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Saturday, Dec 2, 2023

Middlebury Golf Team Looks to Spring Forward

Author: Luke Coppedge Staff Editor

Despite the loss of senior stalwart Jon Carr to graduation, the Middlebury golf team put together another fine fall season. Third year veteran Damon Gacicia '02 stepped up to fill the leadership void as he captained the team to strong early-season finishes at the Duke Nelson Tournament, Williams Invitational and the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championship. Strong individual performances included Brad Tufts '03 keeping his impressive run alive at the Vermont State Championships where he won his third consecutive title. With this early-season momentum, the team looked poised to make a run at capturing the season-ending New England Championship at the Captains Course in Hyannis, Mass.

While most Middlebury students returned home over the long weekend for some respite and relaxation, the golf team grabbed their spikes and clubs and headed south to Massachusetts in preparation for their showdown by the sea. Those preparations were made more enjoyable by the generous offer of Tufts to play two of the finest courses in the Bay State.

On Oct. 19, the team played at the Country Club in Brookline, which was the site of the 1999 Ryder Cup. "This place is just teeming with history," said Tufts after walking the hallowed 18. "I was just thrilled to add my own little piece." Tufts was referring to the 40-foot putt he sank on the 17th green to beat classmate Ryan Simper '03 in a hotly contested grudge match. Two-sport star Dave Greiner '03 witnessed the putt and exclaimed "it was incredible. I mean it was a carbon copy of [Justin] Leonard's Ryder Cup clinching putt." Much like Leonard and his American teammates two years earlier, the putt sent Tufts into a frenzy as he cart-wheeled his way to the 18th tee.

Simper was furious, responding "granted it was a great putt, but Tufts's celebration was uncalled for and was disrespectful to both me and the game." Despite the tension pervading between Simper and Tufts, the team had another beneficial practice round the following day at Tedesco Country Club in Marblehead, Mass. Everyone agreed the rounds at the Country Club and Tedesco were much appreciated and offered a break from the monotony of the Ralph Myhre Golf Course.

Your humble scribe and golf alum/superfan Jon Carr joined the squad on Monday, hoping to propel the boys to their first ever New England Championship. With a promising start, the Middlebury men found themselves in fourth place after the first 18 holes. Leading the charge on day one was captain Gacicia and Tufts, who posted scores of 74 and 78 respectively, while Simper, David Greiner '03 and Charles Clement IV '04 hovered around 80. The talk in the clubhouse surrounded the surprising effort of Simper, who put the episode from Brookline aside and managed to stay well under 100 for the round, despite snapping his driver in mid swing on the third tee box.

Unfortunately, the Captains Course was not as forgiving to the men in blue and white on Tuesday, as not one Panther broke 80. When all the scores were finally tallied, Middlebury finished what Gacicia called a "disappointing" seventh out of 33 teams. Coach Beaney commended the team's effort on the initial 18 but shared disappointment in the finish. Greiner echoed his coach's sentiments. He said, "We came out of the gates strong but, as has been our problem all year, we just did not have that killer instinct that marks all great golf teams. I know I speak for the entire team when I express my frustration. We really need to learn how to stick the proverbial fork in our opponents. Right now we are a good team. We strive to be a great team."

Coach Beaney was satisfied with the fall season but sees room for improvement in the spring. Beaney said, "I believe the men have taken something away from this fall. Clearly we need to keep our intensity and focus high for 36 holes, not just 18. Their steadfast practice and preparation throughout the winter should contribute to more consistency and an even more rewarding season this spring."

As fall gives way to winter here in the Green Mountains, the team has traded in its golf clubs for hockey sticks and gone hibernating in Kenyon Arena. For all you Middlebury golf enthusiasts out there going through withdrawal, you can now watch your favorite golfers on the ice; look for the ever-articulate Greiner on the varsity hockey team and Gacicia and his pals on the intramural circuit. News from the corners is that Gacicia's slappers are known to outdistance his drives.