A mix of seniors and freshmen have proven to be a winning formula for Taconic head professional and Williams College men's golf coach Josh Hillman.
A year after failing to even qualify for the NESCAC Championship (the top four teams from the conference's fall tournament qualify), the Ephs blew away the competition with three seniors and two freshmen to capture the conference title by 16 shots at Taconic Golf Club and earn a trip to the NCAA Division III Championship.
Amazingly, the Ephs' top four golfers took the first four spots as the Ephs shot rounds of 296 and 292 to finish at 18-over par 586. Trinity and Middlebury shot 602 and Amherst finished at 628. That gave the Ephs their sixth victory in 10 tournaments this season and their fourth in a row. It also marked the second time in recent weeks that they shot below 600 — they totaled an impressive 577 in the Williams Spring Invitational.
"Our three senior captains (Grant Raffel, Jacob Watt-Morris, Ross Hoffman) have been very strong leaders," said Hillman, who has an entire team of his own recruits for the first time this season. "The have bought into the stuff we have been preaching for four years and it is paying off."
Freshman Sam Goldenring, the brother of recent Eph standout Jake Goldenring, and Will Kannegieser have played like veterans, especially over the past few weeks. Goldenring tore up Taconic with a 4-under 138 total in the Williams Spring Invitational to win medalist honors by two shots and Kannegieser captured NESCAC medalist honors with a 36-hole total of 3-over 145.
"Sam shot 68-70 without a bogey in tough conditions," Hillman said of the New Jersey product. "He's a very strong ball striker and has a good wedge game. When he putts well, he can really go low."
"Will plays golf in the fall and spring and is on the Alpine ski team in the winter, which speaks to how committed he is to both athletics and academics," Hillman said of Kannegieser, a Minot, Maine, native. "He is really strong in the mind. He went into this (past) weekend believing it was his time to win and he did it."
The 72-hole NCAA Division III Championship will be played on the El Campeon Course at Howey-In-The-Hills, Fla., which features hilly terrain that is more like New England than the mostly flat Sunshine State.
Fortunately for the Ephs, they played the course during a spring break trip this year. Perhaps it is also a good omen that this is same layout over which the Williams women captured their first national championship in 2015.
The Williams women, meanwhile, will be playing in their eighth consecutive NCAA Division III Tournament when they tee it up on Tuesday in Bay Oaks Country Club in Houston.
The Ephs finished fifth last season at the same course as the defending champions and figure to be in the title mix again this year. All five of first-year coach Tomas Adalsteinsson's players competed in last year's tournament and three of them — seniors Sophie Kitchen and Tracey Kim and junior Phoebe Mattana — were key players on Williams' 2015 national champions.
The Ephs are ranked second nationally be Golfstat and are seeded second in the tournament field behind George Fox University (Ore.).
"The team's scoring average (310.19) for the year is the lowest we have seen in our program and it's the second-lowest scoring average among D-III women's golf programs," Adalsteinsson said. "We have been playing great golf all year, but we feel like we could have started some tournaments a little better and therefore left some shots on the course."
Joining Kitchen, Kim and Mattana on the trip will be NESCAC Player of the Year Liz Gudas and sophomore Cordelia Chan, who earned honorable mention All-American honors last year with a 10th-place finish at Bay Oaks.
The 72-hole tournament runs through Friday.
The Allied Association season will open on Saturday morning with the Four-Ball Championship at Egremont Country Club in Great Barrington.
The Berkshire Country Club team of Jeff Puleri and Steve Sykes won last year's tournament at Stockbridge Golf Club and will be on hand to defend their title. Another Berkshire Hills duo, Bob Linn and Randy Driscoll, finished second in last year's tournament.
To contact Richard Lord: email@example.com or 413-281-2226.