April 5, 2006

Golf Team Avidly Tracks the Professionals

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With the 70th Masters Tournament approaching this weekend, one would imagine that the Cornell men’s golf team would be plopped in fornt of the television, their eyes glued to the screen.

“Man, I’m so mad,” said senior co-captain Andy Sliwa. “This is the fourth year in a row we’ll be playing on Masters weekend. I mean, [head] coach [Matt Baughn] has an XM radio for the car, but it’s just not going to do it justice. It’s an amazing event to watch. Just looking at the flowers and the perfect, green grass, it’s incredible.”

Unfortunately, picturesque Augusta National, where the tournament is held every year, will be availible to the golfers only in SportsCenter clips. The team will spend their weekend walking the course at Yale for the Yale Invitational. Nonetheless, the golfers all agree that the Masters really is a “tradition unlike any other,” as those CBS commercials pound in to viewer’s heads.

“I just love the fact that it’s the only major with a consistent home,” said sophomore Robbie Fritz. “That gives it a very special, comfortable feeling.”

“It’s just the theme song, and the whole down south thing,” said Sliwa, the Owego, NY native. “It really gives you the feeling that spring is approaching. I’m a huge Masters fan. I have like five of them on tape at home. You can’t beat the back nine on Sunday.”

But can the course, made in a time when driving the ball 300 yards was still an accomplishment, keep up with the improving technology, and more athletic golfers? Not according to the United States Golf Association (USGA). For the past decade, and even more so this year, the course has been altered to accomedate the increased power of the PGA Tour.

“They’re just ruining the integrity of Augusta National,” Fritz said. “The changes just make it loose that specialness. I think a lot of the players feel the same way too.”

A little less adament, junior Greg Peterson still protests the changes to the aging course.

“I don’t like the changes, but the equipment is making courses all over obsolete,” Peterson said. “At some point the USGA should make heavier restrictions on technology.”

“Garbage,” Sliwa said. “The changes are garbage. Technology is ruining the game of golf. The USGA is going to have to set the bar on technology and stop raising it. I just wish the metal driver was never invented. The game was more pure back when golf was just a block of wood and a ball. They’re making unecessary changes to something that was so perfect already.”

Regardless, all the golfers will be rooting hard when the historic back nine, immortalized by countless showdowns over the decades, rolls around Sunday afternoon. However, they will not all necessarily be pulling for the same people.

“I really like Colin Montgomery,” Peterson said of the native Brit. “Not many Americans like him, but he’s the best player to never win a major. He’s getting old too, around 40, so hopefully he will win one soon.”

Peterson also pointed out that Montgomery reminded him of himself.

“The guys are really going to kill me for saying this, but I really like his swing. It’s very slow and not mechanical at all. He swings so funny you would never guess he was a golfer. The other guys hate his swing, but I like it because I call myself a field golfer, meaning I try and think about the target and not the swing. Looking at that guy’s swing, you’ve got to imagine he’s thinking of something other than the technicalities of the swing.”

Having a favorite player resemble oneself is something most of Peterson’s teammates echoed.

“It’s really important as far as improvement to pick a player with simialr build and look to yourself,” Fritz said. “That’s why I like Luke Donald. I also like David Toms, though. He’s just so easy going on the course. He doesn’t let bad shots bother him, he just moves on. That’s something I respect.”

Going one step beyond finding a golfer modled after himself, Sliwa looks to a golfer who resembles the whole team.

“Sergio Garcia is just like the team here,” Sliwa said. “If he could just put some putts in, he would be amazing. I also like how he loves to play with the crowd. Personality wise, though, I really like Justin Leonard. He has such a cool demeanor on the course. I met him when I was really young so he’s always been one of my favorites.”

Interestingly enough, not one of the golfers mentioned media darling Tiger Woods, perhaps one of the most recognizable athletes in the world.

“I never really liked Tiger,” Sliwa said. “I always thought he was a bit cocky.”

And as much as the players readily dump superlatives on the Masters, some of the team backed off when asked if it was their favorite PGA Tournament.

“I’m more of a US Open guy,” Fritz said. “I worked at Pinehurst over the summer where they held the US Open.”

“I definitely like the British Open,” Peterson said. “It’s a different sort of golf there. The conditions are tougher and more luck is involved. Anyone can win it.”

Sticking to his guns, though, Sliwa didn’t budge from his love of the Masters.

“I’m a huge Masters fan,” Sliwa said. “It’s amazing.”

Archived article by Cory Bennett
Sun Staff Writer