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It was April 23 and the Cornell golf team had a chance to do something special. Just two strokes behind first place, the Red entered the final round of Ivy Championships in Greenwich, Connecticut seeking its first conference title in program history.
But that Sunday was not their day, as the team’s starting five faltered and fell 15 back of eventual champion-Harvard, still managing to come away with second.
But this time around, second will not be good enough.
“It’s pretty much win the Ivy’s or bust,” said senior captain Mike Graboyes, last year’s individual champion at the annual league-wide tournament.
“Our expectation this year … is to win the Ivy League Championship,” junior Jack Cen told The Sun. “We came very close last year, only two strokes behind going into the last day, and under the leadership of our new captains, I feel very confident about our chances of winning this year.”
While winning Ivy’s is clearly the team’s ultimate goal, the golf season is divided into a fall and spring portion of the schedule, with a lengthy five-month break in between. What’s more: the group’s results in the four fall events have no bearing on what happens in the spring.
So when action gets under way Sept. 9 at Colgate’s Alex Lagowitz Memorial Invitational, the conference tournament will be little more than a spec on the team’s radar.
Yet the group understands the importance of each of the fall tournaments.
“Oh definitely,” Graboyes said when asked if the fall weekends really matters. “Last fall, we never placed outside of the top-3 in a tournament … it establishes you as a really good team and gives you confidence going into the spring. So obviously we want to do something similar this year where we play really well, we get the starting lineup, and everybody has some confidence going into the spring.”
Graboyes and Cen are both locks for starting spots, but there is still some healthy competition for the others. Sophomore Mike May and senior Chris Troy figure to see the course regularly, but that leaves one more spot.
That void — left wide open after Graboyes’ brother and last season’s scoring leader Luke graduated in the spring — will be key for the team to address as the fall season unfolds.
Head coach Matt Baughan chose freshman Charlie Dubiel as the team’s lone addition, and the Juno Beach-product may be slotted in sooner rather than later.
“He’s a really good player, and his game is really mature for a freshman,” Graboyes said of Dubiel. “Getting a mature freshman who has a lot of talent is something that’s going to help this team the whole season.”
In addition to Dubiel, sophomore Jack Casler is a viable option for Baughan. Casler earned a spot in four tournaments as a freshman last season and figures only to get better as practices and events start up.
Graboyes — who competed in the NCAA tournament last season — said he cannot wait for his senior season to get underway.
“My game feels really good right now. The problem is you introduce classes into that. You’re not just playing golf all day,” the senior said with a chuckle. “But my individual goal is to win every single event.”
Given his performance to close out last season, anything is possible.
But can it be hard to stay focused out of the gate when spring matches carry more weight?
“I don’t agree with that,” Graboyes said. “Of course there’s more emphasis on the outcome of Ivy’s, but as far as mindset and focus going into it, I’d say it’s pretty much the same the whole year.”
So while we’re already talking about a tournament that’s more than seven months from now, the team seems like it is comfortable and ready to take things one day at a time.
Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt on this one.