Cranston, RI- The Williams College men's golf team sits in second place after shooting a score of 320 during the first round at this year's Johnson and Wales Invitational held at the par-71 Cranston Country Club. Rhode Island College currently holds a five stroke advantage at 315 over the Ephs following a day that was marked with high scores all over the course. Any player that came in under 80 felt a sense of accomplishment as scores crept all the way up into the 90s with wind doing its best job of keeping the course difficult.
Rhode Island was spurred by the individual performance of Jonathan Cooper, whose round of 72 was the best in the field on Saturday. That combined with a pair of 79s from Tom Sheran and Peter Camerlengo helped stretch the Rhode Island lead.
After a frustrating first event last weekend, Williams junior Ross Hoffman carded the low round of the day for the Ephs, grinding out a 76 that placed him in a tie for fourth heading into the second round on Sunday. Hoffman, despite failing to break 80 during both rounds of last weekend's NYU Invitational, kept his confidence and work rate high in practice all week in preparation to turn things around this weekend.
Sophomore Jack Coyne turned in the only other round in the 70s for the Ephs, firing a 79 that was good enough to put him in the top ten in a tie for seventh. Junior Jacob Watt-Morse, who got the start this week after playing well as an individual last week, shot 81 which was a respectable score on a day with such difficult conditions. Senior Michael Stone rounded out the scoring for the Ephs, turning in an 84.
As an indication of just how difficult the game was to play on day one, senior Tong Liu, normally one of the Ephs most consistent players, required 90 shots to complete all 18 holes, as did fellow senior Max Elgart, playing in the tournament as an individual. Liu and his teammates will be eyeing scores in the 70s and a shot at bringing home a trophy when they tee it up today in round two.
Head coach Josh Hillman recognized the tough conditions that his players were put in, saying, "Today was a very trying day. The wind was gusting which made it tough for everyone and with four of our guys never seeing the course that did not help either." No matter the difficulty, the fact that Williams remains only five strokes back was not lost on Hillman: "If we tighten things up we can pick up those five shots easily. We are expecting a better day tomorrow."