Following last weekend’s disappointing eighteenth place finish at the Big 5 Invitational, the Red is preparing for its final scheduled tournament of the calendar year, the Ivy League Match Play.
This year’s Match Play will be hosted at the Tournament Players Club at Jasna Polana in Princeton, N.J., and begins this Saturday. The tournament will feature all of Cornell’s Ivy League rivals except Columbia.
In the meantime, the team is reflecting on last week’s performance at Philmont Country Club and how it can improve for this weekend.
“I thought the course played difficult, as you could see from our team’s scores and from other schools that were there,” said freshman Brandon Eng, who carded an impressive opening round 77. “The scores were definitely higher. I was sort of disappointed in how I played but I know what I need to work on … So I can improve what I didn’t do so well this past weekend.”
For the Red, big drives off the tee have proven to be an advantage in tournament play thus far.
“One of the advantages our team has ... Is playing long of the tee,” said junior Carl Schimenti, who was the Red’s low scorer at Philmont with rounds of 76 and 79. “That allows us to have a lot shorter clubs in, but it also brings other hazards into play. If you hit the ball farther, it tends to get more off track. But overall as a team we have a lot of length … It’s definitely an advantage at most courses but it can also be a disadvantage if you’re not hitting the ball straight.”
The Red’s newest member, Eng, has provided a different specialty this season — chipping and putting. But for Eng and the rest of the team, windy conditions at the Big 5 Invitational appeared to elevate scores.
“Carl, Craig, Zach and Max are definitely long off the tee,” Eng said. “My strength is in my short game. The greens were fast — they were tricky. The short game was pretty tough … It was windy … I think those factors affected everyone, [but] I can’t say that affected us more than anyone else.”
Eng’s biggest moment at Philmont came on the par-five 12th, where he took an aggressive approach with a three-wood.
“I decided to go for the green in two because ... I needed to make something happen and I made it to fifteen feet,” he said. “I had to settle for birdie but that’s when my round started to settle down.”
Although Eng described his putting and chipping at Philmont as “pretty solid,” when asked what the Red has been working on recently, he also spoke to the team’s focus on the short game.
“[D]efinitely a big focus on the short game … Distance isn’t really an issue,” Eng said. “As for me, my long game was lacking a little bit this past weekend so I’ll be working on that this week.”
Despite this being his first season as part of the Red golf team, Eng has felt comfortable thus far.
“I’ve actually played in a diverse field of tournaments, so I’ve seen a lot of courses,” he said. “These fit right up with the other ones in terms of difficulty. I’ve played a lot of different styles so nothing really caught me off guard.”
This weekend will feature a new course and a new style of play — head-to-head match play, in which players receive points for beating individual opponents one-on-one.
Despite a stumble at the Big 5, Eng believes the Red has an excellent opportunity to compete for first place this weekend.
“Definitely this weekend we want to come out on top and prove we’re the best in the Ivy League,” he said.
“Our focus every year is the Ivy League Championship, which is in the spring … Hopefully we’ll be able to pull out strong there and come out on top compared to our Ivy League peers.”
While Cornell hopes to end the fall season on a high note and prepare for Ivy League competition in the spring, Eng is also looking to gain more competitive experience and continue working with his teammates.
“[I]t’s going to be nice to see most the Ivy League teams ... And sort of play one-on-one against them,” he said. “More college golf experience is what I’m looking for. This is my first year. I just want to get used to playing with my team, bonding with my team, getting used to the coach being around and playing against other great players.”