It’s title time.
This Friday, Penn’s men’s and women’s golf will take to the courses for the Ivy League Championships. Both teams will be looking to finish the season on a high note. The women’s team will be heading to Orlando for their competition, while the men’s team will be playing in Connecticut.
Though the trip to Florida is not short, the women’s team will not feel out of place playing in the sunshine state.
“When making our schedule this year we took into consideration that the Ivy League Championships would be played in Orlando,” coach Mark Anderson said. “It has been part of our plan to give the team as much exposure to Florida as we could.”
On the heels of a strong season, the team is confident it can get the job done in Orlando. At its most recent competition, the Hoya Women’s Invitational, Penn finished sixth out of fifteen schools with a score of 915. For comparison, the other Ivy League schools at the tournament, Princeton, Yale and Columbia, finished with scores of 910, 913 and 917 respectively.
With those four teams being separated by only seven strokes, it is clear that there is no heavy favorite heading into the Ivy League Championship.
“I would say I am very excited about our chances at Ivies,” coach Mark Anderson said. “It would certainly be optimistic to say we are going to definitely win, but we have a lot of players on their game right now that have been playing great rounds all spring.”
For the women to finish in first place, it will take a team effort. In golf, one player cannot carry the whole load by herself. Penn’s biggest strength is balance — the team is confident in all five of its top players to come through in big moments.
“If any one of the five finished near the top, I wouldn’t be surprised at all,” Anderson responded when asked which golfer in specific to keep an eye on this Friday. “As long as we can avoid triple or double bogeys and keep our three-putts in check, we will have an excellent chance.”
The men’s team will likewise hope to come back to Philadelphia with a championship. The team seems to be hitting its stride late in the season, but the road it took to get to this point has not been easy.
“We have played through adversity all season,” coach Michael Blodgett explained. “Bad weather has limited the number of practices we have had this season, and has affected us during tournaments, too. We have preached to the guys not to let the outside factors influence our game and to only worry about what we can control. I think they are finally starting to understand that, which will be an advantage for us in the high-stress environment of the Ivy League championship.”
The strong senior leadership of Dane Walton and Matt Kern has played a huge role in helping the team improve throughout the season despite some of the extenuating circumstances.
“Matt Kern has helped each player prepare properly for each course this year,” sophomore Josh Goldenberg said. “He’s really good at playing smart and suggesting strategic ways to play each hole.”
While Kern has competed at each event this semester, Walton has not been able to help the team through his play, being sidelined due to injury. While dealing with this can cause some athletes to become checked out of their sport, Walton has provided a boost to his team despite being sidelined. During practices, he will constantly ask players what they are looking to accomplish and how they are preparing to meet their goals.
“They fill different roles, but each is imperative to the success of the team,” Goldenberg said.
Like the women’s team, the men’s team thrives because of its balance. The lineups have varied throughout this semester, showing that coach Blodgett has confidence in his entire roster. After some struggles at the beginning of the year, Blodgett’s lineup changes seem to be paying off in a big way recently.
“We finished dead last in our first tournament, middle of the pack in the next two, and second at Yale in our most recent event,” he said. “Yale is a course we have not had success at recently, so the second-place finish was big for the confidence of the guys.”
This Friday will be a big day for Penn golf, with both Penn teams having a chance to bring home the Ivy League championship. After both squads’ slow start and steady improvement, a top-tier finish would be the cherry on top of an already positive season.