Jeff rookies get first taste of college golf at Duke Nelson Invitational

Fortunately, this tournament brought in two fresh faces-first-years Glenn Wong and William Collins-who qualified for the tournament ahead of several of the usual suspects. The two rookies joined tournament regulars Sean Jules ’07, Andrew Bruns ’07 and senior co-captain Keith Zalaski. Zalaski’s fellow captain, David Litt ’06, was notably missing from the lineup after a strong spring season that came to an uplifting close with a victory over Matthew Slovitt of Williams College at the Little Three Championship.

This weekend the Duke Nelson saw some of the lowest team scores in its 23 years. The pack was led by Williams College, which posted a team score of 598. Slovitt provided the Ephs with a clean sweep as he captured the individual title as well with an impressive 73-70-143. The Ephs, who lost defending NESCAC Player of the Year Nick Ryder, looked no less formidable. Following closely were Skidmore College with a 601 and the defending champions New York University a stroke behind. NESCAC competitor Middlebury College also came out strong, taking fifth place with a 607.

Last year, the Jeffs were led to a solid seventh-place finish in a 24 team field by Jules, who placed an impressive fifth individually with a 76-79 on the par 71 track. This year Jules led again, matching his 2004 opening mark, but the junior lost six more strokes to par on the second day for a two-day total of 158, good for 53rd. Bruns put up 82 on the first day of play but was able to loosen up Sunday to fire a team-best 78, finishing in the middle of the 120-player pack. Wong delivered next for the team, and though his numbers were high (matching 84s) they were at least consistent, a persistent problem for the Lord Jeffs. Zalaski, plagued by poor putting, put up an 84-85-169. Collins matched Zalaski’s score with an 83-86. The team ended up in 17th place, which is certainly disheartening, but not demoralizing for the burgeoning squad.

With four names on the 2005 roster that were not on the 2004 edition-Wong, Collins, fellow first-year Chris Valentine and returning junior Drew Russ-the Jeffs seem to be taking it one tournament at a time. “We are just hoping to improve week by week and to put up scores that are lower and lower,” said Zalaski. “If we can keep our focus for 18, 36 or whatever amount of holes, then hopefully we will be up at the top of some scoreboards this fall and spring.”

The Lord Jeffs can find one silver lining in the sub-par results of week one: their results, though not outstanding, did represent what has been oft-lacking consistency on the course. Jules is optimistic. “Clearly our performance needs to improve from this past weekend in order to compete with some of the better teams in the NESCAC,” said Jules. “But I think this tournament was a good benchmark for where we need to be come next weekend.”

The Jeffs will have familiarity on their side as they take to their home away from home, Taconic Golf Club, for their next two contests. The course is on the Williams campus and will host this weekend’s Williams Invitational as well as the NESCAC Championship which will be held October 1-2.