Penn men’s golf hasn’t won an Ivy League Championship in three years. This team is trying to change that.
The Red and Blue will be competing for the program’s fifth conference championship this upcoming weekend at Stonewall Golf Club in Elverson, Pa. This tournament comes after a couple of tune-up weekends for the group, namely the Princeton Invitational two weekends ago and the Yale Invitational this past Saturday.
The team did well in each of these two tournaments, coming in second out of 12 at Princeton and fifth in the 15-team field at Yale. In their second and final round at Yale, the Quakers notched the second lowest team total out of the 15 schools. They hope to carry that momentum into the 54-hole competition this weekend.
“That was really a positive for us, just to battle through the rougher conditions in the second round there,” senior Amay Poria said. “I don’t think the weather’s supposed to be great next weekend, so the fact that we can play well in those conditions is pretty reassuring for us.”
Not only would a championship be an important achievement for the program, but it would also be a tangible result of the change in culture that coach Jason Calhoun has brought to Penn men’s golf. Calhoun was hired in June 2017 and has already made his mark on a team that finished fifth in the Ivy Championship last spring.
“The program has definitely changed a lot [since Calhoun’s hiring],” Poria said. “Jason’s personality is very much one of a go-getter, so he’s very ambitious with goals for the program, goals for the team. He’s done a phenomenal job of reaching out to the alumni, just sort of taking advantage of the connections that we have in our community … things are looking really solid for the program.”
One way that Calhoun has taken advantage of Penn golf's connections is by scheduling several tournaments throughout the year to ensure that the players get as many reps as they can. This has been especially important this spring season, since the often inclement weather has made it difficult for the team to get out on the course.
This element is also what makes the upcoming Ivy Championship so interesting. Many of the other Ivies have not recently been able to play as much as the Red and Blue, so it remains to be seen how polished each of the teams will look this weekend.
For Penn, the only golfer who was on the championship team in 2015 was Poria. His experience as an Ivy champion will be invaluable as the team prepares to capture another title this weekend at Stonewall. Of the remaining four starters, Carter Thompson is a senior, Josh Goldenberg and Zareh Kaloustian are juniors, and Mitchell Cornell is a freshman, so the group is an experienced one.
“Any time you get any experience contending in a tournament or winning a tournament, I think there’s a lot to learn,” Poria said. “So I definitely think the fact that we won a couple years ago is pretty momentous for us. And even though Carter, Josh, and [Zareh] weren’t there with us, they know how it feels to contend … so we all feel like [another Ivy title] is attainable here.”
With a championship, the program would effectively complete the rebuilding process that it has undergone over the last couple of years. In the way of this fulfillment are seven other teams also fully capable of making a run at the title.
This weekend is sure to be a grind for all involved, but the Red and Blue are confident that they will be ready for challenge.
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