NEW HAVEN, Conn. - It was most definitely not a weekend for the weak of heart on the golf course. And the team that showed the most heart at the Macdonald Cup -- held this weekend at The Course at Yale in New Haven -- was the University of Pennsylvania men's golf team.
The Quakers carded a 291 in extreme conditions through the first round, which was not completed until Sunday morning due to the extreme weather on Saturday. They then came back to card a team 289 on Sunday afternoon for a total of 580 to eke out the victory against an extremely competitive field.
How close were things at the end? Binghamton, which placed second, finished at 581 -- one stroke behind the Quakers. Rhode Island was third in 582, and Richmond was fourth with 584. In fact, the top 10 teams were separated by a grand total of 16 strokes, not a lot when you consider the number of players and the number of holes played.
"This was a huge win," said Penn men's golf coach Rob Powelson, who saw his team win an event for the first time in his two-year tenure. "This is one of the oldest collegiate tournaments in the country, and some of the teams who have come in and won this event are significant. In fact -- and this surprised even me -- it was announced afterward that we are the first Ivy League team to win the event."
Of the other Ivy schools to participate, Dartmouth finished seventh (301-288=589), Brown was eighth (306-285=591), host Yale was ninth (298-295=593), Columbia was 11th (300-298=598) and Harvard tied for 15th (311-299=610).
"We played under extreme conditions in the first round," said Powelson. "Most tournaments up and down the East Coast were cancelled, but the Yale coach said we would play and we did. We were able to get up to about 15 holes in, but it was a driving rain and most of the holes were almost unplayable. For us to post the number we did in the first round, I was really happy with how our guys kept it together.
"On Sunday, we got in just before Rhode Island, and when I posted our stuff their coach said we had beaten them by two strokes," he continued.
Dean Merrill was Penn's top finisher; he tied for third overall with a two-round, even par score of 68-72=140. Freshman Mike Blodgett, who was playing in his first tournament as a Quaker, tied for 15th overall and carded 74-72=146. However, according to Powelson he may have hit the shot that won the tournament.
"Mike drained about a 35-foot putt on No. 10, his last hole of the tournament, which is a very difficult hole," said the Penn coach. "As he was walking off the course he said, 'I think that putt is going to mean something,' and I said, 'I think you're right.'"
Sean Barrett was Penn's third finisher in the tournament, carding 75-73=148 to tie for 26th, while Nick Ryder was fourth for the Quakers and tied for 39th overall at 74-76=150. Derek Rogers carded 80-72=152 to tie for 53rd.
"The guys knew we were in the lead heading back out there Sunday, and they just took it to the next level," said Powelson. "This season, we have been a good Saturday team but we have stumbled on Sundays. This weekend, we were able to keep it together and got over the hump."
The Quakers are hitting their stride just in time; they host the Big 5 Classic this weekend at the Philadelphia Cricket Club Saturday and Sunday.
Written by Mike Mahoney, director of athletic communications