Howey-In-The-Hills, FL- The Williams College men's golf team will return north tomorrow having completed play in the NCAA Championship tournament in which the Ephs finished 16th out of the original field of 42 teams. The championship was played at Mission Inn in Howey-In-The-Hills, FL, and employed both courses on the property for the first two rounds before the tournament shifted solely to the 6,844 yard par-72 El Campeon course for the final two rounds. The Ephs concluded the tournament with their best round on El Campeon as a team after struggling during the first and third rounds. All four final round scorers for the Ephs came in under 80, though each took their own path en route to a score in the 70s.
At the top of the leaderboard, Wittenberg University and Guilford College were locked in a duel for the national championship that was eventually won by Wittenberg, who needed all of its two shot cushion to start the day as both teams fired matching scores of 293. Wittenberg (1180), Guilford (1182), and Texas Tyler (1186) comprised the podium. Josh Gibson of Hope College shot a final round 67 to get into a playoff with Wittenberg's Garrett Brickley for the top individual spot, which was won by Gibson.
The two smoothest round of the day came from senior captains Ross Hoffman and Grant Raffel. Hoffman was playing in his final round in an Eph uniform while Raffel will be back for the fall 2017 season after taking time off during spring semester of last year.
Just like yesterday, the Ephs started on the back nine while the top half of the remaining teams saw the course in order. Hoffman cruised through his opening nine at even par and suffered his only setback on the difficult par-4 3rd hole, where he made double-bogey. That was the only blemish on the scorecard on his front nine, as all the other holes were pars, bringing Hoffman's number on the day to 74.
Raffel likewise came in with 74, and is most likely kicking himself for not coming in under par. Raffel played one-under golf for 17 holes, and much like Hoffman ran into a spot of bother on the 3rd hole. Raffel was riding along at even par having just birdied the 172 yard par-3 2nd hole to get to that score before swallowing a 7 on the very next hole. He rebounded nicely, finishing with five pars and a birdie to finish at +2.
First-year Sam Goldenring also played smooth golf for a majority of the day, cashing in for birdie on the short par-3 15th to get back to even par through his first six holes. Goldenring then made a triple on 16 and a double on 18, both par-4s, to make the turn at +5. Much like Raffel, Goldenring displayed his composure on the front side, but unlike Hoffman and Raffel he cashed in a birdie on the 3rd. Two bogeys more bogeys on the front pushed his score to +6 (78), a good round when factoring in the double and triple.
Senior captain Jacob Watt-Morse, the other member of the Williams line-up playing in his last career round, earned the Gruden Grinder award for his play during the fourth round. The Pittsburgh native failed to make a birdie on the day, and made two double-bogeys on his opening nine to turn at +4. Pars were king for Watt-Morse on the day (he made 13 of them), making six on the front nine along with three bogeys to finish with 79.
Freshman Will Kannegieser, who along with Goldenring earned Ping All-Northeast Region for his play this spring, came in with 83 for the second straight day. Similar to his round yesterday, Kannegieser struggled on the back nine before playing good golf on the front side, however he could not recover from his start.
Goldenring was the highest finisher for the Ephs at +13 (301, T-35), Hoffman came next at +24 (312, T-66), then Raffel and Kannegieser at +30 (318, T-80), and finally Watt-Morse at +31 (319, T-89).
Head coach Josh Hillman was proud of his team's performance in his second trip to nationals as a coach, saying, "Overall this was a fantastic week for Williams Golf. We competed at the highest level and did very well. The entire team should be every proud of what they accomplished this year. The five guys who played here at Mission Inn can compete with any of the other guys here. They have the skill set, the work ethic and are committed to playing good golf." Hillman attributes his team's success to its leadership: "One of the main reasons why we had such a strong season is our captains. They lead by example, supported each other and 'kept it above the line'." Hillman concluded his remarks by praising the play of his two freshman and saying he is looking forward to working hard to make it back to NCAAs next year.