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Athlete of the week: Daniel Altieri ’19

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Daniel Altieri ’19 has started the 2018 spring golf season off hot, winning a share of the Centennial Conference’s golfer of the week accolade for his strong performance at the Hershey Cup this past week. Altieri, a junior golfer from Skillman, N.J., finished tied for third place, shooting a 74 overall, and leading the team to a fifth-place finish out of 15 teams. Although the tournament was cut short due to the snow, the signs of life in the team were promising. Altieri and the Garnet are back in action on April 14 at the Rosemont Invitational.

Ping Promrat: What is your major, and what made you decide to choose it?

Daniel Altieri: I am an economics and environmental studies double major. I am really interested in learning about the intersections between societal development and environmental conservation, and how to tackle the perceived notion that economic progress and sustainability are mutually exclusive. The classes that I have taken in both departments have been fun, but the classes in environmental studies have been especially enjoyable. The professors are awesome.

PP: What got you into golf as a kid? How did you find out about Swarthmore in the recruiting process?

DA: I first started playing golf with my dad when I was pretty young. He started playing when he got out of college, so I learned from him. I also played basketball and ran cross country in high school, but I knew I wanted to play golf in college. My older brother played golf at Franklin and Marshall, so I learned about Swarthmore through his recruiting process and the tournaments he played against them. I talked with Coach Heller often, and after visiting the school my senior year of high school, I knew I wanted to come here.

PP: What were some of the highlights of the team’s spring break trip to Florida?

DA: The spring break trip is always one of the best times of the year. This year in Florida it was really fun just to spend time with the team, whether it was practicing during the day or hanging out at night. I would say going to the World Golf Hall of Fame was a highlight, getting to see the history and memorabilia from the greatest players and moments was really cool.

PP: What are the greatest challenges in being a student athlete?

DA: I think the greatest challenge is the same challenge that many students at Swat face, and that’s managing time. During our fall and spring seasons, we travel on the weekends, staying in hotels and coming back to campus late at night, and with practice during the week, it really makes you focus on schoolwork during your downtime. My time here at Swat has really helped me become more efficient at balancing multiple commitments.

PP: Talk a little bit about the tournament last weekend. How did it feel to be named Centennial Conference golfer of the week?

DA: The tournament at Hershey was a good sign for our team. Even though it was cut short to just one day, the way the guys and I played was really solid, beating four of the top 50 teams in the country. I really worked on my game over the winter, so having a good showing was a confidence boost. Being named golfer of the week is always a great thing; the other teams in the conference are strong so being able to stack up with them shows our work is paying off.

PP: If you could change one thing about Swarthmore, what would it be and why?

DA: I would probably want to upgrade some of the old facilities around campus. From the fieldhouse and tennis courts to rooms in dorms and, of course, Sharples, I think the overall student experience would be more positive if the infrastructure were up to date. It is good to know that there are long-term plans in place to work on this issue, so hopefully later class years will get to see the progress.

PP: If you could travel to one place in the world, where would it be and why?

DA: Either Normandy, France, or Istanbul, Turkey. Both those places were the settings for some of the biggest events in human history, so being able to put myself in those environments would be special. I actually have never been to California, so maybe I should try to check that out first. San Francisco would definitely be the first stop!

Controversial Patrick Reed crowned champion at Augusta

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On Sunday, with the sun setting on the 18th green at Augusta National Golf Club, The Masters Tournament crowned its newest champion. Over the course of four days, Patrick Reed, a controversial, brash, and cocky 27-year-old from Texas, proved the best of the elite 86-man field, finishing with a 1-under par 71 for a one-stroke victory over Rickie Fowler.

Reed is not a stranger to the big moment. Although his Masters win was the first major victory of his P.G.A. Tour career — the Masters is one of four majors on the Tour along with the U.S. Open, The Open Championship, and the P.G.A. Championship — Reed has now won six times on Tour.

