Third Year in a Row Same Four Teams Meet for Title
HADLEY, Mass. – Williams College will look to add its seventh conference title in the past 10 years and 11th overall when the Ephs serve as hosts for the 2010 NESCAC Golf Championship this weekend at the Taconic Golf Club in Williamstown, Mass. The Ephs will be joined by plenty of familiar faces on the links for the two-day, 36-hole event, as it will be the third year in a row that Williams will play alongside Hamilton, Trinity, and defending champ Middlebury, all of which were among the top four finishers at the NESCAC Fall Qualifier in October. Starting tee times for both Saturday, April 24, and Sunday, April 25, have been set for 11:00 a.m.
Williams appeared to be well on its way to a second-straight NESCAC title last April at Ralph Myhre Golf Course after the Ephs carded a score of 306 on day one for a two-stroke lead. That all changed on Sunday, as Williams had a rough second round and finished fourth overall, 18 strokes behind eventual champion Middlebury. This season, the Ephs didn’t have the true home course advantage at the Fall Qualifier due to issues with the greens at Taconic, and the event had to be moved down the road to the Waubeeka Golf Links. Williams overcame both the venue change and also wet weather and course conditions with two consistent rounds for a combined score of 595, two strokes ahead of Hamilton. Leading the Ephs to their first victory at the Fall Qualifier was the tandem of juniors Jacob Wagner (Wilmette, Ill.) and Robert Camp (Raleigh, N.C.). Wagner and Camp posted identical scores of 148 (+6) to finish in a four-way tie for third, as Wagner improved on his day one score of 75 by two strokes while Camp recorded carbon-copy rounds of 74. The Ephs head into the championship with a bit of momentum after finishing sixth at the Palamountain Invitational hosted by Skidmore two weeks ago and first at the six-team Williams Spring Opener at Taconic this past weekend. Camp came away with individual honors at the Open with a two-over performance of 144 to lead the field.
Looking to secure its third conference crown in the past four seasons and fourth overall title will be Middlebury. The Panthers’ 2009 championship victory was almost identical to their 2006 title run, as they once again overcame a lackluster day one performance with a strong day two showing to win the NESCAC trophy via tie-breaker over Trinity. Helping Middlebury shave 13 strokes off its opening round score last April were juniors Brian Cady (Rye, N.Y.) and Jim Levins (Rutland, Vt.). Cady had the best round of any golfer at Ralph Myhre on Sunday with an even performance of 71, while Levins was second to his teammate on the day with a two-over 73. During October’s Fall Qualifier, the Panthers managed two solid rounds and came away in fourth place with a score of 608. Middlebury freshman Andrew Emerson (Pelham, N.Y.) claimed NESCAC Rookie of the Year honors following the event as he led his squad with a score of 148 (+6, T-3rd). Levins was just one stroke behind his first year teammate in a three-way tie for seventh. This spring, the Panthers finished right behind the Ephs at the weather-shortened Palamountain Invitational on April 11 and were fourth at the Williams Spring Open a week later, with Levins (156, +14) and Emerson (159, +17) pacing their team at Taconic.
In the hunt for its first NESCAC title will be Trinity. The Bantams have finished as the runner-up at two of the past three conference championships - both times falling via tie-breaker to the Panthers. Last April, Trinity recorded a two-day total of 613 but was relegated to second when Middlebury’s fifth golfer had a lower second round score than Trinity’s. The Bantams performed well at this year’s Fall Qualifier, moving from fifth place after day one up to third with the best team performance on Sunday at 294, as sophomore Alex Bermingham (Bedford, N.Y.) carded the lowest round of the tournament with a 67 (-4) and finished second overall at 147. Bermingham was also impressive this past weekend at the Williams Spring Opener with a second place finish (148, +4) to help the Bantams earn second overall, 18 strokes behind Williams. It was Trinity’s third top-three finish of 2010, after coming in second out of 19 teams at the UMass Dartmouth Invitational on April 11 and first in a tri-match with Hamilton and Williams in Florida on March 25. Consistent rounds from Bermingham along with solid performances from junior Josh Grossman (Great Neck, N.Y.) and senior Reid Longley (Atlanta, Ga.) will be key to to the success of the Bantams this weekend. Longley, the 2006 and 2008 NESCAC Player of the Year, finished first during last spring’s championship weekend but came in tied for 10th overall at the fall qualifier. Grossman, the 2007 NESCAC Player of the Year, has performed well this April and completed the Williams Spring Open tied for sixth (155, +11).
Hamilton heads to Williamstown this weekend with plans for a fourth NESCAC crown following a pair of impressive finishes at the last two spring conference championship events. During the first spring tournament in 2008, Hamilton was second to Williams, while in 2009 the Continentals were third, just three strokes behind Middlebury and Trinity. For the Continentals, three strokes proved to be the difference between hosting the conference championship and hitting the road this weekend. Hamilton was in the lead following day one at Waubeeka with a score of 291, six strokes ahead of Williams. The Continentals could not repeat the performance on day two, though, and shot 306 on Sunday for a combined total of 597 and a second place finish. Leading Hamilton back to the NESCAC championship were senior Phil Preiss (Lake Forest, Ill.) and junior Brad Roche (Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.). Preiss shot arguably one of the best weekends of his collegiate career last October, posting back-to-back even-par rounds of 71 and finishing first overall to claim NESCAC Player of the Year. Roche also fired a 71 on day one and ended the qualifier tied for third with a score of 148 (+6). Roche was the top linksman for the Continentals this past weekend at the Williams Spring Open, placing fifth overall (154, +12). Roche and company hope to lead Hamilton to its first NESCAC championship since 2003, the last time the tournament was shortened by rain.
Nestled in the Berkshire region of Western Massachusetts, the Taconic Golf Club traces its beginnings to 1896, when three men with three tomato cans began the formation of what is today rated as one of the top collegiate courses in the country. A combination of land gifts to Williams in 1927 provided the space for the course and Wayne Stiles of Stiles & Van Kleek was commissioned to design and construct an 18 hole course. Construction was completed under the supervision of Richard Baxter, the club professional and greenskeeper at the time, by Labor Day in 1928. The course was revised in 1955 and underwent a major renovation during the summer of 2009. The par-71, 6,640-yard course, which has a rating of 71.7 and a slope rating of 127, hosted the NESCAC Golf Championship every other year from 1999 until 2005, alternating with the Ralph Myhre Golf Course, and served as the site for the 1999 NCAA Division III Golf Championship.
Results for the NESCAC Golf Championship will be available at the completion of each day at www.nescac.com.