Raffel Earns Player of the Year Honors; Choukas Named Rookie of the Year
HADLEY, Mass. – Williams sophomore Grant Raffel (Palo Alto, Calif.) has been named the NESCAC Player of the Year after helping his team tie for a third-place finish at the NESCAC Golf Championship Qualifier over the weekend. Trinity’s Nate Choukas (Hanover, N.H.) also took home a major award, earning NESCAC Rookie of the Year honors. The first year helped the Bantams tie for third at the two-day tournament, which was hosted by Hamilton at the Skenandoa Golf Club (par 72 - 6,750 yards).
Placement on NESCAC All-Conference Teams is based on individual performance at the qualifier. A total of six players were honored on the First Team, while eight were recognized on the Second Team.
Raffel (pictured right) earned medalist honors with a two-day score of 145. The sophomore fired a tournament-best 70 (-2) Sunday, erasing a three-stroke deficit following a round of 75 (+3) on Saturday. In the process, he became the third Eph to earn NESCAC Player of the Year honors in a decade. Previous winners include Will Sicks (2002) and Nick Ryder (2005).
Raffel was joined on the all-conference squad by seniors Jake Goldenring (Florham Park, N.J.) and Nate McCue (Brunswick, Maine), who both landed on the Second Team. Goldenring received All-NESCAC recognition for the third time in his career after he carded a two-day total of 149. He was named to the First Team in 2011 and the Second Team in 2012. McCue turned in a two-round score of 150 to garner all-conference recognition for the first time in his collegiate career.
Middlebury, which won the qualifier and earned the right to host the championship next spring, had three entrants garner All-NESCAC accolades. Sophomore Fitz Bowen (Winnetka, Ill.) and senior Eric Laorr (Eden Prairie, Minn.) earned spots on the First Team following identical rounds of 147, which tied for second. Both golfers were also members of the 2013 Second Team. Senior Charlie Garcia (Garden City, N.Y.) found himself on the Second Team for the first time after posting back-to-back rounds of 76 to finish in a tie for 11th place with a 152.
Choukas became the third player in Trinity history to earn NESCAC Rookie of the Year recognition along with Reid Longley (2007) and teammate Nick Buenaventura (2011). He turned in a sub-par round of 71 (-1) on Sunday, which was tied for the second-best round of the tournament. Choukas opened the weekend with a 76 to finish with a two-day total of 147, which tied for second to earn him a spot on the All-NESCAC First Team. Buenaventura (Weston, Mass.) earned all-conference recognition for the fourth time in his career following a 36-hole score of 152. In addition to being the 2011 NESCAC Rookie of the Year, the senior earned First Team accolades in 2011 and 2012 and Second Team honors in 2013. Two other Bantams tied with Buenaventura, as senior Greg Palmer (Cheshire, Conn.) and junior Jeff Durkin (Scituate, Mass.) also posted rounds of 152. Palmer, the 2012 NESCAC Player of the Year, was a first-team selection in 2012 and 2013. Durkin landed on the First Team a year ago.
A pair of Hamilton rookies Riley Burgess (Woodside, Calif.) and Joe Tigani (Hockessin, Del.) closed out the list of First Team honorees. Both Continentals fired two-day scores of 148 to finish tied for fifth place, and help Hamilton finish one stroke behind Middlebury for second place. They were joined by senior teammate Mac Pivirotto (New Canaan, Conn.), who added Second Team All-NESCAC to his accolades after receiving a First Team nod in 2012. Pivirotto finished the weekend with a two-round score of 151, which tied for ninth place.
Rounding out the Second Team was Tufts sophomore Owen Elliott (New York, N.Y.), who tied for seventh with a score of 149 and is a first-time honoree.
Bill Beaney of Middlebury was named NESCAC Coach of the Year for the second consecutive year. He also earned the honor in 2007. Beaney led the Panthers to three top-five finishes this fall, including a win at the Bowdoin Invitational. During the weekend, each Middlebury golfer turned in rounds of 78 or lower. He has guided the Panthers to six NESCAC titles (1999, 2006, 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2014) and six NCAA Championship appearances.