Sharaf paced Amherst in six out of 10 tournaments and earned Golf Coaches Association of America All-Northeast Region and Second-Team All-NESCAC honors for the second season in a row.
The team finished in the top 10 eight times over the course of its 11-tournament season, with key performances coming from Keith Zalaski ’06, David Litt ’06 and Sean Jules ’07. Notable accomplishments from last year include top 10 finishes in the NESCAC Championships by senior Mike Valentine, sophomore Drew Russ, Litt and Jules, who scored a third-place finish with a 76. Sharaf earned medalist honors at Skidmore College’s Palamountain Invitational, firing a season low 73-76-149 and carrying the team to a seventh-place finish.
The team closed out the 2003-04 campaign at the Little Three Championship, where it unduly defeated Wesleyan University, 11.5-0.5 but fell to Williams College, 5.5-6.5. Every key player returned this year for the Jeffs, and two first-years, Judd Olanoff and Jesse Corradi, were added to the squad.
Hoping to improve upon last year’s performance, the Jeffs began their fall schedule at the Northeast Preview Golf Tournament hosted by Skidmore. True to form, Sharaf posted an excellent score, 73-75-148, placing him at third place individually for the tournament. The team placed ninth overall, with contributions from sophomore Andrew Bruns (85-77-162 for 34th place), Jules (who placed 40th), Valentine and Zalaski.
Next on Amherst’s plate was the Williams Invitational, where the Jeffs sank three spots from last year’s 11th-place finish. Sharaf paced the team again, shooting 39-40-79 for 26th place. Jules followed closely with a 42-39-81. Overall, the team shot 327, with notable contributions from Zalaski, Litt and Bruns.
At the NESCAC Championships, Jules took the lead, shooting for second place with a 76-79-155, and the team followed, posting a fourth-place finish behind the tournament champion, Williams. Bruns recovered from an 87 to close with a 76 for total of 163. Litt and Zalaski also contributed with scores of 169 and 173, respectively.
In the Duke Nelson Invitational, played as a conjoining tournament with the NESCAC Championships, Jules’ score was good enough for fifth place, and the team claimed seventh overall. Sharaf followed with a two-day score of 157 and a sixth-place finish.
The Jeffs ended their fall season at the New England Intercollegiate Golf Association Championships, where they placed 29th out of 46 schools. Jules again led this campaign, posting 79-81-160 to nab 52nd place, followed by Zalaski with a 82-80-162 and Sharaf, who shot 84-81-165. Senior Gifford Sommerkamp and Bruns rounded out the scorers with scores of 180 and 187, respectively.
The spring season kicks off at the Lou Flumere Invitational tomorrow, where the team hopes to set a postive tone for its season. However, the Jeffs’ eyes are set on the Little Three Championships. “We were so close to beating Williams, and if everything falls our way I think we have a legitimate chance again,” said Litt. The key to beating the Ephs will be finding the consistency the team has lacked for the last two years.
Sharaf, playing his last season, should continue to score well. “Being one of the stronger players in New England for a couple years, I see no reason why Justin won’t step up like he has been doing since he’s been at Amherst,” said Zalaski.
At the other end of the spectrum, rookies Corradi and Olanoff are looking to play in their first tournament. “Corradi could really step up and be a factor. He is playing confidently and has some serious talent,” said Litt. “Hopefully he’ll get out there and play the way he can.”
The team recognizes the fact that consistency is job number one. Litt has started off the spring in excellent form, earning himself a sure spot in tomorrow’s season opener. Small adjustments in his game have led to a big improvement. “My solid play can be attributed to the fact that I just got tired of hitting the ball all over the place,” he said. “So I just shortened my swing to make my misses better and if I can just keep it on plane, I think I can really step it up and be in contention.”
The Jeffs are confident that they have the potential to succeed. “I think that we definitely have the talent to put together a good season, but we need to be able to put good tournaments together as a team,” said Zalaski. “It seems that at every tournament we have two guys playing well and two or three other guys struggling. If we can all bear down and play somewhat near our capabilities, I think we can compete with any team in the Northeast.”
Amherst has a busy week ahead. After traveling to Bentley College for the Flumere Invitational tomorrow, the Jeffs swing back into action Sunday as Sharaf will defend his title at the Palamountain Invitational, hosted by Skidmore College.