Fresh from a spring training trip that took them to sunny Arizona last week, the members of the Columbia men’s golf team played their first tournament of the season Sunday through Tuesday in Fredericksburg, Va.
The Lions played well in their first competitive outing of the spring. Two golfers broke 80 in both rounds of the American Invitational, and two others averaged below 80 for the tournament.
Even so, the weekend was a disappointment because Columbia came away with nothing to show for their good performance. Tournament officials accused the Light Blue of leading off from the wrong set of tees on Hole No. 6 in the second round, and determined that Columbia should be disqualified.
Thus, while the team was on pace to finish in the top five at The Gauntlet Golf Course after posting a first round score of 311, Columbia’s second round score of 314 was tossed and the Lions were taken out of contention.
Also disqualified were Bucknell and St. Bonaventure, which were grouped with Columbia and made the same mistake of using the incorrect tees on No. 6.
“It hurt because we fought all the way through the tournament only to find out at the very end that we had been disqualified,” sophomore Nick Prost said. “We really played hard and then we were told after finishing up at No. 18 that all of our work was worthless in a sense.”
The responsibility for the mistake, according to senior captain Nathan Kielbasa, should lie with the team and the groundskeeper at The Gauntlet, who exercised poor judgement in setting up an extra set of tees on the course behind the official tournament ones.
“We should have known which color tees we were playing, but the groundskeeper shouldn’t have put those tees out there,” Kielbasa said. “We had been playing the back tees all tournament, and so we assumed the tees we used [which were located the farthest back] were meant for us.”
Although the mishap cost the Columbia team a fourth-place finish at the American Invitational, the Lions were encouraged by their strong shooting to open the spring season. A young team composed of one senior, two sophomores, and two first-years, the Light Blue shot relatively well under cold, wet, and blustery conditions and on a tough course to play in any weather.
Prost, who won this tournament last season in its inaugural year and led Columbia to first place in the team standings, had the best showing this time out with a 79-75. Kielbasa followed just one stroke behind with a 76-79 on the par-72 course.
First-year Darren Bolton and sophomore Ali Haji carded competitive scores in the first round, going 77 and 79 respectively, and finished up with 80’s in the second round. First-year Chris Oosterhuis rounded out the five-man roster with a pair of 82’s in his first ever college tournament.
“We played well. I think we all feel like we could have played better,” Kielbasa said. “But, for the first tournament of the year, it is very promising.”
Clearly, the team has a few more tournaments to go before it gets loose enough to start playing its best golf. But, the fact that the Lions are getting up and down and shooting well after a long hiatus from competition is a good omen for this season.
“It gives you a lot of confidence to play well in your first tournament,” Prost said. “And I thought we played well as a team at the American Invitational”
Next on the schedule for Columbia is the Towson Invitational, for which the Lions will revisit the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and play Great Hope Golf Course in Westover, Md.
“Great Hope is a very fair course,” Prost said. “If you play well then you will shoot very low. It will give us a good idea of where we stand.”