Powered by a near perfect performance in the tournament’s last 18 holes, Cornell came from behind to just barely notch its third straight top three finish at the Alex Lagowitz Memorial Invitational.
Led by junior Jack Casler, who tied for second place in the individual champonship, the Red answered the daunting task of replacing the dominant duo of Mike Graboyes ’18 and Christopher Troy ’18, and continued its history of success at Hamilton, New York’s Seven Oaks Golf Course.
Of the 17 teams that took part in the invitational, the Red finished one stroke ahead of Seton Hall with a team score of 878, enough to squeeze onto the podium along with second place Drexel (877) and the first place Lafayette squad (867).
Nerves played a factor in the inexperienced group, as the Red came out slow Friday and Saturday, posting relatively meager team scores of 294 and 295, respectively. Finding themselves tied for seventh after 36 holes, the team knew it would have to perform near flawlessly on Sunday if it was to have a chance at breaking the top three.
And that was a tall order the team was able to answer.
Led by a 69 from junior Jack Casler, the Red shot the second lowest team score of the day (289), pushing the Red into sole possession of third place. The one over par 289 came at the perfect time too, as Sunday proved to be the statistically toughest day for the field.
In what can only be described as a near magical performance, a pair of two 50-plus yard, hole-out eagles carried Casler to the pivotal three under 69 on Sunday.
“The two eagles were pretty crazy. I’ve never done anything like that in a round of golf,” Casler said. “The first eagle was pretty lucky, I hopped the ball in from 54 yards on the 17th hole. The second eagle was on the 4th hole from 96 yards, and that one was probably even more exciting.”
Even with the two hole outs on Sunday, Casler attributed most of his success to his consistency with the putter.
“The best part of my game this weekend was definitely my putting,” Casler said. “I didn’t hit my driver or irons that well either day, but only had one three putt through 54 holes.”
Casler’s opening tournament success comes after an impressive summer, where the junior hit four straight rounds under 75 to finish fourth at August’s New York State Ammateur competition.
“This summer was really big for me,” Casler said. “It has been a culmination of a lot of work with my swing coach over the last couple years. I’ve also been a lot more relaxed on the golf course, which has probably been the biggest improvement for me.”
This improved mindset and the ability to remain calm will prove to be the major factor for Casler this season.
“If I can stay relaxed, it helps me calm my nerves and stay focused on the right things during a round of golf,” he explained.
Casler and the Red hope to continue this momentum when they host the Cornell Invitational at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Course this Saturday.