For the second year in a row, a Cornell junior named Graboyes finished first in the Ivy League Golf championships. But this year, it was Mike.
The younger brother of last year’s medalist, Luke Graboyes, finished the wire-to-wire victory with a three-day score of 214, two under par and three strokes better than the field.
“It means a lot to me to win representing the university on top of playing as an individual,” the younger Graboyes told The Sun.
Winning the tournament also won Mike a place on the first-team all-Ivy, as well as a spot in the NCAA regional championships against the nation’s best in May. And if you think Mike’s top-finish one year after Luke’s is quite the occurrence, it is not even the first time the two have experienced it.
“We’ve actually done this before,” Mike said. “He won the high school state championships his senior year, and then I won them my senior year. He’s been really supportive of everything all along.”
Mike’s win was the highlight in what was a very successful weekend for the Red at the Stanwich Club in Greenwich, Conn. Tied for the best finish in program history, Cornell took second place, behind only Harvard, who won for the second year in a row.
But things were not looking up for the Red on day one. Senior captain and defending medalist Luke Graboyes struggled and shot a five-over 77. Between junior Chris Troy, sophomore Tianyi Cen and freshman Mike May, the Red was a combined 15-over.
“He’s been struggling with his game a little bit recently,” Mike said of his older brother.
Mike, on the other hand, was playing his best golf of the season.
“In the second round at Yale [last weekend], I finally started playing well, and it really gave me some momentum going into this weekend,” he said. “Having an expectation that you could win and then actually doing it feels really good.”
That momentum certainly carried over for the junior. After a consistent first 10 holes at two over par, he got hot. Mike went on to shoot a four-under 32 on the back nine and birdie five of the last eight heading into the clubhouse. His score of 69 was one of just two scores in the 60s over the three-day tournament. Despite an up and down first day, Cornell sat in second after day one.
Day two was another big one for the Red — especially for those named Graboyes. After an uneven front nine, Mike parred seven of the last nine and carded an even par 72. Going into the final round, he held a three-shot lead over the rest of the field.
“In years past I’ve been a really good ball striker, but my putting has held me back,” Mike said. “This weekend I was putting really well, though.”
Luke again struggled early and shot 39 on the front nine. But an eagle on the par-five 14th and birdies on two of the last four gave him a one-under 71 on the day. The two day score of 147 was good enough for fourth place.
Cen moved all the way into a tie for 14th after an impressive round of 72. The sophomore had three birdies and three bogeys on the day. May had a rough back nine, including a double bogey on 18, and shot a 77 on the day. Troy shot 75, four shots better than his day one score.
Going into the third and final round, Cornell was a combined 11 over par, just two strokes behind Harvard. With Graboyes holding onto a significant lead, the Red had a shot not only at medaling, but also at winning the whole tournament.
For everyone other than Mike, Sunday was not the day the group had hoped for. Luke and Cen both shot 77, Troy a 75 and May 82. The Red’s combined score for the day of 302 was 13 shots worse than Harvard and better than only Columbia. But with a little help from Mike, the team still managed to finish in second place, two strokes ahead of Princeton.
“Of course we’re pleased,” Graboyes said. “You can tell that this program is going in the right direction.”
With 18 holes left to play, Mike still had some unfinished business to take care of. On a quest to match his brother’s first-place finish from last year, he just needed to play within himself to maintain his comfortable two-day lead.
Graboyes began his Sunday afternoon with an eventful front nine. He bogeyed the first, birdied the third, eagled the par-five fifth and bogeyed eight and nine. With nine holes to play, the New Jersey native was four strokes ahead of anyone else. Graboyes shot 37 on the back to card a 73 and earn medalist honors.
“This entire season my scores weren’t really reflecting how well I was playing. I knew I was playing well, but I couldn’t make the birdie putt or get the par save when I needed it,” Mike said. “This weekend it all came together.”
The impressive second place finish for the team as a whole caps off what was a season filled with strong showings. In just eight tournaments, Cornell pieced together six top-fives, two second places and a first place finish back in September at the Cornell Invitational.
“After the strong fall, we knew going into this season that we were a good team,” Graboyes said. “We’ve improved every single year, and now we just expect to be perennial contenders in the Ivy League championship. It’s not going to be a surprise that we play well there anymore.”