After a short but eventful season, Wesleyan’s golf team packed up their putters on Sunday, Oct. 1. Less than a week after a last-place finish during their first invitational in early September, the team traveled to Middlebury, Vt. for the Duke Nelson Invitational. On day one, the Ralph Myhre Golf Course looked promising as Zach Lambros B.A. ’17 M.A. ’18 wasted no time asserting his dominance on the green. A star member and captain of the team, Lambros shot a 77, leading the Cardinals and tying for 52nd place overall.
“It was nice to get out there again,” said Lambros, who has just finished his third and final fall season. “You spend all summer anxiously thinking about the shots you hit last season and what went wrong or right, but after the first few holes you get back into the rhythm of tournament golf, how the ball feels, and how the greens are rolling, and it feels natural again.”
Senior Brian Gerner came in second for the Cardinals, shooting an 85. Despite the senior squad’s strong play on Saturday, Wesleyan finished with a final score of 337, tying for the last spot with Salem State University. Little Three rival Williams claimed the top spot with a score exactly 50 under the Cardinals.
“What keeps me motivated is probably watching Zach Lambros play as well as he does,” said Gerner. “When he comes in with a 78 consistently it motivates you to play better to try and match him.”
And match him Gerner nearly did. Inspired for the next day, Gerner cut down his first day’s score by four strokes to finish second on the team once again with 81 strokes. Lambros led the team with a total score of 155, 11 strokes ahead of Gerner, finishing 64th overall. But at the end of the day, Babson College took the lead with a total of 572 while Trinity remained in the third-place spot and finished first in the ’CAC, swinging the formerly top-ranked Williams down to fourth. Despite movements in the upper half of the bracket, Wesleyan remained in 21st place, able to overcome last-place Salem State University by five strokes.
The following weekend, Saturday, Sept. 23 and Sunday, Sept. 24 brought similar results from weekends past. At the Williams Fall Invitational at the Taconic Golf Club, Lambros took the lead and shot a two-day 165, with an 83 on day one and an 82 on the second day. Right behind him came seniors Andrew Rachlin and Theo Tydingco, who both shot 180 and finished 82nd overall.
On the larger scale, the Trinity Bantams came out on top once more, finishing first with a final score of 584. Directly behind them, by just five strokes, was Williams. Wesleyan claimed the penultimate place, finishing 18th, with Massachusetts College over 50 strokes behind.
The team came full circle as they played at the NESCAC Championship Qualifier at the Indian Hill Country Club, the same course as their first invitational of the season. Lambros took the Red and Black’s top slot one last time, finishing with 159 strokes and 21st overall. Gerner followed with a 179, tying for 44th. However, the Cards couldn’t claim victory and fell in the ’CAC competition once more, placing 10th out of the 10 teams with a final score of 708. To no surprise, Trinity and Williams scrambled for spots one and two, with the Bantams shooting 582 in their victory. The four top teams, Trinity, Williams, Tufts, and Amherst, will battle it out in post-season play.
After a stressful but personally successful season, Lambros reflected on his gifts and the challenges he had to overcome to consistently lead the team.
“My most valuable asset this year by far was my mental game and my ‘competitive edge,’ I guess,” Lambros said. “I had a lot of bad front nines this year, but I stayed calm and fought through the storm and was consistently able to turn it around. Even if my game wasn’t there 100 percent, I still found the focus and hunger to play as well as I could on that specific day. On the flip side, the biggest challenge I faced was adapting to the greens and trusting my body. The tournament greens are so much faster than anything we practice on, so it’s a totally different type of putting that, unfortunately, can’t be adjusted to overnight…. It’s so hard to go out there and trust that your body will produce the shot you want, but when I was able to trust it the results were there.”
Gerner, his second mate, had a particularly difficult season, as he spent most of it injured. However, this didn’t stop him from succeeding on the green and having high hopes for the future.
“I spent the whole season tweaking my swing,” he said. “I had to have hip surgery this winter and I couldn’t get through a round without being in pain. I would try and find a swing that wasn’t as painful, but that just led to poor shots and high scores. Hopefully, I can come back in the spring healthy and play better.”
As seniors, both Lambros and Gerner feel bittersweet about the fall season coming to an end.
“I’ll definitely miss the overnights,” said Gerner. “Our team always has a good time hanging out whenever we travel. We spend a lot of time together so I would say I’ll definitely miss the team.”
Lambros heartily agreed.
“Oh, it’s always a great time with the team,” he said. “We had some old faces and some new ones this year, and naturally it’s a time-intensive sport, so honestly being on a team with people you enjoy being around and having fun with is vital. I mean, in golf, you’re gonna be miserable like, 95 percent of the time, so being around people that don’t ruin your good 5 percent portion is really quite necessary. But we have fun out there, we rib each other, we cry together, we laugh, maybe we scream, it’s all in good fun.”
And even as Lambros looks ahead to the future, one where he’ll have to say goodbye to Wesleyan and the team, it’s not likely he’ll be parting with golf anytime soon.
“Out of 100 balls I could hit 99 bad shots, but that one perfect one is all that you need to feed the beast,” he said. “It’s that one perfect shot that gets you out of bed in the morning and makes you watch golf videos until you fall asleep at night. It’s just one shot that leads to obsession, and in turn, motivation. That’s really all it is. When I’m not trying to find a girlfriend, I’m trying to find a perfect golf shot. Well, probably vice-versa.”
Zoë Kaplan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.