He has also played a key role in the past two Ryder Cups, a biennial team competition between Europe and the United States, posting a 6-1-2 record in the two competitions. At the Ryder Cup, emotions run high, and Reed has not backed down from the action. In 2014, during his tournament debut at Gleneagles in Scotland, he put one finger to his mouth and shushed the home crowd after making a long putt in a victory over Henrik Stenson. His actions in Scotland prompted both a wave of support from those who admired his confidence and grit and one of criticism from those who found his actions disrespectful and over-the-top.

Reed’s Ryder Cup swagger and success carried over to the 2016 tournament at Hazeltine National in Minnesota. In his Sunday singles match, Reed went blow-for-blow against four-time major winner and reigning FedEx Cup champion Rory McIlroy in perhaps the most exciting, energetic, and emotional match in Ryder Cup history. Throughout the match, Reed and McIlroy exchanged long putts, fist pumps, and primal screams. Reed eventually beat McIlroy by one hole in the match play competition.

Due to his Ryder Cup record and fierce attitude on the course, Reed has been given the nickname Captain America by some of his fans.

Although Reed has received criticism for his Ryder Cup antics, his controversial figure does not end there. In fact, the backlash against Reed started during his college days at the University of Georgia.

In 2008, Reed enrolled at Georgia, joining a veteran golf team that included P.G.A. Tour winners Hudson Swafford, Brian Harman, Harris English, and Russell Henley. However, Reed’s stay in Athens was short-lived. During his one year at Georgia, Reed was accused of cheating during a qualifying round, blamed for the theft of personal items and 400 dollars in cash from the team locker room, and arrested twice for alcohol-related incidences.

Jason Payne, the assistant golf coach at Georgia during Reed’s tenure, described Reed’s short-lived stint as a Bulldog to blogger Stephanie Wei, “Once Patrick was on campus for a few months, it became clear that Patrick was not going to mesh with the makeup of the team at that time, and he was dismissed from the team. There is no doubting the ability of Patrick as a golfer, it was Patrick as a person that we chose not to associate with.”

Having lost the trust of his coach and teammates, Reed transferred to Augusta State University — located in the same town as Augusta National — where he moved in with his parents. At Augusta State, Reed found success on the course, leading the Jaguars to back-to-back national titles in 2010 and 2011. However, off the course, Reed’s abrasive behavior and alleged cheating again led to fall outs with his teammates, escalating to the point at that his teammates considered taking a vote to kick him off the team.

Although despised by his teammates, in 2011, Reed found solace at Augusta State in the form of his then-girlfriend, now-wife Justine. The couple’s relationship developed quickly and they planned to wed in December of 2012, less than two years after they started dating.

Patrick’s parents were concerned about Patrick marrying at only 22 years old. However, after they voiced their concerns, Patrick completely cut ties with his family, failing to even invite his parents or younger sister to his wedding. In fact, Patrick still hasn’t spoken to his family, who watched the final round of The Masters just a few miles away in their Augusta house.

For the Reeds, Patrick’s victory at Augusta National was bittersweet.

After watching her son win one of the most important golf tournaments in the world, an emotional Jeannette Reed, with tears streaming down her face, told Golf.com’s Alan Shipnuck, “I can’t believe my son is the Masters champion. It’s surreal.”

Shipnuck, who was with the Reeds on Masters Sunday commented that Jeannette’s reaction,  “was a dizzying mix of pride and pain.”

However, Patrick did not express any desire to see his family when asked at the post round press conference if it hurt to not have his parents there to celebrate with.

He stated bluntly, “I’m just out here to play golf and try to win golf tournaments.”

Unfortunately, the criticism of Patrick has been compounded by the fact that he is not friendly towards his fellow PGA Tour competitors.

In fact, many of his peers barely know the insular Reed. Ryan Moore, a Ryder Cup teammate of Reed, told Golf.com, “I don’t really know him, even though we played on the Ryder Cup team together. He keeps to himself and does his own thing.”

