It’s finally here. Since Cornell students stumbled blurry-eyed to their first lecture last fall, the mantra of the golf team has been that it is playing towards an Ivy League championship. All else is secondary. This weekend, the Red is getting its chance.
“We’re all really anxious to get to Ivies. We’ve been looking forward to it all year,” said senior co-captain Andy Sliwa. “We have a really positive outlook. We just feel that none of the tournaments this spring, or even last fall, that all five of us have played to our potential in the same weekend. You have to think eventually all of us will show up.”
The Ancient Eight will converge in Hamburg, N.J., and do battle at the Ballyowen Golf Club for the second year in a row. Princeton, winners of five of five of the last six Ivy titles, will be just one of many favorites in what truly is the deepest Ivy field in years. Dartmouth, Yale, Columbia and Penn – not to mention Cornell – all have shots at running the table this weekend, according to players.
“In years past everyone would just write off people like Brown, Harvard, Dartmouth, Columbia, even us,” Sliwa said. “This year, though, there are going to be four or five teams that could be within 10 strokes of each other at the top. Good players fuel you to play better, so it won’t matter who we get paired with when there are so many good teams. You don’t want to have to play with a bad team. That won’t be a problem.”
“It can help and hurt you,” said junior Greg Peterson. “Obviously we don’t want it to be like last year where Princeton was like 30 shots ahead. But if you’re four strokes back of the lead, but in third, you can’t get in that leaders group on Sunday. And that’s all we want, is that chance on Sunday.”
Cornell, which pulled itself out of the Ivy cellar last year with a surprising second-place finish at the championship tournament, looks to buck the image of a team that finished last or second to last in 11 of the 12 years prior to its coming out party. The Red was led by a sixth-place individual finish for sophomore Robbie Fritz, which earned him All-Ivy honors.
Fortunately for the Red, Ballyowen, which sprawls over 250 acres of bare, treeless farmlands, should play to its strengths.
“The team, myself included, has been struggling with putting and chipping the last two tournaments,” Sliwa said. “Most of that was due to inconsistent greens and weather, though. Ballyowen has smooth and fast greens which we are more used to.”
While the 7,094-yard course may boast consistent greens, the weather will be anything but consistent. With highs in the 40s and rain expected this weekend, concentration will be key, especially as the golfers try to battle through 36 holes on Saturday.
“Our biggest concern has to be the weather,” Sliwa said. “The forecast for [tomorrow] is grim, and when you’re out there for eight or nine hours it’s really hard to stay focused. [Head] coach [Matt Baughn] has us packing loads of towels and umbrellas, so we’ll be ready. I’m the biggest complainer on the team, but, like I was saying to Robbie, we’ll just take whatever Mother Nature gives us and go with it. Everyone will be in the same conditions, we just need to stay focused.”
“I feel good, I feel good,” Sliwa said. “I grew up on a links course, and I’m used to wind.”
This positive outlook is a sentimate echoed by the whole team. After a semester of Baughn preaching good mental attitude and approach going into tournaments, the team feels like it is in a good spot.
“Everyone’s confident,” Peterson said. “Coach asked us in practice [yesterday] if we had the last putt to win Ivies would we want him to tell us, and everyone said yes because they feel the competition would help them.”
The five confident golfers Baughn will send into battle this weekend are the same five he has put out there every tournament spring season, the sophomore tandem of Fritz and Bret Perry, senior co-captain’s Andy Sliwa and Andrew Turker, along with junior Greg Peterson.