Tufts secured a bid to the NESCAC Championship, which will take place in April, with a fourth-place finish at the conference qualifying tournament. The squad could look different in the spring based on the players’ performance, but the team will look to return the same fierce competition and spirited play that defined its string of success in the fall.