In the GW athletic sphere, there are always teams that get the attention. Baseball, basketball and soccer always hog the headlines. The GW men’s golf team has been quietly floating below the radar since the year after World War II.
Led by senior Academic All-American Brian Carroll, the Colonials have put together their strongest fall season in years, placing first or second as a team in all but one tournament thus far, and have their sights set on making their first NCAA regional appearance since 1946.
Head coach Scott Allen has managed to make golf, a strictly individual sport, into a team game, with each player feeding off the performance of his teammate.
“You’ve got to have more than just that one good guy, but it’s great to know that you’ve always got a guy you can rely on,” Allen said about Carroll. “Whenever Brian’s playing well, word spreads throughout the team. Guys get positive and upbeat when Brian’s off to a good start. You know he’s never going to shoot a bad score, you know he’s at least going to give you 75 or 76 even on a bad day.”
What makes this team different than previous ones is that it does have “more than just that one good guy.” In fact, it’s the deepest team GW has had in recent memory. Three players, senior Andrew Gallo and sophomores Bob Rohr and Tim Johnson, have placed second on the team in a tournament this season. Junior Raman Luthra has also played well in key situations during the year, such as at the Navy Fall Invitational. This depth helps the entire team play its best, as each player knows that the rest of the team is not necessarily dependent on him for a good round.
“It’s a different mindset than earlier in my career,” Carroll said of this year’s playing conditions. “Now when I go out on the course I know that every guy is going to shoot a good score and we have a chance to win every tournament we play. It gives you a little more confidence because if I have a slow start, I don’t have to worry about it as much as I did in the past. I can be more patient with my round because the other guys are going to pick up the slack.”
Allen said the team sentiment that has developed is beneficial to success.
“For an individual game, it’s amazing how important the team aspect is,” Allen said. “The guys on the team all like each other and pull for each other. If one guy gets off to a bad start he wants to hang in and post a good score so he doesn’t let the team down … Everyone knows though that someone else is there to pick you up if you have a bad day.”
After a strong year last year, Carroll has continued his success and has been the anchor of the team throughout. He carded the best score on the team in every tournament so far, including an individual win at the Joe Agee Invitational in Williamsburg, Pa., Oct. 4.
“That’s the best thing that can happen in a tournament,” Carroll said of the individual and team victories. “You go into a tournament with the goal of your team winning and, if you accomplish that, the secondary goal is to win the tournament as an individual … I’ve never shot in the 60s in a fall college tournament, so it was a pretty big day for me.”
Last season, the team had a poor fall and had to play catch-up in the spring. Although it finished first or second in its last six events, the squad fell just short of the NCAA regional tournament. After this fall, the team is in much better shape and just needs a decent performance at this weekend’s Old Dominion Seascape Invitational in Kitty Hawk, N.C., to position itself for a run at a tournament spot in the spring.
“Traditionally we haven’t played great down at Kitty Hawk,” Allen said. “It’s usually an opportunity for us to play some schools down south and have stronger schedules. But, with the team we’ve got now, there’s no reason we can’t win that tournament. There’s no one in the tournament that is out of our league. The big thing is making sure we do take care of the teams from our region, but we have a shot even against the teams out of our region.”
In order to ensure a spot in the NCAAs, GW will have to play complete tournaments, making sure they start as strong as they finish. Earlier in the year, players had a tendency to coast after starting strong, Carroll said, which resulted in two second place finishes as opposed to wins.
If the momentum from the fall does carry over into the spring and the Colonials can make the NCAA tournament, it will be a monumental achievement for the program.
The tournament is divided first into three regional tournaments, from which four mid-Atlantic teams typically qualify. The top 10 teams from each of the regional tournaments advance.
“If we get (to the NCAAs) the way we played at Baylor earlier in the year, we beat some pretty good teams,” Allen said. “That confidence is going to carry over and we’re going to say ‘Not only are we one of the top teams in our region, but we’ve beaten teams out of our region.’ Hopefully we can go there and make a run and make the cut.”