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Long-hitting McConahey to lead men's golf in effort to retake title from rival Yale

In men's golf's fall season, the five-member starting squad produced the best scoring averages Princeton golfers have enjoyed in about a decade. The Tigers need to continue that in the spring if they are to capture the Ivy League championship and the Harvard-Yale-Princeton title, two events that eluded them last spring.

As a team, Princeton has come together as a young group of players who have considerable tournament experience among them. The team also enjoys a great deal of depth, allowing any of the five players to step forward and shoot "lights-out" in a given round.

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Though junior captain Ben McConahey is the strongest player on the team, any of the four others can definitely muster great rounds at any point of the season.

Unison

Princeton's top five also work well together as a unit. Each player gains confidence from knowing that his teammates on the course with him will step up if he stumbles.

"It's a great feeling knowing that the guys will back you up," junior Rob Hays said.

McConahey is well-suited for his captaincy. The team's top player, he exudes an intensity that he passes along to his teammates. A long hitter with a pure, smooth swing, McConahey fired a 1-under-par 70 at the first round of the James Madison Invitational Nov. 1 to mark his best score of the fall campaign.

In contention every time he tees up the ball, he should challenge for the Ivy individual title as well as medalist honors at each of the Tigers' events this spring.

Calm, cool, collected

Hays gains strength from his ability to maintain his composure and keep his emotions in check on the course. Like many of his teammates, he finds that the key to his success lies in his putting. Hays can also put up great scores, as he showed in the Ivies two seasons ago and at James Madison this year, where he fired a first-round even-par 71 to trail McConahey by a single stroke.

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Defending his Ivy individual title of a year ago, sophomore Judd Pritchard will take quite a different attitude in attacking the season than McConahey. Though Pritchard often scrambles for his score, relying heavily on his putting and chipping, he maintains an easygoing, relaxed feeling on the course. Coming into this weekend's Navy tournament, he is enjoying success with his driving and on the greens.

Even though he has a somewhat unorthodox swing, freshman Peter McWhorter gets consistent results. In last fall's Hoya Invitational, McWhorter played a round in which he hit 13 of 14 fairways, an accomplishment for a player at any level.

Putting woes

After struggling a bit with the putter in the fall, McWhorter will add strong numbers to the scoreboard if he can overcome his anxieties on the green.

Freshman Max Gage stormed onto the scene in the fall and earned his place on the starting roster after winning the Hoya Invitational with an impressive two-over 72-74–146 finish. He followed up that performance with a 74-70–144 showing at the McLaughlin Invitational two weeks later. Also a long hitter, Gage can scramble for a great score when the putts begin dropping.

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Going into this weekend's competition at Navy, all five golfers seem to have found their mid-season form after a recent trip to southern California. The tournament will provide the Tigers' strongest competition of the season, with Penn State, Georgetown and Navy all in the hunt for the team title. The Navy course's hilly layout and unusually windy conditions force golfers to keep the ball in play in order to score well.

Looking beyond this weekend, Princeton looks forward to hosting the annual H-Y-P event, which will serve as a chance to test themselves against a strong Eli team prior to the Ivy League Championships at New York's Bethpage State Park April 16-18.

No cakewalk

Though the team certainly has strong individual performers, the Tigers will certainly not walk away with the Ivy title. Yale and Penn, who finished ahead of Princeton at last year's tournament, will look for performances from their own talented golfers to top the Tigers.

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