Daniel Berger, another P.G.A. Tour member, echoed Moore’s sentiments. When asked who Reed’s friends are on Tour, Berger responded, “To be honest, he doesn’t really play with the guys during practice rounds. He’s always by himself.”

On top of his family drama, unfriendly personality, and cockiness, Reed was once caught yelling a homophobic slur at a 2014 tournament in China.

Given his often unpleasant personality and questionable antics, perhaps it is not surprising that the biggest cheers on Sunday at the Masters went to Reed’s nearest challengers, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, and Rickie Fowler. Even after clinching the tournament with a four-foot putt on 18, the fans’ reaction was muted. In fact, the cheers for Reed were so quiet and awkward that it was hard to tell that he had won the tournament.

When asked at the post-round press conference why fans seem not to like him, Reed responded, “I don’t know. Why don’t you ask them? I mean, I have no idea, and honestly I don’t really care what people say on Twitter or what they say if they are cheering for me or not cheering for me. I’m out here to do my job, and that’s to play golf. I feel like if I’m doing it the right way, then that’s all that really matters.”

Although Patrick Reed is a controversial and unpopular figure on the P.G.A. Tour, he does not apologize for being himself. He is only concerned with being the best golfer he can be, and now, with a Masters title under his belt, the future looks bright for Reed.

Shubhankar Sharma qualifies for the most prestigious tournament in golf

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Shubhankar Sharma, a 21-year-old Indian golfer who first experienced a golf course through an unusual coincidence, has recently been invited to play in the 2018 Masters, arguably the most prestigious tournament in the world of golf. Here’s how he got there.

Sharma grew up in Chandigarh, India, and is the son of retired Col. Mohan Lal. Sharma. The Colonel was stationed at the same post as the father of Anirban Lahiri — another Indian professional golfer who is nine years older than Shubhankar Sharma. Lahiri was a top junior golfer at the time, and over a casual conversation between his father and Mohan Lal Sharma, his father brought up introducing young Shubhankar to golf as well.

“This is a great game. You’ll find that if you take him to golf,” Lahiri’s father coaxed, according to an article posted on the PGA website.

And so, for the first time, father and son went to the golf course together. However, it wasn’t the picture-perfect, “Upper East Side” introduction to golf with a full set of equipment and copious lessons.

“No one in our family played golf. [My father] bought a set and I would tag along with him on the course. After a month or two, he got me a cut-down 2-iron. That was my first club,” Sharma said.

“Sharma is a really good kid. He comes from a humble background. He’s kind of like myself—Army brats. We didn’t have all the luxurious equipment or facilities. We’re grinders,” Lahiri said.

Similar to many children, Sharma grew up playing the sports that appealed to his friends. In India, that meant cricket after school. Golf was not a part of most Indians’ lives. It was an expensive sport more or less reserved for older uncles whose bellies kept them to 13 holes, perhaps 14 if they felt up to the challenge. The few kids that did get the opportunity to play were those who then turned into India’s professional golfers, Anirban Lahiri, Arjun Atwal, and now, Shubhankar Sharma.

“But golf was different,” Sharma claimed. “That’s what appealed to me. When I was 12 or 13,  knew I was going to be a professional golfer.”

As Sharma began showing his talent on the course, his father retired from the Army to help out with Sharma’s golf game. At the mere age of 16, Sharma decided to turn pro. This was a bold decision that kept him from sporting India’s colors at the World Amateur Team Championship and other amateur events. In general, once an athlete turns pro, they are no longer permitted to compete in amateur tournaments in order to give the others a chance. Sharma was determined with his decision, and it was this determination that guided him through the intimidating process of making golf his entire life.

In the year after he turned pro, Sharma played on the Asian Development Tour, a professional golf tour equivalent to the Web.com Tour in the U.S., designed to give beginning professionals a chance at winning tournaments and qualifying for more elite ones. He finished fourth in the Panasonic Open India, and Asian Tour tournament in which he qualified to play.

