Cornell golf closed out the season on Monday with a fifth-place finish at the Columbia Autumn Invitational. The Red finished 9-over-par with a final combined score of 585, shooting a 291 in the first round and 294 in the second round.
While fighting was fierce for second place, the tournament was a blowout by all standards. Harvard shot an impressive 558, finishing 18-under-par and a full 14 strokes in front of second-place Dartmouth.
The Red was led by familiar faces. Junior Ben Choe took third place individually after a strong second round, shooting an impressive 67. Only four players managed to shoot a 67 or better, including Choe. Kevin Sze of Harvard was the only player to score better with a 66 in round two.
“This was my best golf of the season,” Choe said. “[I] was playing smart and committing to my decisions and was able to roll in some putts to score.”
Senior Gus Lascola finished tied for ninth individually, though his performance was not included in the team score. He booked an impressive 68 in the second round, finishing 11th.
Choe and Lascola were the only Cornellians to finish in the top 10, with junior Samuel King being the only other player from the Red to finish within the top 20.
Even with consistent and solid play, the Red could not secure the all-elusive tournament victory in the fall portion of the season.
“Although we didn’t win a tournament, we learned a lot about ourselves,” Choe said. “We showed we have what it takes to win and that if we work on our consistency, good things will come in the future.”
The clock is ticking for the team’s seniors, who want to bring home at least one tournament victory before they move on from Cornell.
It is undeniable that COVID-19 has robbed senior golfers of a full student-athlete experience. This is no less true for Lascola, who has endured a rollercoaster ride of emotions as a golfer at Cornell as a result of the pandemic.
“This season was a lot of mixed emotions for me,” Lascola said.
Like others, Lascola hadn’t competed with a Cornell uniform on for nearly two years as a result of canceled seasons. Lascola worked hard to keep his skills sharp. He played hot during the summer off season, notably in the qualifying round of the U.S. Open, and came into his final season expecting wins.
“My expectations were very high coming into this fall,” Lascola said. “Anything less than a team or individual victory would be a disappointment, and here we are without either.”
Poor performances in the opening tournaments and a swing that fell apart mid-season entirely derailed Lascola’s plans, and he said he found himself struggling mentally, a story not uncommon among many athletes with careers disrupted by the COVID era.
“I nearly got dead last at Yale … and I walked off the 18th hole genuinely concerned that I had just played my final round of college golf,” Lascola said. “I wasn’t in a good place mentally.”
Lascola tried to put things back together on his own. He spent hours practicing his swing in front of a mirror in his room for the entire month of September. His teammates were the ones who were able to finally pull him out of his funk.
“They were overwhelmingly supportive, giving me tools to use on the course to stay focused and limit nerves, and they taught me how to let go of bad shots,” Lascola said.
Competing as an individual, Lascola logged impressive finishes in the last two tournaments of the season, rebounding from a 75th-place finish at Yale to tying for third at Binghamton.
Now Lascola is down to only a handful of tournaments in the spring before his college career comes to a close.
“As I head into the spring season — the final stretch of tournaments for me as a Cornell athlete — I want to let go of expectations,” Lascola said. “I’m playing alongside some of my best friends at some incredible golf courses. I want to enjoy the ride.”