Last season Amherst had its sights set on rival Williams College, a team that qualified for the NCAA National Championships for the ninth time in 10 years. With the rivalry set in hearts and minds, the Jeffs intended to wage battle at the annual season-ending Little Three Championship, held at the Taconic Golf Course in Williamstown, a tournament Williams had dominated six years running.
The Jeffs were shunted aside yet again as the Ephs claimed the championship in their rush to nationals. This defeat was not without silver lining; David Litt ’06 and Andrew Bruns ’07 swept their singles matches against tough opponents, showing fans a glimpse of their potential and mettle.
The golfers have proven talented; it is consistency that has proved problematic throughout the season for the Jeffs. Inconsistency led the team to frequent finishes in the middle of the pack in last season’s tournaments.
After a rough start at the season-opening Skidmore Invitational, the Jeffs fought back at the NESCAC Championship where Sean Jules ’07 carried the team to a fourth-place finish by virtue of his individual second-place mark. True to form, the Jeffs followed that positive with a negative at the fall’s final tournament-the New England Intercollegiate Golf Assication (NEIGA) Championship. Even Sharaf, who had posted sub-80 rounds all season, fell off his game at NEIGA, and though Jules and Keith Zalaski ’06 posted respectable scores, the team couldn’t seem to recoup. Spring’s rejuvenating effect seemed to hit David Litt ’06, who had been playing second, third, or even fourth fiddle to his teammates in the fall. In the past, Litt had been known to shine, and with an individual second place at the Lou Flumere Invitational he again showed his potential.
With the Jeffs peaking at the close of the spring season, an upset of the mighty Ephs seemed plausible. Unfortunately, the Purple Cows were up to the test, upending the Jeffs 8-4 and running away with a seventh consecutive Little Three title.
Nearly four months later, Golf Digest added insult to the Jeffs’ injurious late April loss in the magazine’s first-ever college golf guide. Although Amherst was ranked 24th, the Jeffs came in behind two NESCAC foes-Middlebury College and their Williamstown archrivals. Now the Jeffs have even more to prove this season. “We understand that the ranking is appropriate right now,” said Jules. “But it gives us added motivation to beat [Williams and Middlebury]. We know we can beat them, it’s just a matter of living up to our ability.”
With Williams retaining a full roster, the Jeffs will need to pick up their games if they hope to improve. Amherst will also look to four first-years to fill Sharaf’s spikes: William Collins, Christopher Valentine, Glenn Wong and Jasper Zweibel. Still, with Sharaf gone, the question remains as to who will carry the mantle of team leader. Rays of light include Litt, who hopefully will revert to last spring’s form rather than last fall’s, and Jules, who juggled the team’s low score with Sharaf in the fall and placed second in the NESCAC Championships and then fifth in the Duke Nelson.
Zalaski is another regular in the Jeff lineup, shooting mid- to low- 80s, but he could turn up the heat in his senior year. Bruns, though occasionally brilliant, has also recorded scores in the mid-90s. Sophomores Jesse Corradi and Judd Olanoff each got a taste of the circuit last season and spent the summer improving their games with hopes of joining Head Coach Jack Arena in the team van this fall.
While disappointed with last season, the Jeffs still have a lot of faith in their teammates. “We face an uphill battle against Williams’ challenging team, but we have a very cohesive group that brings a lot of heart and determination,” said Corradi. “If things fall into place early on, we could set us on a pace that may take us to Nationals in the springtime.”