While good things did happen for the Penn State men’s golf team, it couldn’t put all the pieces together and finished eighth at the Inverness Intercollegiate Invitational, held in Toledo, Ohio.
Entering the tournament’s third and final round Tuesday, the Nittany Lions were in a tie for seventh place out of the 10-team field.
With the middle of the pack all scoring close to each other, they were one strong day from possibly breaking through to the top half of the leaderboard.
That didn’t happen, though; difficult weather conditions made many scores inflate and prevented the Lions from moving up in the standings.
According to head coach Greg Nye, a cold front swept through Tuesday and strong winds that were coming from a different direction than before hindered most of the day’s performances.
Senior Anthony DeGol also added that it was raining all night before the final round, leaving the course wet when play began.
“[The rain] made the rough very thick and hard to get your ball advancing,” DeGol said. “It made the course a lot longer than the day before, so instead of hitting it [with] short-irons, you were hitting long-irons in par-fours. With high winds, that leaves no room for error. It was just all-around difficult in every aspect.”
Every school except Michigan State’s final round score was its worst of the event, and the Lions shot fourteen strokes more in the last round than they did in the second round. Their final team score of 894 (296-292-306) put them in eighth place, but fifth-place Liberty was only eleven strokes ahead.
“It was good, because we were actually the lowest-ranked team in that tournament. Beating anyone was good,” DeGol said.
Although the field was packed with talent, some Lions also finished in the upper portion of the individual standings.
Senior Jay Woodward and sophomore Jens Talbert tied for 20th place, each notching a final score of 222 (+9). DeGol was two strokes behind, tying for 27th place.
With a 228 (+15), freshman J.D. Dornes finished in a tie for 40th place, one stroke ahead of freshman Geoff Vartelas (T-43rd place) and three strokes ahead of sophomore Xander McDonald-Smith (47th). However, Dornes was competing as an individual; since he wasn’t in the team’s starting lineup, he did not count towards its scoring.
In what was Dornes’ debut with the Lions, he placed fifth out of the thirteen golfers who competed as individuals. Nye said he liked what he saw from Dornes.
“He did a really nice job of competing, given we were on a US Open golf course and it was his very first event,” Nye said in a text message. Nye added that whether he starts or not in upcoming events depends on how he performs in practices and team qualifying.
The team’s performance against Big Ten opponents at the event went basically the same way.
The Lions had the chance to finish in the top half of conference schools, going into Tuesday tied with Michigan. But while they pulled ahead of the Wolverines, Michigan State jumped ahead of both schools with the second-best score of the day.
The other conference opponent, Northwestern, was the tournament’s winner. Its 868 (285-288-295) was eleven strokes ahead of the event’s runner-ups, Florida State, Kent State and North Texas.
DeGol said it was encouraging to see the team contend well with conference opponents so early in the season.
“It just takes a few bad holes here and there [and] some maturity issues with our team. I think stepping forward that these guys know what to expect, because you’re not going to get much more brutal than a tournament in conditions like this. It’s only easier from here on out,” DeGol said.
Northwestern’s Jack Perry and Kent State’s Kevin Miller won the tournament with 215s (+2), one stroke ahead of eight different golfers.
Penn State’s next tournament will begin on Sunday, Sept. 30 at the Miromar Lakes Collegiate in Fort Myers, Fla. Nye said that it should be only a matter of time before the team breaks through.
“They have practiced and scored well at home, but we are still not able to bring it on the road to the degree to finish top-half in these better fields,” Nye said. “If we attack our games honestly over the year, this group will move up.”