Men’s Golf Holds on to Win NESCAC Title

Fitz Bowen ’17 and the Middlebury men’s golf team battled cold, rainy conditions on their home course but were able to hold on to beat a charging Williams team on Sunday, April 27 for the 2014 NESCAC team title. (Campus/Michael O'Hara)

Fitz Bowen ’17 and the Middlebury men’s golf team battled cold, rainy conditions on their home course but were able to hold on to beat a charging Williams team on Sunday, April 27 for the 2014 NESCAC team title. (Campus/Michael O'Hara)

By Colin McIntyre

The Middlebury golf teams completed their regular seasons this weekend, with the men capturing the NESCAC championship on their home course on Saturday and Sunday, April 26 and 27, and the women traveling to Williams for the Northeast Elite Invitational.

The men played host to Williams, Trinity and Amherst at the Ralph Myhre Golf Course and won the event with a weekend score of 625. They defeated runner-up Williams by one stroke and third-place Trinity by four, with Amherst finishing 35 strokes behind the Panthers. The NESCAC crown is the third team title for Middlebury in four years, and the program’s sixth overall. With the win, the team automatically qualifies for the NCAA championships to be held at Grandover Resort in Grandover, N.C. on May 13-16.

On Saturday, Middlebury took advantage of their home course, and for the first time this season came out strong on the first day of play, jumping out to an eleven-stroke lead.  The Panthers were led on day one by one-over rounds of 72 from Rob Donahoe ’14 and Fitz Bowen ’17.  Charlie Garcia ’15 sat in a tie for third going into Sunday after carding a 75.  Max Alley ’14 shot 80 and John Louie ’15 shot 84, giving the Panthers a one-day team score of 299.

Playing with the lead for the first time this season, Middlebury dropped shots early on a cold, wet, windy day two on the course. Bowen led the Panthers on Sunday by shooting a round of 77.  The first-year tied for the best round on both Saturday and Sunday and took home medalist honors on the weekend.

“This weekend my goal was to attack the course from tee to green, and stay conservative when I had a putter in my hands,” said Bowen.  “The greens were difficult to judge and I knew that if I played two rounds without a three-putt, I would be in contention.”

Bowen finished four strokes in front of Williams senior and 2013 champion Cody Semmelrock to become the first first-year to win the tournament since 2006.

Donahoe was second for the Panthers after shooting 82 on Sunday to finish tied for third. Garcia finished tied for sixth after matching Donahoe’s 82 on day two. Alley shot 85 for 15th place, and Louie shot 87 to finish in 20th place.

Garcia’s round looked to be in shambles after a quadruple bogey on the par-five 11th, a hole that gave most of the Panthers fits on Sunday.

“I sat nine over on the 12th tee and I thought the championship was slipping through my fingertips,” said Garcia. “Coach Beaney pulled me aside and said, ‘We need you to grind it out. There is a lot of golf left. I know you are mad but the past is the past.’ I ended up getting up and down for par on five out of my last seven holes, which was vital.”

Williams nearly made up their 12-stroke deficit, thanks to consistent play across the board, but Middlebury’s strong play down the stretch held off the Eph’s charge.

At the Division-III NCAAs, the Panthers look to become the first NESCAC team to make the 15-team cut at the tournament. The Panthers missed the cut by 14 strokes the last time they made the tournament, in 2011-12.

On the women’s side, the Panthers played at Taconic Golf Club in Williamstown, MA at the final tournament of the season.  In the tournament, Middlebury played against the usual slate of NESCAC opponents and Methodist University, who won the tournament by two strokes. Ithaca College finished third, fourteen strokes behind Methodist, followed by Middlebury in fourth place with a weekend total of 676.

While the third straight week of finishing behind Williams and Ithaca would seem to take the wind out of the team’s sails, top Middlebury scorer Jordan Glatt ’15 does not see it as such.

“This season’s outcome has only made us more determined to improve next year and overtake Williams and Ithaca at the top of the leaderboard,” said Glatt.

Glatt led the Panthers over the weekend, as she has for much of the spring season with rounds of 78 and 85, landing her in 12th place. Monica Chow ’16 shot 82 and 83 to finish tied for 15th, Michelle Peng ’16 shot 88 and 82 to finish 22th.  She was able to lower her score by 6 strokes despite the tough conditions.

“The second day the wind really picked up, which made the conditions much tougher at an already challenging course,” said Peng. “Going into the second round I tried to relax and not overthink things.”

Because the NESCAC does not sponsor a women’s golf championship, the Williams tournament marks the end of the season for the team. Caroline Kenter ’14 played in her final tournament at Middlebury and shot 83 and 97 to finish 29th.  Theodora Yoch ’17 rounded out the competing Panthers and finished 31st.

The team – which failed to qualify for the NCAA championship – will welcome two new recruits in the fall to replace departing senior captain Kenter.

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