As the final four teams in the NCAA men's basketball tournament compete in San Antonio this weekend, March Madness will also be hitting the links.
Penn women’s golf is competing in the "Match Madness" tournament on Saturday and Sunday in Branchburg, NJ. The Quakers will face off against Princeton, Columbia, and Seton Hall in a special match-play format.
In the traditional stroke-play method of scoring, players essentially compete against the golf course and themselves to post the best individual score possible. However, this weekend the Quakers will compete directly against their opponents in 18-hole matches, with team winners and losers being determined after each round.
Coach Mark Anderson assessed how the different format will affect the team’s approach.
“There are certain holes and situations that will come up that could definitely change their strategy,” he said. “If a player has hit one in there close, then it puts a little more pressure on you to hit it close as well. There are times in match play when you have to take a few more chances.”
However, Penn’s general strategy will remain the same.
“Try to hit fairways, try to hit greens, and make pars. It certainly puts pressure on the other players,” Anderson said.
The past few weeks have been difficult for the Quakers. The cold weather and snow have prevented the golfers from practicing outside, as Tuesday was the first time they did so since spring break. This may have affected Penn’s performance last week, when it finished in seventh place out of fifteen teams at the William & Mary Intercollegiate in Virginia.
“They’re still a little bit rusty. It’s been tough for all of the teams in the Northeast this spring,” Anderson said. “We’ve been practicing a lot inside over the last few weeks and had some match play events with the team inside our simulator.”
Despite these challenges and the fact that this weekend’s tournament is only the second of the spring for the Quakers, the team has not lowered its expectations.
"This is the middle of our season. After this event, there is one more event and then the Ivy League Championship in three weeks,” Anderson said. “I don’t want to view this as just 'let’s try to get ready,' because we’ve done our preparation before, so I expect them to go in there on their games.”
Penn’s competition for the weekend will not be easy. While Columbia has struggled throughout the season, defending conference champion Princeton has been a solid Ivy League opponent. The Tigers have finished ahead of the Quakers in two of the three events in which both teams took part. Additionally, Seton Hall has come on extremely strong as of late, finishing in first place of three of its last four tournaments.
The high level of play should not faze the Quakers, however. They hope to make the end of their March as mad as the Big Dance has been itself.
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