Between 2015 and 2017, Sharma primarily played on the Asian Tour. In 2015, he once again placed fourth in the Panasonic Open India, and shortly after, he placed third in the Bashundhara Bangladesh Open.

After a few years of hard work, Sharma finally achieved his first tour win at the Joburg Open in December 2017. However, despite this win, Sharma still remained in the shadows of professional golf; this small tournament alone was not enough to propel his career to the next level.

In February, Sharma shot a final round 62 to win the Maybank Championship at an impressive 21 strokes under par. Being a larger event co-sanctioned by the Asian and European Tours, the Maybank Championship win propelled Sharma into the world top-100 golfers for the first time.

Despite being 5-foot-6-inches tall and not very long off the tee, with this win, Sharma proved that he could go low  and win a tournament. Many attribute his success to his composure on the course, including Lahiri.

“He’s got such a great temperament,” applauded Lahiri. “He got off to a rough start, hung in there, and managed to finish [very well]. I was really impressed with his grit. He’s got a really stable head on his shoulders. And the best thing about his golf is he can really go low. He’s not scared to make birdies in bunches.”

It was this great temperament that helped Sharma achieve more success following the Maybank Championship. He took an early lead in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, a season-long competition to crown Europe’s top golfer. The lead earned him a spot in the 2018 WGC-Mexico Championship, a tournament held just last week.

The tournament hosted some of the world’s top golfers; Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler to name a few to compete at Club de Golf Chapultepec in Naucalpan, Mexico, just west of Mexico City. At this point, it was safe to say that Sharma was not one of these well-known names.

After two out of four rounds, Sharma held first place by two strokes. Despite his impressive standing on the leaderboard, when Sharma approached Mickelson — the well-known lefty golfer worth over 350 million USD — Mickelson mistook him for press and told him off.

“Me and my caddy, we both went up to him,” Sharma told the press. “He thought we were media and he said, ‘Not right now, after the round.’ Then he realized and said, ‘So sorry, I thought you were media,’ and he said hi, I said hi. Then he made a few putts and he came back to me and said, ‘Have a good day.’ It was nice.”

After the third round, Sharma kept the lead at 13 under; however, in the final round, he faltered and ended up giving over the lead to none other than Mickelson. Yes, Sharma failed to bring home the WGC-Mexico Championship at Chapultepec. However, the 21-year-old received something far better than a trophy.

Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, announced on Tuesday that Sharma had received and accepted an invitation to compete in the 2018 Masters.

“Golf is a global game,” Ridley said. “Throughout our history we have extended invitations to deserving international players not otherwise qualified. As his results have proven, Shubhankar Sharma is a remarkable young player, and we look forward to welcoming him to Augusta National in April.”

The young golfer expressed his delight over Twitter upon hearing the news of his inclusion in the Masters.

“I am deeply honoured to be found worthy of invitation by the Masters Committee. It’s a dream come true. My gratitude.”

Although Sharma did not officially qualify to compete in the Masters, he received a special exemption due to his outstanding recent performance. The last player to receive such an exception was Ryo Ishikawa in 2013.

The Masters this year will be Sharma’s first major championship, and he will also become the fourth Indian golfer to play in the Masters when he tees it up in early April. It’s a proud moment for India, a country that doesn’t tend to send that many golfers to the Asian Tour, let alone the Masters.

Shubhankar Sharma has made tremendous progress in this past season. Just three months ago, Sharma was a name unknown in the world of golf. Now, after two Tour wins, the lead in the Race to Dubai, and a top-ten finish in the WGC-Mexico Championship, the young golfer is ranked 66th in the entire world. His odds for winning the Masters are still 20 times lower than Jordan Spieth, but considering his performance in the past few months, I still see him finishing up there with all the big name players.

