Playing against new opponents and at new sites produces a sense of experimentation.
On its recent West Coast excursion, the men's golf team found itself able to play consistently on championship courses. Playing away from Springdale allowed Princeton's golfers to hone their games, without having to tee the ball from temporary boxes on soggy New Jersey turf.
Princeton looked to a head-to-head match against San Diego State to culminate its week in southern California. Saturday, the Tigers squared off against the Aztecs at Singing Hills Country Club, with the Aztecs emerging with a 5.5-1.5 matchplay victory. Senior Ben Hevron earned the team's only win, while sophomore Judd Pritchard halved his match to round out the Princeton scoring.
The contest gave Princeton an opportunity to place seven golfers in a competition situation instead of the usual five. Hevron and fellow senior Chris Halpin, who did not play among the starting five in the fall, showed that they will fill in well at the team's Harvard-Yale-Princeton match. Hosted by Yale April 5, H-Y-Ps features stroke play among the three teams, with seven golfers comprising each team.
For much of the trip, the Tigers stayed in the PGA West resort complex near Palm Springs, Ca. With unlimited access to all five courses, Princeton enjoyed its fill of golf.
The Tournament Players Club Stadium course at PGA West offers one of the greatest challenges to golfers in the world. The Pete Due layout has hosted several tour events, including The Skins Game and the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. The other four courses have similarly strong reputations, with noted players and designers like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tom Weiskopf coming to mind.
Ready to go
Coupled with the practice that they have managed during this unseasonably warm winter, the experience leaves the Tigers poised to attack their crucial goal of the spring season, the Ivy League Championships.
Head coach Dick Hunt looks favorably on Princeton's chances in upcoming events.
"This is the best team I have coached since I became involved with the team (four seasons ago)," Hunt said. "We expect to win H-Y-Ps."
April 12-13, the weekend before Ivies, the Tigers will travel to the Navy Invitational to face some top Division II competition.
The team looks to keep improving before the Ivy championships, which will be held at Bethpage State Park in New York.
Short period of adjustment
In the fall season, freshmen Max Gage and Peter McWhorter showed they needed little time to adjust to collegiate golf. Junior Rob Hayes, who played well in the Ivy tournament his freshman year, looks to improve upon a less-than-stellar performance last season at Bethpage.
Junior captain Ben McConahey played up to his potential over the break. Pritchard, who earned the Ivy individual title last April, noted McConahey's focus.
"(Every time out) Ben wants to win," he said. "Right now, he is the guy to beat in the Ivies in my mind."