Watch the throne.
Those three words will likely be echoing in the hearts and minds of the Penn men’s golf team as they embark on the defense of their 2015 Ivy League championship.
Success came early and often for the men’s team in 2014-15. After coming within a stroke of winning the Cornell Invitational to open up the fall season, the Red and Blue followed it up by taking home the City Six Championship just a few weeks later.
The team stayed relatively quiet as the calendar transitioned from fall to spring, but the fireworks were saved for the last tournament of the regular season.
After finishing in eighth place in the 2014 Ivy League Championship tournament, expectations weren’t high for the Quakers in 2015. After the first day of competition, it seemed the Red and Blue would continue to toil away in the bottom half of the standings, but that’s when things started to change.
“We weren’t terribly out of it after the first day,” coach Bob Heintz said. “We knew we were a dangerous team.”
Heading into the final day of the tournament, Penn found themselves needing to make up five strokes on Princeton to take home the title.
At the top of the lineup, seniors Austin Powell and Ben Cooley kept the Quakers in contention by combining to birdie eight holes on the back nine. With a couple eagles tossed in from then-sophomore Dane Walton, the team combined to shoot seven strokes under par on the back nine, just good enough to edge the Tigers by one stroke for the Ancient Eight title.
“This is probably the hardest working team I’ve had in my three years here,” Heintz said. “We had really good leadership starting with our captains.”
With the graduation of Powell and Cooley, a large hole has opened at the top of the lineup. Patrick O’Leary, now the only senior on the team, has been tasked with not only taking over a leadership role on the team, but also finding a way to get the entire team to contribute up and down the lineup.
“Luckily Patrick has really matured and come into his own as a captain,” Heintz said. “We really just need to work on identifying the fourth and fifth guys in our lineup.”
Penn also has to deal with the target on its back that comes with winning championships. Tasked with defending their City Six championship at the famous Merion Golf Club this Fall, the Red and Blue were only able to muster a third-place finish.
Chalk it up to a championship hangover, or even a team still trying to find its identity, but with just two tournaments left to go before the Ivy championships, the Red and Blue have to find a way to improve their team’s performance.
“We’re not deep enough,” Heintz said. “We need to get good play from all five guys, not just the top three, if we want to beat teams like Yale or Princeton.”
Underclassmen Josh Goldenberg and Carter Thompson have emerged early as two players capable of giving Penn the production it needs to round out its lineup. While both players are seeing their first collegiate tournament action this year, they have quickly made an impression on their coach.
“I saw some excellent work from Goldenberg who’s had a couple of top finishes this year,” Heintz said. “I think [Thompson] has contributed a sense of stability to the team. I think people feel he’ll be there every day and shoot a good score.”
After pulling off an improbable worst-to-first finish in the Ivy League standings last season, the pressure is now on the Quakers to prove that it wasn’t a fluke.
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