 

Tiger Woods returns

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Tiger Woods made his official return to golf this past weekend at the Farmers Insurance Open at the Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla. It’s been a year since Woods has played in an official PGA tournament and a couple years since any sort of consistent run of play, and the anticipation for his return was immense all over the sports world. He shot 72-71-70-72 throughout the tournament, earning him a final score of three under par and tied for 27th place. While this was nowhere near the dominance that Woods displayed on the course in past years, it was definitely a positive start for the world’s former no. 1 golfer.

“I’m very pleased, after not playing for a couple of years and then coming out here on the tour and really playing a solid four days,” Woods said in a post-tournament interview.

Woods has been plagued with back problems for the past few years and has had four procedural surgeries that aimed to alleviate some of these health concerns. The strength of one’s back muscles are vital for one’s golf swing, and as a result, Woods’ game suffered. During this period of time, he dropped from No. 1 in the world to No. 647. This most recent performance at Torrey Pines has already had a major impact on his PGA ranking, and rocketed him up 108 spots to No. 539. This is the highest Woods has been ranked since his peak, when he spent 653 weeks as the No. 1 player in the world.

Woods fall from No. 1 began in 2009 when he was at the center of one of the sports world’s most infamous scandals. “The National Enquirer” and other news outlets uncovered that Woods was having multiple extramarital affairs during the six years he had been married to former Swedish model Elin Nordegren. These were a very messy few years for Woods as he fell from the pinnacle of the golfing world. Rightfully so, the average American sports fan turned their back on Woods, who had once been heralded as the greatest golfer to ever live. He was dropped by nearly all his sponsors and slowly started to fade away from the sport of golf. Unfortunately, at the same time, Woods body started deteriorating with age, and the knee and back surgeries started to pile up. To add insult to injury, Woods received negative media attention again in May 2017 when he was arrested for a suspected DUI. He had been persistent in saying he would make a return to golf, but it seemed increasingly unlikely as Woods fell further into irrelevance. However, particularly following this tournament performance, there is definitely hope that Woods could return to No. 1.

On the contrary, though, many understandably want him to stay away from golf,  in light of his past actions. Many have cast a moral judgement on his actions and believe that his infidelity scandal and reckless driving charge should be enough to keep him away from the sport for life. This was evidenced by one fan yelling during Woods’ birdie putt on the par five 13th hole during the Farmers Insurance Open. Woods ended up missing the putt and the fan was swiftly escorted off the premises. Woods has always been an incredibly polarizing character on and off the course, and it seems like nothing has changed.

Yet, it cannot be denied though that Tiger Woods has a positive impact on the sport of golf. The majority of the tournament was so crowded by fans following his 18-hole days that you seldom could see him. Other PGA stars like Jason Day and Hideki Matsuyama were experiencing much less attention. People love watching Woods not just because he is one of the most accomplished golfers ever, but because he is so daring and lively on the course. He brings energy and intensity to a sport that often lacks it. He attempts shots that his counterparts would never undertake, and can regularly be seen cursing, screaming, and cheering, all viewed by the older golf establishment as “unruly and unorthodox.” Tiger never cared. Woods has won 14 major championships and is one of only five players to ever win a Career Grand Slam, which includes the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, and PGA Championship. The golf world is buzzing with excitement to see if Woods, now 42, can stay healthy the rest of the year and try to regain his past stature. Woods next tournament will be at the Genesis Open at Riviera from Feb. 15 to 18 where he hopes to build on his comeback performance at Torrey Pines.

PGA Tour begins yet another grueling season

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The new golf season is already upon us. Only two weeks following the conclusion of the 2016-17 season-ending Tour Championship, won by 23-year-old Xander Schauffele, the PGA Tour kicked off its 2017-18 season this past week at the Safeway Open in Napa, Calif.

