Despite the fact that the Robert Trent Jones Golf Course has been covered knee-deep in snow for most of the semester, the golf team was hard at work, gearing up for another season of competition. Beginning next week in Orlando, Fla., the Red will begin a series of tournaments and invitationals in preparation for the Ivy League championship.
The first test of the year for the team will be a single-day match play competition against Rider in Orlando. Players from each team will be pitted against one another individually, and competition goes hole by hole, instead of over the entire course.
“The entire team will be practicing and preparing for the season every day,” said head coach Matt Baughan.
Co-captains Justin Gatwood and Ross LaFleur, Justin Howe, Chris Rogalski, John Patinella, Andy Sliwa, Andrew Turker, and Kevin Scelfo will make the trip to Orlando for a week of warm-weather golf. However, only five will be permitted to participate in tournament play. As a result, the competition is tough, as each player works his hardest throughout the week to card the lowest score.
“Competition from within pushes everyone to the next level,” Baughan commented, “and that’s what we have now. It is all [up to] the individual and their stroke averages over the week.”
This means that upperclassmen do not automatically take seniority over younger players. Because every member of the team plays on the same golf course, Baughan is able to directly compare scores between players to determine who is the better golfer overall.
Although the team’s play in Orlando will have a large influence on Baughan’s decisions for the rest of the season, it is by no means the sole determining factor.
“We have one of the top collegiate golf courses in the nation, and if one of our players is getting low scores here, I know they can play anywhere,” Baughan stated.
Players who show significant improvement on the Cornell course have a good chance of making a tournament or invitational later in the year.
Although the Ithaca weather is less than ideal for golf, once the snow clears, the players can begin to use both the course and the driving range whenever they have the free time to practice. While the weather keeps them from playing outside, the team is already into strength and conditioning workouts three times a week, as well as individual instruction in the Ramin Room of Bartels Hall.
The weather is also one of the main reasons for the team’s visit to the Great Hope Golf Course in Westover, Md. for its first invitational competition of the spring season. It is more than a six-hour drive away, but Baughan wants to give the team more of a chance to play than it would have farther north.
After opening its season at the Towson Invitational March 29-30, the Red travels to Greencastle Greens Country Club in Emmitsburg, Md. the first weekend of April for the Mount St. Mary’s Invitational.
The very next weekend, Cornell travels to The Links at Sunset Ridge in Marcellus, N.Y. for the LeMoyne Invitational. After a two-week break, the team will then travel to the Metedeconk National Golf Club in Jackson, N.Y. for the biggest event of the year — the Ivy League championship.
In Ivy play and elsewhere, the Red has become more and more competitive in the past few seasons.
“On average, we’ve dropped 32 shots per tournament over the last two years,” said Baughan.
That is a large improvement from a very young team, which includes Scelfo, the team’s top player.
Although the Red is projected to finish in the middle of the pack for most of its invitationals this year, the players are already fired up to play in the Ivy League championships.
“We have been at the bottom of the league for a long time — it’s time to change that,” asserted Baughan.
Archived article by S.W. Falk