As senior co-captains Andy Sliwa and Andrew Turker trudged off the course this past weekend at the Ivy League championship, soaked like contestants from a mid-90’s Nickelodeon game show, head coach Matt Baughn was struck by a memory.
“The Ivies brought back the memories of watching them walk off the course freshman year at Towson,” he said. “They had to play through torrential downpours, and just the way they looked afterwards, well, they looked like soaked rats, like they couldn’t believe they had to play in those conditions. I thought to myself, ‘welcome to collegiate golf.'”
Four years later, Sliwa and Turker have walked off the course for the last time, but they can hang their heads high on the golf course. They will be remembered as two of the centerpieces of the golf program’s turnaround.
“Freshman year, our goal was to not finish last, now it’s to win every tournament,” Turker said.
“The team seemed more like a club sport freshman year. Golf was not the No. 1 priority of the guys on the team,” Sliwa said.
“When they came in, we were always last,” Baughn said. “Since they’ve come, we’ve had a fifth and second place finish at Ivies, and they’ve put us in a place to be competitive. They’ve been a tremendous help to the program, especially when I talk to prospective students. They can look at Andy and Andrew and see what they need to shoot.”
Last year, the revitalized program brought in a trio of talented players – Robbie Fritz, Bret Perry and Chad Bernstein. Fritz stressed how important both Sliwa and Turker were in acquainting him to the college life.
“Turker is very, very approachable,” Fritz said. “Last year, when I didn’t really know anyone, he was always offering help whenever he could, offering rides and stuff. He was very easy to ask a favor of. Andy’s a little less approachable, but he really helped be get adjusted to the social scene at Cornell. Being a freshman, you don’t really know what to do, and he was instrumental in giving me the pros and cons of things like the Greek system and making my schedule for sophomore year.”
Beyond guiding younger golfers through the rollercoaster ride that is freshman year of college, Turker and Sliwa also helped the rookies out on the golf course.
“Andy really puts the team above himself,” Fritz said. “He encourages everyone to go practice when he does. There were times when I really didn’t want to go play but it’s hard to say no to Andy. Everything he does he has a passion for. When I’m playing bad golf, I don’t want to talk about golf, but Andy, he just loves golf so much it doesn’t matter. I look up to him for that. And Andrew, he’s one of the most talented golfers I’ve ever seen. Just watching his style of play is beneficial to young guys on the team.”
Baughn recognizes the exact same qualities in the two players, adding that it is their distinct personalities which make them such great leaders on the team.
“Andrew is very, very laid back and doesn’t have a mean bone in his body,” Baugn said. “He has all the talent in the world. It’s just a matter of him believing in himself. You can just sit back and watch him hit balls all day long; his swing is so beautiful. Andy, on the other hand, is a fighter. He scraps out rounds on the course. He may get himself in trouble but he will always find a way out. What they have brought to this team is a desire to compete each and every round. They are both stand up men and great leaders.”
Learning this ability to let things slide off your back or put things in perspective is one of the bigger things that both players say they will take away from their four years at Cornell.
“My senior year of high school, I grew three inches,” Sliwa said. “Because of that I developed a longer, less accurate game, and while coach helped me to deal with different aspects of the game, what I really developed was a really thick skin for everything. It was frustrating for me not to go out and shoot the same numbers I did in junior golf. So, mentally I had to develop and learn that you always can’t be the best, which is a good life skill.”
“I think my game is a lot more polished now,” Turker said. “I don’t make as many big mistakes and don’t get as mad as I used to.”
While the actual competition of a sport is what drives many, both Turker and Sliwa agreed that being on a team leaves you with much more than the experience of playing in tournaments.
“I’ll take away the trips, the traveling with the guys, the jokes,” Turker said. “I’ll take away the pride of playing Division I golf in the Ivies.”
“It’s the people that really make it worthwhile,” Sliwa agreed. “Golf’s a tough sport to play in college. You miss out on a lot of the social scene, but you develop really close friendships with the guys on the team. I still keep in touch with guys who graduated my freshman year. I’ll be playing golf with these guys my whole life.”
As the real world outside Ithaca looms ever so large for Turker and Sliwa, the pair have many fond memories to lack back on.
“Well, at Towson this year,” Fritz said, “Andy and I started singing to coach during our practice rounds. He’s so easily embarrassed, especially in front of the other teams. Andy definitely encouraged me. It really eased the tension before the tournament. Andy was always good at that.”
“The two rounds I’ll always remember will be the third round of Ivies last year, where we shot a 216 to finish second, our highest finish ever, and at Yale last year, where I finished second individually,” Turker said.
And, while they’ve walked off the collegiate course for the last time, golf will always remain a part of both players’ lives.
“When I reached that last green Sunday, I looked around, and when I was done just looked at my dad and thought, ‘oh, that’s it for my career,'” Turker said. “It was weird, but it was going to happen at some point. I’ll probably try some amateur tournaments, though.”
“I didn’t really think about it until I was standing over my last approach shot thinking, ‘man, it would be nice if this went in,'” Sliwa said. “I missed the green but I got up and down for par. Last fall was when it really hit me, though. When I finished our tournament, there was a little more emotion because I’ve been competing on our course since my junior golf days. I plan on working in the golf business for many years, managing courses and stuff.”
Sliwa, a plant science major, will be working in Ireland for the next four months on this year’s Rider Cup course. Turker, a Policy and Analysis Management major, will be heading off to law school in either San Diego, Chicago or Brooklyn.
Archived article by Cory Bennett
Sun Staff Writer