Golf. It's a test of resolve between man and the course. It's an individual sport.
Yet the Penn men's golf team somehow manages to embody the ideal team.
Each player's quiet faith and respect for his teammates builds the foundation for each golfer's confidence and strength to face the course.
"Golf is not about how good you play," Penn coach Francis Vaughn said. "[Golf] is about how good you play as a team."
As a team, Penn passed the test.
Two weekends ago, the Quakers proved how well they can play in their first fall tournament, the Navy Invitational, where seniors Mike Russell and Trey Best, and juniors Endel Liias, Peyton Wallace and Chad Perman helped the team place second out of 27 competing teams in Annapolis, Md.
"I'm really excited for the players," said Vaughn, who is starting his sixth season with Penn. "They got off on the right foot at the Naval Academy."
The experienced Quakers never doubted their ability to start strong at Navy. Besides composing an older portion of the squad that knows what tournament golf is all about, Wallace and Liias both qualified for national tournaments this past summer.
Wallace qualified for the U.S. Amateur while Liias finished third out of an 80-player field to qualify for the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship in San Antonio, Texas.
Still, this team has more than experience and national tournaments under its belt. The Quakers have a secret weapon -- chemistry.
"[This year] has definitely been the best team chemistry I've seen in my four years here," senior Tom Bushy said.
Perhaps the chemistry has something to do with the team's captain, Russell.
"Mike Russell deserves more respect than anyone I've ever met," Bushy said.
Russell is a walk-on. He did not make the team his freshman year, but that only made him more determined to try out the following year.
"Every day for a year and a half, this kid played at [Franklin D. Roosevelt golf course] in West Philadelphia by himself," Bushy said.
When he came back his sophomore year, he had the chance to play one round of golf, one chance to prove he was worthy of joining the Red and Blue.
At the Princeton JV tournament he did just that.
Russell beat every player on Penn's team.
Three years later he captains a very "unique group that cares a lot about each other," said Vaughn, who went on to describe the upperclassmen as "[a group] that, through the avenue of golf, was all able to develop friendships and a great appreciation for each other."
As if chemistry, experience and a couple national tournaments this past summer weren't enough, the Quakers gained an extra pair of eyes to help coach Vaughn make all of them better golfers. Penn assistant coach Heath Davidson joined Vaughn at the helm of a team fighting for the Ivy League title.
"We're looking forward to this year," Best said. "Every single one of us has the ability to play our best. It's just a matter of getting in the right mental state where we can help contribute."
Last season, Penn, which had three first-team Ivy selections -- graduated captain Kyle Moran, Perman and Liias -- fell only to Princeton in its quest to rule the Ivies and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA regional tournament.
Last weekend, due to the tragic and somber events that struck the nation, the team did not compete in the Elon Invitational in North Carolina.
This Saturday, Penn will compete in its second tournament of the season at the James Madison Invitational in Harrisonburg, Va.
Liias and Wallace both described the attitude the team wants to carry through this season.
"We want to win," Wallace said, while Liias added, "We're jocks."Comments powered by Disqus
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