The golf team isn’t thinking about last year, head coach Terry Shaffer said.
The Colonials are not thinking about last season’s Atlantic 10 crown – the program’s first ever. They’re not thinking about defeating Charlotte to win that championship, taking down the six-time defending champion to lift the conference trophy. And they’re not thinking about the trip to the NCAA regional competition that followed.
They’re not thinking about any of that, Shaffer said, because in the game of golf, you’re only as good as your last shot.
“We don’t think about last year. To me, it’s history,” Shaffer said. “It doesn’t matter how good the shot was that you just hit or bad the shot was that you just hit. You have to forget it and move on.”
GW opened its fall season with a two-day competition in Rhode Island. After finishing last place Monday, the team played its way up the ladder Tuesday, finishing the event 11th of 12 total teams, and edging A-10 rival Fordham in the final rankings. The Colonials combined for a 92-over par 936 at the par-71, 6,675-yard Carnegie Abbey course Tuesday.
It is a result Shaffer isn't pleased with, and he said the team isn’t, either. Golf is a heavily cerebral game, and the Colonials’ shaken focus at their first competition of the year hurt their play on the links, he said.
“It’s not GW golf,” Shaffer said. “Every year, we settle down through September and October and [then] we play great. I don’t think this year is going to be any different.”
When competition opened Monday, the Colonials took to the greens of the par-70, 6,948-yard Newport Country Club for two rounds of action Monday afternoon. GW struggled in its opening return to the course, posting a combined score of 74-over 634 at the end of the day.
The course itself was impressive, a setting that hosted the first U.S. Open in 1895. It was a course that you “wanted to do well on,” Shaffer said. Its picturesque location borders the Atlantic Ocean, which provided a scenic view, but hampered play as ocean winds swirled over the greens.
In addition to battling the winds, the Colonials had to start play Monday without a practice round, rendering them essentially “blind” on the course, their coach said.
“Most of the teams were playing in the same wind. Wind is not an excuse for us to play badly,” Shaffer said. “The greens were very undulating. You had to know where to hit the ball before you got up to the greens."
Sophomore Jack Persons, who made a name for himself as a rookie over last year’s competition, sat first in the pack of Colonials after the first day of competition, tying for 15th place out of all individual golfers with a two-round score of 15-over 155.
Persons would ultimately slip to end in a tie for 36th place out of 70 golfers with a total score – over 54 holes played – of 20-over 231.
Aside from Persons’ top-40 result, the next-highest finishing Colonial was freshman Steve Piela, who closed his first competition in a GW uniform by scoring 23-over 234 over three rounds to tie for 49th overall. Following him, sophomore Jonathan Dresnick finished in 58th, carding 27-over 238. The performance of his younger players was a particular bright spot for Shaffer, who graduated several strong seniors last year, but now sees the future of his team in solid hands.
“Our fall season is a time to get the team to jell, with new people on the team,” Shaffer said. “It’s just a matter of getting things together. The fall season is where you have the opportunity to get it together. That sets up the spring season, and that’s our real season, because that’s when everything really does count.”
And though Shaffer said he and his team aren’t thinking about last season, it’s clear he’s thinking about GW’s return to Atlantic 10 competition come spring 2013.
“I can tell you this, that we are going to be ready come spring, and we are going to be a factor in the conference,” Shaffer said.