In 1947, Harry Truman was president, the New York Yankees beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in the first televised World Series and NBC’s “Meet the Press” debuted on television. It’s also the last time the GW golf team made the NCAA Tournament.
Now, 58 years after their last trip to the tourney, the Colonials have the chance to make it back to golf’s Big Dance. Led by 11th-year coach Scott Allen, GW has had a spectacular spring, putting together an impressive string of top tournament finishes.
In order for the Colonials to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, they must win the Atlantic 10 Tournament or finish in the top four of their region. GW is 68-2-2 in head-to-head matches in its last four tournaments and is now seventh in the mid-Atlantic region, behind Towson, Rutgers, Maryland, Pennsylvania State University, William and Mary University and Princeton University. Allen said the team would need a “miracle” to move up to the top, but a win in the A-10 Tournament is a definite possibility.
“I came to GW as a player in the fall of 1990,” Allen said in his office, which is decorated with scorecards from his team’s most recent tournament successes. “When I got here, we were probably the worst team in Division I. We generally finished last in the A-10, maybe eighth out nine some years.”
On Friday, GW travels north to Rhode Island to compete in the URI Spring Invitational. The tournament will feature some of New England’s top teams and presents the opportunity for the Colonials to make some noise, while many of the teams ahead of them compete at the more prestigious Rutherford Intercollegiate at Pennsylvania State University.
“We really need a few teams to really stink it up at Penn State to have them back out of the tournament and let us slide in as the top team,” Allen said.
“There’s an off chance that if the right people lose, we can move up,” said junior Brian Carroll, the team’s low scorer (74.25 stroke average). “The best way at this point is to go into A-10s and take care of our own business. That’s what we are concentrating on.”
While in Rhode Island, the squad will play a practice round at the Newport National Golf Club, the site of the A-10 Tournament, which will be held May 6-8.
For the GW squad, traveling to places such as Rhode Island is a relatively new practice. In the 1970s and 1980s golf was basically a club team, only driving to local events in the area. The University did not fully fund the team until Keith Betts was named coach in 1990. In 1993, the team broke into the top 15 in the mid-Atlantic region. Last year, the Colonials experienced their best season in program history, finishing eighth in the region.
“There’s been about 15 years of steady improvement,” Allen said. “There were a few years we were stalled around tenth, eleventh or twelfth in the region. Now we think we’ve broken through and are in the top six, seven, eight in the region and think of our selves as a threat.”
Despite establishing the team as a contender, Allen was not impressed with the team’s performance last fall.
“We were a few rounds away from winning a few times,” Carroll said. “We were right in there at (James Madison University) and in second place at Navy.”
After winning the GW-hosted Rehoboth Beach Invitational, the squad sat down and discussed what it would take to have a successful spring. A team trip to New Orleans over spring break led to a newfound competitiveness within the squad that started the success.
The Colonials came out firing after break with a second place at the GW Invitational, a first place at the Princeton Invitational, a first place at the GW-hosted Bethany Beach Invitational and a second place at the Navy Invitational.
Getting to this point of success has not been an easy task, Allen said. Recruiting is difficult because the school is competing with the Ivy League for golfers – most of those teams play on their own courses, while GW plays in Maryland. The high price of education in Foggy Bottom coupled with a lack of scholarship money makes GW a tough sell to recruits.
“What I sell in the kids is education,” Allen said. “The kids I try to get look at the Ivy League schools and schools like NYU. They want strong academics and want to play golf. We are better than most of the Ivies and better than some other small New England schools. We get that kid who wants academics and golf.”
Like Carroll, sophomore Raman Luthra came here for a mix of reasons.
“When I came here on my recruiting trip, I got along with the guys and knew this was a place I could accomplish my goals as a player and a student,” Luthra said.
As a highly regarded recruit out of high school, Carroll didn’t initially consider GW.
“I was working with a recruiting service and they mentioned GW so I came down and visited,” Carroll said. “I was looking for a place I could play right away. I wanted a school that was academically strong and I loved D.C.”
Recently, the team’s depth has proven to be its strong point. Behind Carroll is sophomore Jack Tyler, junior Andrew Gallo, Luthra and freshman Tim Johnson. The difference between Carroll and the Johnson is only three strokes per round, which shows how close in ability most of the team is.
“If you go in a slump, you aren’t traveling,” Allen said. “This year we are going to have three guys who play every tournament and we are going to have everyone on an eleven man team play at least 10 rounds.”
In GW-hosted tournaments, the Colonials are able to enter two teams: an A-team and B-team. In the Rehoboth Beach Invitational, the B-team came in third place. Other times this season, the B-team beat Duquesne, St. Bonaventure, and Temple.
“If I had a bunch of scholarship money, I’d give five or six kids a lot of money and count on them all year long,” Allen said. “I don’t have that kind of money and try to spread it out. So every week I bring five guys that are sharp.”
While talent is spread around the GW golf squad, Carroll has stood out. He qualified for last year’s U.S. Amateur Championship and missed the match play portion by one stroke. The Colonials were able to gain admittance in the Northern Intercollegiate, the Big Ten’s prominent fall tournament. Carroll, an Illinois native, finished second individually.
“I knew I could compete with those guys,” Carroll said. “The golf course was just set up for me that weekend.”
Carroll will need that type of effort this May to lead his team back to a place the Colonials have not been to in nearly 60 years: the NCAA Tournament.