The “wraparound season,” as the Tour calls it, was established in 2013 in an attempt to revitalize the Tour’s failing Fall Series. The Fall Series was a group of events that awarded 95 of the 125 full PGA Tour cards for the following season (the other 30 were given to the participants of the Tour Championship). However, as the best golfers usually locked up their PGA cards by the conclusion of the regular season, they tended not to participate in the Fall Series events because they offered small purses, few FedEx Cup points, and little respite from the grind of competing every weekend.

In 2013, the Tour began to award full FedEx Cup points for the events in the fall, effectively eliminating the offseason. The Tour hoped this change would increase the strength of the fields, which in turn would hopefully increase attendance, sponsorship money, and the value of TV contracts. And while the change has given Tour rookies and journeymen the opportunity to gain experience and establish themselves early in the FedEx Cup standings, big-name players still tend to sit out until January. They don’t feel the pressure average players do to play or risk falling behind in the FedEx Cup points race.

Boo Weekley, a three-time winner on Tour, but someone who feels pressured to play in the fall in order to keep his job, discussed his sentiments about the wraparound season.

“It’s just golf after golf after golf. Ain’t no time for hunting and fishing, man.”

Regardless of how players feel about it, the new season is upon us. The schedule this year features 49 tournaments, up from 47 in 2016-17. New this year are THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES at Jeju Island and the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship, Korea’s and the Dominican Republic’s first ever Tour events, respectively.

With new events, new faces, and a young core of stars, the 2017-18 PGA Tour season is bound to be exciting. Here are five burning questions I have heading into the new season.

  1.     In 2016-17, young stars Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Thomas, and Schauffele won 13 events combined, while Schauffele also took home the Tour Championship, and Thomas captured the FedEx Cup. In total, 19 players in their 20s won 28 times last season. Will these young guns continue to dominate, or will 2017-18 be a year for the veterans?
  2.     Will former world number ones Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, and Adam Scott rediscover their winning ways after disappointing 2016-17 campaigns?
  3.     Will either McIlroy or Spieth complete the career grand slam, with McIlroy requiring only a Masters victory to accomplish the feat and Spieth needing to win the PGA Championship?
  4.     Will the exciting new class of PGA rookies, featuring former college stars Aaron Wise, Beau Hossler (for technical reasons Hossler is not officially considered a rookie), and Peter Uihlein make their mark on Tour like Schauffele and the rest of the 2016-17 class?
  5.     Is this the year Tiger Woods makes his comeback (he recently posted a video of himself taking full swings)? Will he ever win again on Tour? Or are his glory days behind him?

I also have a few early predictions for the 2017-18 season Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year:

Player of the Year: Rory McIlroy. After a down year full of injury and personal milestones (he married Erica Stoll in April), Rory will be able to focus all of his attention on golf this season and will reestablish himself as one of the world’s top players.

Rookie of the Year: Peter Uihlein. A former U.S. Amateur (the most prestigious amateur event in the world) and European Tour winner, expect the established 28-year-old to take the Tour by storm and win at least one event.

However these questions and predictions are resolved throughout the season, the 2017-2018 PGA Tour season is bound to be exciting. The Tour is as deep and as strong as ever and no tournament will have an out and out favorite. Be prepared for competitive tournaments, battles between the world’s best, and plenty of first-time winners.

One tournament that will provide a lot of excitement is the PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club outside of St. Louis. Bellerive has only hosted one tournament since 1992 (in 2008), so only a handful of players have seen the course before. Because the course is a relatively unknown quantity, expect experienced players and rookies alike to be competitive in the tournament that features the strongest field in golf.   

Athlete of the Week: Michael Brown ’21

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Golfer and first-year phenom Michael Brown ’21 has made a historic impact on the Garnet in his debut season so far. Hailing from Reading, Conn., Brown finished first overall Sept. 10 at the Swarthmore-Neumann Invitational in a field of 82 competitors, shooting a 68 overall, one stroke off the Swarthmore program record. He was named Centennial Conference Golfer of the Week for his performance in the tournament and has continued to impress in both the Harrisburg Invitational and the Montgomery Cup in the weeks following. The Garnet return to action on Sept. 30 at the McDaniel Mason-Dixon Invitational.

