Sports

Golf teams teed up for spring season after five-month break

By
Sports Staff Writer
Monday, March 21, 2011

Even though the men’s and women’s golf teams play the same sport, they still somehow find a way to be polar opposites. Both squads resume their seasons in the upcoming weeks after a five-month furlough between their spring and fall campaigns, but they will be looking at them very differently.

“I look at it as we are in the middle of our season, not that the fall season has ended,” said women’s Head Coach Danielle Griffiths before the break. “With women’s college golf, everything counts, so our spring is just as important as our fall.”

But for the men’s squad, winning its Ivy League tournament — held April 22-24 for both men and women — is essentially the only means of entry into the NCAA Championship. As a result, the championship and the tournaments leading up to it take on an increased significance.

“Definitely the spring is much more important,” said men’s golfer J.D. Ardell ’13. “When you go through the fall season and then you have this big break, it’s almost like you’re starting all over again. You go from fall season where you’re riding the momentum guys have from playing all summer long, and there’s really no weight in those tournaments. The Ivies is like it is in basketball — you basically have to win your conference to get to the NCAAs.”

“Certainly, we want to be competitive in the fall,” said men’s Head Coach Micahel Hughes, “but the only route that we have to get to the NCAAs, which obviously is the ultimate goal, would be for us to win the Ivy League championship.”

The two squads also concluded the fall season with vastly different results. The men struggled in the fall, failing to finish better than 10th in any of their five tournaments.

The women cracked the top 10 in every tournament, including a first-place finish at the Northern Illinois Open in October, where they set a school record for one-day low score.

“We had a great fall, and hopefully we can build upon that,” said Megan Tuohy ’12. “I think it motivates us, and we come back out really wanting to play.”

Both teams suffered a setback over the break when their normal practice facility, the Eagle Quest Golf Dome in West Warwick, collapsed due to snow accumulation. It remains closed.

“It’s difficult not having an indoor facility like some schools, especially like some Big Ten schools or other Ivies,” Ardell said. “For us, we kind of need to wait for everything to thaw out to go to the range and then even longer for it to dry to be able to get out onto the course.”

As a result of this year’s harsh weather in the northeast, both squads begin their season in warmer locales. The women first travel to South Carolina March 20-21 and then to Seaside, Calif. March 28-29. The men open their spring season in Santa Barbara, Calif. March 28-29 and then travel to Arizona April 2.

“We’re the last team that has spring break in the Ivy League, so consequently, we’re the last team to play in warm weather before we start our schedule here in the northeast,” Hughes said. “A lot of teams are playing in warm weather now and are going to have to come back to the cold weather. I think it’s a huge advantage for us to have spring break so late because when we come back, hopefully the weather should be good.”

As the teams gear up for the Ivy championships, the men’s and women’s rosters look very different. The women have a wealth of experience, featuring a majority of upperclassmen. The Ivy League Championship is being held this year at Atlantic City Country Club, the same location where it was played two years ago when many of the Bears were beginning their Brown careers.

“I think our experience will definitely work in our favor,” Tuohy said. “My freshman year, we played at Atlantic City, so I think every one of us has seen the course before and played it. I think that having been there a couple of times will help put it all into perspective, and we will enter it with a little more confidence.”

The men’s squad has much less experience, with only one senior and one junior at the helm. Their Ivy championship is being held at Galloway National Golf Course in New Jersey, a location with which none of the players are familiar.  

“We’re a very, very young team,” Hughes said. “We’re playing with the majority of kids as freshmen and sophomores, and none of us have ever played at the Galloway Club before. We have our hands full. Some of the Ivy teams have played there with some of their older players three or four times.”

Hughes has high expectations for his team, but he said he finds it hard to predict how they are going to perform.

“My prognostication skills are so bad,” he said. “Every time I think we are going to play great, we don’t, and whenever I have a bad feeling, we play good. I think if we finish in the upper echelon, which would be fourth or better, it would be a great showing by this team.”

But Griffiths has a systematic way of predicting her team’s performance.

“Every semester since I’ve been here, we’ve gotten one place better,” she said. “We’re definitely trying to climb the ladder. We started at sixth (in 2009), and this past season we were fifth, so we want to climb another spot again.”

For the players, the Ivy championship is a momentous tournament, but for Ardell, the most important thing is keeping it in context.

“Will it be tough for a freshman the first day just because it feels like this is the one tournament that really matters? It could be,” he said. “I’d be lying if I didn’t say there were some nerves involved last year for me. It’s the big show. It’s the one that matters for us, but at the same time, in the end, a golf tournament is a golf tournament.”

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