Over the semester’s first weekend, the Wesleyan golf team trekked north up the I-91 to the Bill Detrick Invitational hosted by Trinity College for the year’s first tournament. Though they returned home Sunday evening at the bottom of the scorecard, the Cards showed great promise for the season to come.
The Dirty Birdies arrived in Hartford with a lineup largely unchanged from last year, having lost only two players to graduation. Their scorecard this weekend covered a wide spread of class years, with captain Zach Lambros BA/MA ’18 continuing to lead the team with support from seniors Andrew Rachlin and Brian Gerner.
The Cardinals came out swinging in round one on Saturday, finishing the day with a team score of 408, good enough for 8th out of the 11 teams gathered. It was the first time in school history that all six Cardinal duffers carded scores under 90, a remarkable achievement, especially on the year’s first outing.
However, the Dirty Birdies became the Dirty Bogies on Sunday, as the team failed to convert on opportunities that had been well-met the day before. Elliot Witdorchic ’20, a second-year talent, was unable to match his impressive 83 from Saturday, shooting a 98 on Sunday for a tournament total of 181. Though Lambros finished the day with his second consecutive 78, good enough for an 18th-place finish, he was still disappointed; an uncharacteristic choke cost him three strokes on the tournament’s final two holes, leaving him to return to Wes on Sunday night six over par.
“I was hitting the ball really well on Sunday, but some late mental slips cost me,” he darkly recalled about his 17th hole. “It was this long par three. I pulled my tee shot to 25 ft, but my mind wandered as I went to follow it up and I scalded it. So then I had to chase that down and lipped the next putt before finally tapping in a bogey. Then on the next hole, the last one of the weekend, which is this weird blind uphill dogleg par 5, I knew that I was supposed to be aiming for the [reference point], which is the only way to know where to go, but I had a pretty weird line and pulled [my shot] left and into the rough, costing me a stroke. It was a pretty rough way to finish things off.”
One reason behind the team’s poor performance on Sunday, Lambros noted, was that the course requires familiarity to be able to play it soundly.
“[Indian Hill Country Club] is just quintessential New England,” observed the proud southern Colorado native. “It’s super weird at points because, if it’s your first time playing it, you’ll be getting ready to swing and just realize you have no idea where you should be aiming.”
He noted that this is a trait characteristic of older New England courses, which tend to have more hidden quirks than in other regions, forcing players to know what to expect and draw on past experience with the course if they hope to perform well. This element should have pushed the Cards’ scores down on Sunday, as it did to several other teams (Elms College, for example, cut 13 strokes on Sunday from their collective Saturday score). Instead, the Birdies took an extra 44 swings, costing them three spots in the final standings. Lambros guessed that the unusual success of Saturday may have subconsciously spooked the team.
“You know, it was our first tournament back, and all of the sudden we’re not last,” he commented wryly, referencing the team’s historic tendency towards the bottom of the scorecard. “That was probably a pretty bad and distracting thought for all of us. We were just too focused on scoring, and not focused enough on the shot in front of us.”
At the final count, Wesleyan Golf finished with a team score of 408-452-860 (Saturday score, Sunday score, combined score). Lambros’ twin 78s left him at 156, while the 170 from Andrew Rachlin ’18 left him tied for 51st overall. Josh Rubin ’18, Emmet Daly ’18, and Witdorchic followed up with a 178, 179, and 181 respectively. Brian Gerner ’18, a veteran Dirty Birdie, was hampered by 18 extra strokes on Sunday, leaving his remarkable Saturday score of 83 overshadowed by a weekend total of 184.
Despite the unusual pattern of the weekend, the tournament bodes well for the Cards’ hopes in the coming year. The record-setting Saturday performance showed the talent present in the team, waiting to come out next weekend at Middlebury College.
Jonas Powell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.