Ping Promrat: How has the adjustment to college been for you, both academically and athletically?

Michael Brown: In terms of academics, Swarthmore is definitely a step up for me, as there is a lot more time management involved in balancing aspects of college life. I think I’ve adjusted well athletically, and it is a lot of what I expected coming in. The tournament atmosphere is very similar to what I had in high school and the tournaments I played in over the summer.

PP: What is your intended major, and what interests you about it?

MB: I’m currently undecided. That being said, I’m much more of a natural sciences kind of person, so I’m thinking about a potential environmental studies major. I also really like my Introduction to Economics class, too, so I’ll see where my interests take me.

PP: What has been your favorite part about collegiate athletics so far?

MB: I’d say bonding with the guys on the team. We’ve travelled together for multiple tournaments so far on the weekends, and I’ve had a great time with them so far. Also, it’s been great to see where my game stacks up on the collegiate level, as the field of competitors is much stronger than in high school.

PP: What are your athletic goals for the fall season?

MB: Hopefully to win as many tournaments as possible as a team. Personally, I want to stick to my routine of practicing with the team along with working out on my own. We have a great hitting net right by Mertz Field, so I plan to keep working on my swing daily, and making sure that every piece of my game is at its best for the upcoming tournaments.

 

After 18 Years, Garcia Finally Captures Title

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For the last two decades, golf fans have watched Sergio Garcia at his highs, lows, and everything in between. After a stellar junior golf career, Garcia burst onto the scene at the 1999 PGA Championship, where he dueled and narrowly fell to another rising star: Tiger Woods. Garcia’s visible passion and excitement that week excited the sports world.

On Sunday of the ’99 PGA Championship, Garcia most notably ran after his shot on the 16th hole, leaping and scissor-kicking out of excitement. After nearly missing out on his first major, the Tiger-Sergio rivalry was built up by the media, as these two young players were expected to lead the future of the game. However, since then, Garcia’s career has been riddled with head-scratching shots, close calls, and frustrating finishes in major championships.  

In the next six years, Garcia recorded eleven top-ten finishes in major championships. This includes 2002, when he recorded top-ten finishes at all four of the major championships. As the years went by, the pressure on Sergio to succeed in a major continued to build up. People began to ask: when is Garcia going to win one?

In 2007, Garcia’s career took a turn for the worst. That year’s British Open Championship will forever be a defining moment in Garcia’s career. Garcia was leading by three shots after three days and was poised to go wire-to-wire to claim his first Claret Jug (the British Open trophy). However, his poor play on the final day resulted in a second-place finish, narrowly losing to Padraig Harrington in a playoff. At the 2008 PGA Championship at Oakland Hills Country Club, Sergio once again couldn’t hold onto the lead, hitting his ball into the water on the 16th hole, losing to Harrington yet again.

The Spaniard’s struggles on the back nine of tournaments only got worse. At the 2013 The Players Championship, Sergio was fighting off the likes of an emerging Tiger Woods at the top of the leaderboard in the final round. However, Sergio’s emotions got the best of him, complaining that fans were affecting his play. He ultimately hit two balls in the water on the infamous 16th hole and made a quadruple bogey. Woods again beat Garcia, proving he was on the right side of history is this fading rivalry.

Garcia’s frustrations came out in a press conference at the 2012 Masters. When asked about winning major championships, Garcia frankly conceded, “I’m not good enough … I don’t have the thing I need to have. In 13 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to play for second or third place.”

Despite all of this, Garcia has still putting together a phenomenal career. Overall, he had recorded nine PGA Tour victories, including the 2009 The Players Championship, and over twenty victories worldwide. His unique swing consistently produces an effortlessly pure ball strike. He has also thrown in a third-place finish at the 2005 US Open, two second-place finishes at the British Open in 2007 and 2014, two second place finishes at the PGA Championship in 1999 and 2008, and two top-ten finishes at The Masters. After so many near-victories, Sergio, now 37 years-old, started to take a backseat to a new generation of young stars, including Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, and Rory McIlroy.

