WILLIAMSTOWN, MASS. -- The Williams men's golf team last fall won the NESCAC Fall Qualifier and earned the right to host the NESCAC Championship at the Taconic Golf Club the following spring, where the NESCAC's NCAA Tournament representative would be determined. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck and closed down all Eph sports in the middle of March through the end of the 2020 spring no NESCAC Champion would be determined and no NCAA DIII Tournament was held.
Despite the graduation of three top players from last year's team in Ben Beiers, Sam Goldenring, and Will Kannegieser, Eph head coach Josh Hillman was more than ready to start practicing again. Six Ephs - one freshman, two sophomores, and three seniors returned to campus this fall and one senior, Wyatt Khosrowshahi, will be taking this year off and returning to compete in the fall of 2021.
Regarding training and practices this fall, coach Hillman said, "We practice at Taconic Golf Club and golf has been shown to be a very safe, outside sport all summer long. Honestly, not much has changed for us other than masking and staying 12 feet away from each other." However, there will not be any 2020 competitions due to COVID-19 and the golfers will have to wait a little longer to see if there will be any spring competitions.
The pandemic has also had an effect on recruitment and the incoming class of freshmen. However, according to coach Hillman, "We were lucky enough to still have a solid incoming class." Looking to the future and to the recruitment of the class of 2025, Hillman anticipates that, "I have a feeling I will have even more Zoom meetings in my future."
Tommy Coyne, a sophomore, said, "With no conference play this fall, this season was not what we were expecting, but it presents us a great opportunity to take a step back and make changes to the parts of the game that we wouldn't be comfortable changing during a competitive season. I also feel like this semester gives us a chance to directly compete within the small group we have, and set the stage for a big postseason push in the spring."
Similarly, William Conyers, a senior, offered, "It feels easier perhaps to focus on similarities between this year and years past than to enumerate the differences. Classes are structured differently, campus feels fairly empty, and personal social circles have largely shrunk to six. I have however found consistency and normalcy in that at 4:00 PM it is time to change into golf clothes and head down to Taconic for practice. Routine -- and time spent with teammates -- have and will play a key role in anchoring this semester for me."
When asked if it will be hard to focus on practicing not knowing if there will be a spring season, Coyne responded, "Everyone on the team, including coach, is very optimistic for the spring season. We're not treating this fall any different than if we knew a spring season was guaranteed. Our optimism definitely will make it easier to focus and "tighten the screws." Conyers then offered. "We are working hard as a team to make weekend inter-team matches, and daily practices, as competitive as possible this fall in the spirit of seasons past."
For Coyne, the best thing about being back on campus is "other than seeing all our friends for the first time in almost half a year, Taconic has been a pleasure to play so far. The course has been very firm, allowing for long drives but creating a challenge to attack pins. Our practice hasn't been affected nearly as much as other fall sports, especially contact sports, so being able to get in nine holes with the team during the week has provided a sense of normalcy for an otherwise odd semester." Conyers echoed those thoughts. "It has been great to reconnect with friends and acquaintances I have made over the past three years. Having been gone from campus the entirety of this past year, it is incredibly special to once again walk down Spring Street and recognize friendly faces everywhere."
First-year golfer Jimmy Farrell was most impressed with how easily he was able to join the team. "All the upperclassmen have been super nice and helped me learn about Williams and the course even though I can't play right now with my broken wrist."
Farrell thinks that his biggest adjustment to college golf for him is, "Not being able to play because of my broken wrist. But it could be very helpful for my game in the long run since I'm now starting to practice my putting a lot more since it's the only thing I can do. I also think that I will be able to play Taconic the right way a lot faster since I've been able to watch a lot of shots and see where you should put the ball and where you shouldn't, and what clubs to hit."
Lastly, when asked how big of a factor Taconic Golf Club was in his decision to attend Williams, Farrell replied, "It was what helped me decide to come to Williams. I would say that Williams and Notre Dame were my two top choices and there are definitely benefits to going to ND but at the end of the day being able to play golf in college is awesome and it's hard to top that. And then when you add Taconic it's hard to say no. Taconic is also very similar to my home course which helped since I like the tough greens. So depending on how you look at it I picked Williams over ND because I could play golf. They were pretty close but golf and Taconic definitely pushed Williams into a clear lead and is why I applied Early Decision."
"Overall we are extremely lucky to have Taconic Golf Club and to play a sport that is considered so safe," remarked coach Hillman. "Our experience will be fantastic and the silver lining is that by the end of fall, we will have had a lot of low pressure fun. My goal for the team is to grow as people, enjoy each other, and have a lot of fun playing a sport they love. Keep it simple and enjoy Taconic."