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Swarthmore men’s golf travels to (not so) sunny Florida

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When someone brings up “spring break trip to Florida,” beaches, parties, and sunny weather tend to come to mind. Well, over spring break this year, the men’s golf team did exactly that, a spring break trip to Florida, but without the beaches, parties, and even, at times, without the sun.

Departing on Sunday, March 11, the Swarthmore golf team and their two coaches flew to 59-degree Jacksonville, and then drove an hour south to the World Golf Village (WGV), a golf resort in St. Johns County, Florida. Created by the PGA Tour in 1998, the WGV boasts the World Golf Hall of Fame, along with two 18-hole championship courses: the Slammer & Squire and the King & Bear.

The Slammer & Squire was built as a collaborative effort between Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen. The two former PGA Tour stars shared a desire to build a course that rewards good shots while preserving the area’s natural beauty.

The King & Bear, on the other hand, is the only course in the world that has been co-designed by golf legends Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. It offers a mixture of two different design styles. In Florida Golf Magazine, Palmer expressed his opinion of the course.

“The holes at The King & The Bear have a variety and blend of Jack’s and my ideas that resulted in an example of golf course architecture that may not be attempted again.”

The front nine sports an open, undulating layout that honors the heritage and history of St. Augustine. The back nine is more “traditional Florida,” with 200-year-old oaks and numerous water bodies in play.

In the six days that the men’s golf team was at the WGV, they played six rounds of 18 holes, alternating between both of these courses. The trip was aimed at having the team play a lot of golf before the season picks up in the spring.

The weather in the Northeast hasn’t been so favorable, and as a result, several golf courses in the area have delayed their opening dates. Traveling to Florida was a great way to get in rounds of golf in order to prepare the team for the abrupt season start shortly after spring break.

Besides just improving their games, the trip to Florida also provided a fantastic bonding experience for the entire team. Spring break was the first time that the new first-years on the team got a chance to meet Vamsi Damerla ’19, a captain who was abroad during the first semester.

Vice-captain Daniel Altieri ’19 expressed his opinion on the trip.

“Spring break is a great time for the whole team to spend quality time together. Between practicing during the day and hanging out at night, it was great for all of us to have this trip, especially since the intense nature of the spring season doesn’t allow for much downtime.”

Vice-captain Nick DiMaio ’19 also shared a similar attitude.

“When we were off the course, we had a great time watching March Madness together. As an upperclassman, it was great to get to know the young players a little better and build team chemistry.”

Towards the end of the trip, the team bonded at TopGolf, a golf range with a sports-bar vibe, which included food, drinks, and TV. It gives people the opportunity to have casual competitions, as several large, user-friendly target areas out on the range are able to register the microchipped balls hit by players.

On Friday, the team played a final round at the Slammer & Squire and headed back to the Jacksonville airport to fly back to Swarthmore. The trip to Florida was successful in improving the players’ games, bringing the team together, and preparing them for the upcoming season.

The first tournament of the spring will be held this weekend. Half of the team will travel to Hershey, Pa., to compete in the Hershey Cup, while the other half will be heading to Williamstown, N.J., to play at Arcadia Invitational.

The team seem to be in great shape for these tournaments and those to follow. Altieri gave his thoughts on the 2018 season.

“I believe that this team is something special. Last year, coming in second in the conference tournament showed us that we can compete with the other guys out there. Our solid play in the fall makes me excited for how we can play this spring, and come the end of April, the rest of the conference will see what we can do.”

DiMaio highlighted the talent he sees in the Juniors and first-years on the team.

“We are expecting big things for this season. With a solid core of junior players and the addition of some key freshmen, we have our eyes set on making NCAAs this year.”

All in all, the men’s golf team is optimistic for the coming season. Fresh off of six rounds of golf in Florida, the team feel prepared to bring out their best and bring the conference championship to Swarthmore.

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