Collectively, the Penn State men’s golf team did not finish the Gopher Invitational the way it wanted to. Individually, though, there were multiple bright spots that kept the team from leaving on an entirely bad note.
The three-round event, hosted by Minnesota at Spring Hill Golf Club in Wayzata, Minn., was held on Sunday and Monday, but the Nittany Lions were eliminated from the overall team competition before the final round began.
After finishing their first round of play in 13th place in the 15-team field, all five Lions golfers began their second round of play later Sunday. However, only three of them qualified for scoring at the end of the round; sophomore Jens Talbert and freshman Chris Houston had been disqualified.
“At the completion of round two, each player turned in an incomplete scorecard, which resulted in disqualification,” said head coach Greg Nye in a text message. “The team had just played an outstanding second round after a very poor morning round. It was a very unfortunate turn of events for Penn State.”
Talbert elaborated a bit more saying that both he and Houston had their scorecards submitted without realizing they had not signed them yet.
Because of the unusual circumstances, the Lions were also disqualified from the overall team competition; with only three golfers eligible, they could not meet the requirement of four scores needed.
“It was hugely disappointing because if we could have counted our scores, we would have beat some really quality teams,” Talbert said.
However, the team played the rest of the tournament as individuals, where some good things did happen for it.
Senior Jay Woodward led the Lions with a final score of 227 (+11), improving his score each round. His score was good enough to tie for 19th out of all golfers in the tournament.
Two of the Lions that golfed at the event, Houston and fellow freshman Geoff Vartelas, made their debuts with the team. While Houston only carded scores for the first and final rounds, his round average was 79.5, fourth on the team and a half-stroke behind Talbert.
Vartelas shot two of the three best rounds the Lions had all tournament, leading the team after both the first and second rounds. After notching a 147 (+3) after two rounds, though, he shot a 92 (+20) to end his tournament, finishing tied for 61st place.
“Geoff played two really solid rounds, struggled in the last round,” Talbert said. “It was a brutal course to be a freshman and come into right away.”
Nye said he was impressed by the way Vartelas played in the opening two rounds
“It was a real lift for our team to see Geoff’s first two rounds,” he said. “Playing in an event as a freshman against highly-ranked players and programs can be a daunting task, and he just coolly went about the business of playing very well.”
California led the tournament after each round and was the only school to card a final score under-par. Its 862 (-2) was 14 strokes better than the nearest competitor, SMU.
Kent State’s Corey Conners edged out the individual victory, shooting a total of 213 (-3). He finished just ahead of three California golfers--Max Homa (214), Michael Kim (214) and Brandon Hagy (216).
Penn State will continue its season Monday, Sep. 17, when it competes in the Iverness Intercollegiate Invitational in Toledo, Ohio.
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