This weekend the Swarthmore men’s golf team competed in their final tournament to close out what has been a successful fall season.
The tournament took place from Saturday, October 5 to Sunday, October 6 at Concord Country Club. The men’s team placed fifth overall out of twelve teams, with two golfers, Ankur Malik ’21 and Michael Brown ’21, placing in the top ten.
Brown is a team captain and is thrilled with the team’s performance this weekend on a difficult course. “It was a new course, so it was tough because usually when we go to a tournament, upperclassmen will tell underclassmen about scores, different shots to hit,” said Brown. “We didn’t have that this week, but it was a new experience and it was a really good weekend.”
New courses present a challenge for the team since they lack knowledge of the geography of the course and the layout of the holes. It is helpful to have experienced upperclassmen impart their knowledge to first years and sophomores who may not have had the chance to practice some courses prior to competing in tournaments.
Brown notes that last year the men’s golf team lost five valuable seniors. “It’s a really young team; six [first years], we lost five seniors. Just being with each other, helping each other out with our games, has pushed us, and we’ve had a little spark towards the end of the fall season.”
The fall competition season fostered a sense of comradery between team members and strengthened relationships between the incoming first years and upper-classmen. With six new first years on the team, this newfound sense of comradery has allowed for the team’s successful performance towards the end of the fall season.
Max Katz-Balmes ’20 also notes that the first-years have been enthusiastic to contribute to the team atmosphere. “We have six [first years]this year, who all have brought positive, new energy to the team. Gyan Bains [’23] has shot our team’s lowest round, Leonard Park has consistently performed well in the starting lineup, and our other four [first years]have shown their potential with solid results.”
Gyan Bains shot a round of under-par and finished in second-place overall at the Mason-Dixon Invitational at the Bridges Golf Club on Sunday, Sept. 29. 96 golfers competed in this tournament and he was a mere three strokes away from finishing in first. The result is indicative of the high level of potential that the first-year class brings with them to hone for the spring season.
The team has been implementing new methods to practice in order to improve their results. During the fall season, the team generally practices at Springhaven Country Club. Katz-Balmes notes that the team has been utilizing the new facilities at Swarthmore.
“[We supplement] our on-course work with sessions on the Trackman simulator in the golf room. We also have, for the first time since I got to campus, team lifts to help us with our flexibility, strength, and motor speed.”
Brown also referenced the importance of the addition of the indoor golf space. The indoor golf facility provides technology that can accurately identify the player’s swing speed and angle which provides a detailed analysis of the player’s performance. The indoor facility also provides a space to practice over the end of the fall season and through the winter.
“Having the new golf facility has really helped us outside of outdoor practices. Typically during the week, each of us will go there and help each other look at our swings on video, especially look at our numbers in our swings. Like our swing speed, our face angle of the club, and that’s helped us just become more consistent with our swings.”
The indoor facility is a new addition to the team’s resources that the players will be able to benefit from this year. Brown notes that the installation of the indoor facility last year occurred just before their spring season began.
“Now we can use it the rest of the semester, and we’ll probably have practices there twice a week at least. People can obviously use it whenever they want, but we’ll have organized competitions, [and] play some simulated courses,” said Brown.
In addition to the indoor facility, the golf team will also be working in the gym two to three times a week in order to maintain their strength and swing patterns. Team lifts will also serve to foster a stronger sense of comradery during the off-season.
Brown also attributes the team’s success to head coach Jim Heller and assistant coach John Dukes.
“When we’re out there on the course they’re always helping us with our shots, helping us with our decision making, and that’s always helpful to lower our scores,” Brown said.
As the fall season has progressed, the team’s results have also made headway.
“We shot our team low on Saturday this week. “It was about 300, our team score. We finished fourth place at McDaniel [College]’s tournament, we were there last week, and we finished fifth place this weekend, out of twelve teams. So that’s a step in the right direction,” Brown said.
“We started off with a rough result, but as our freshmen have adapted to college life, our scores have improved,” he said.
The acclimation of the first-years to the team as well as a sense of team comradery is important to the improved results that the team is now beginning to see. In addition, returning upper-classmen have also made a lasting impression during the fall season.
“Ankur [Malik] has shot the team’s two-day low score,” said Brown “71-75… this weekend, he finished tied for third.”
When looking towards the spring season, Katz-Balmes is hopeful that the team will have another chance to win conferences.
“It would be amazing to win conferences this year, especially after last year’s final day heartbreak and a close second place finish my freshman year,” Katz-Balmes said.
He has hopes that the strong showing during the past two tournaments this fall season will translate into the spring. “From a team perspective, the past two tournaments have been very strong, with most individual scores in the 70s,” he said.
The team hopes this level will carry on into the Spring season, when the team will have an opportunity to compete in conferences.