However, this past Sunday, Garcia forever made his mark in golf history. Garcia played solid for the first three days of competition, working himself into contention once again. Entering Sunday, Garcia was tied for the lead with friend and Ryder Cup teammate Justin Rose. After bogeys on holes 10 and 11, it appeared that Garcia would once again succumb to the pressure. However, a late eagle on hole 15 revived Sergio. In a nail-biting finish, both Garcia and Rose missed birdie putts on 18 and went to a sudden-death playoff. Garcia striped a tee shot in the playoff, while Rose timidly lost his drive right. Garcia proceded to hit a solid second shot to within ten feet. Needing just two putts to win, Garcia confidently stroked his birdie effort into the cup, exuberating the crowd. With years of close-calls in his wake, Garcia fervently fist pumped and waved to the crowd, with tears of joy running down his face. Garcia finally broke through; he is officially a major champion.

After the round, Sergio reflected on his long, bittersweet journey. He remarked, “Obviously, this is something I wanted to do for a long time … but, you know, it never felt like a horror movie. It felt like a little bit of a drama, but obviously with a happy ending.”

This victory could very well be a springboard for the passionate Garcia in future major championships.

Men’s Golf Kicks Off Spring Season Along Georgia Coast

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This past week the Men’s Golf team spent their break enjoying the picturesque Georgia coast and competing in an important out of conference Tri-Match.  

The team flew down to Georgia on March 11th, and stayed for the duration of the week. They competed in the Coastal Georgia Tri-Match held in St. Simons Island against both The College of Coastal Georgia and Villanova University.

With the match at St. Simons Island as their top priority, the team played four other area courses to prepare. Aside from the Sea Island Golf Club Retreat course that the match would be played on, they also played notable courses including the Plantation Course at the Sea Island Resort, Frederica Golf Club, Ocean Forest Golf Club, and the Seaside Course at the Sea Island Resort.

The Tri-Match would bring some tough opposition. Villanova and Coastal Georgia both have players that have performed well in their respective conferences. Lucas Trim of Villanova, a NCAA Division I institution, finished last season in the Top 15 of the Head-to-Head Big East Conference Player Standings with an average round score of 74.79. Coastal Georgia, an NAIA powerhouse, was preseason ranked 7th in the NAIA and fielded Eamon Owen in the Top 40 of the Head-to-Head NAIA Player Standings last year.

Albeit the field was daunting, the Men’s Golf team rose to the challenge. The team was led by Michael Chen ’17, Adam Agustin ’20, and Dan Altieri ’19. Chen fought as the top scorer for the Garnet with a 79, good for 7 over par. Behind Chen were Agustin with an 80 and Altieri with an 81.

Despite an average showing at the Tri-Match, Chen believes the team has many areas where they can improve their game. The team finished 35 strokes behind the second place team (Villanova), but they had to overcome a rough start. Early in the week the team had to shake off the rust from a long off-period between the Fall and Spring seasons. As the week went on the team’s performance progressively got better and the players hit their stride. The break also allowed the team to strengthen an already strong sense of team chemistry. Chen and other members of the team are optimistic about the upcoming Spring season and are eager to showcase their accrued prowess in their first major tournament.

“We always look forward to playing at such a high level of competition. Going forward, we know what we need to do to improve and compete. Our first major tournament is in two weeks at The Bridges Golf Club in Gettysburg, PA. We look to continue to improve day-in/day-out and take home the conference title,” Nick DiMaio ’19 said.

With a large portion of the season ahead of them, the team has work to do. They’re keeping their eye on the prize and are putting in the time and effort needed for a championship run. The observed team camaraderie and resilience shows a deep commitment to performing better in the matches to come.

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