For the last few years, the golf team had a clear identity. Thomas and the Twins. Like Jordan and Scottie, no other information was needed. When anyone spoke of Thomas and the Twins, it was understood they meant Thomas Blankvoort, one of the best golfers in GW history and twins Brian and Tim Derdenger, solid starters.
Now that Thomas and the Twins have graduated, one might expect that the golf team is in trouble. But instead of questions, there is optimism. Instead of concerns, there is excitement. The positive outlook can be attributed to talented youth, increased depth and the improved chemistry of this year’s team.
Head coach Scott Allen, a GW alumnus and nine-year veteran, said this is the strongest recruiting class of his tenure, with five freshmen making up half of the ten-man roster. Canadian Andrew Gallo and Colombian Federico Guzman both made the starting lineup for the team’s first meet, the Navy Invitational Sept. 8-9, posting the team’s lowest scores. Freshmen Brian Carroll, Dan Mirabella and Lee Hodder are also expected to see significant playing time as the year progresses.
Allen said the team is very excited about its promising and energetic freshman class.
“The freshmen have a lot to learn about what college golf is like, but they’re talking about winning conference championships and going to the NCAAs,” he said. “Whether it’s going to happen this year or by their senior year, they have huge goals.”
After early strong play from the rookies, team veterans said they believe those goals can be accomplished this year.
“This is the deepest we’ve been in the four years I’ve been here,” senior co-captain Brad Friedlander said.
The team’s increased depth will cause competition for starting time. While all ten players practice during the week, only five are chosen to travel to weekend tournaments.
“I think you have to be worried (about not starting) because there are so many good players on the team,” Gallo said. “But it’s going to help us push ourselves. We’re going to have to practice harder and try to stay on top of our games.”
Despite the competitive atmosphere, players pointed out that the team gets along remarkably well.
“This team is the closest that we’ve had in the past three years,” senior Reid Rosenthal said. “The freshmen all get along really well, and we’re all on that level where we can be competitive but have a good time.”
While professional golf is thought of as an individual sport, college golf places the emphasis on team. Chemistry is generally viewed as a crucial factor in a team’s success, as players spend up to 40 hours a week together.
“When I’m out on the course, even if I’m not playing well and I’m having a bad day, I still have to make sure I come in with a decent score, because they count four of us,” Gallo said. “If I like my teammates, that’s going to help me try and push myself and come in with that good score. If I didn’t like them, I could just say, ‘well I don’t care about them anyway.'”
When asked if chemistry really affects results, Allen answered quickly, “chemistry is big.”
“I’ve coached teams where chemistry has hurt us, but everybody is getting along right now and we’re one big happy family,” he said.
While the Colonials have not won the Atlantic 10 title in 43 years, this team shows confidence that it can break the streak.
“Winning the conference is always the goal, and this year we have a great chance,” Rosenthal said. “Usually when you bring freshman in, they play a few tournaments just for the future, but at Navy they proved themselves.”
Standing in the Colonials’ way are perennial conference powers Rhode Island and Xavier, but despite GW’s sixth-place A-10 finish last year, Allen said he truly believes GW is a contender.
“Rhode Island and Xavier aren’t unstoppable,” he said. “Temple finished third last year, and we beat them last week at Navy, so it’s certainly something that’s doable.”