Sixty years ago, Alaska and Hawaii were not yet states and University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg was eight years old.
Sixty years ago, the GW men’s golf team qualified for the NCAA Tournament, an accomplishment that was not again repeated until last Monday, when the Colonials received an at-large bid as the 23rd seed in the East Regional in Orlando, Fla.
The invitation to the NCAA came after a successful season and fifth-place finish in the Atlantic 10 tournament, also in Orlando. Senior Dan Mirabella carded a 212 over three rounds to finish in ninth place. Mirabella’s finish included a final-round 67. Freshman Juan Pablo Zuluaga had a 217, including a final-round 71.
Senior Brian Carroll tied for 20th place with a 76 and two rounds of 71. Junior Andrew Gallo tied Carroll for 20th with a 75, 71 and final-round 72.
After a first-round 73 and second-round 71, junior Raman Luthra stumbled in the final round, shooting a 71.
“It’s enormous for (the players),” coach Scott Allen said. “It’s something we’ve been working toward for 20 years. The players also realize what it means for the guys who came before them, the alums and the coaches.”
The East Regional will take place May 18 to 20 at Lake Nona Golf Club in Orlando. The top 10 teams from the East Regional along with the top 10 from both the Central and West Regionals, which are being played in Cleveland and Tucson, Ariz., respectively, move on to the NCAA Finals. Each regional includes 27 teams.
The Colonials are members of the Mid-Atlantic Region, one of nine NCAA divisions, which includes 50 schools. GW was the second of four teams to qualify from the region, with Maryland taking the top spot and Richmond and Liberty finishing third and fourth, respectively.
The Colonials began their quest for a bid in the fall, finishing in the top five in each of their six matches. Successes included a first-place finish in a field of 12 at the Joe Agee Invitational in Williamsburg, Va., in October and second place finishes in every other tournament.
After the strong fall performance, the team set its sights on NCAA golf’s version of the Big Dance.
“We were confident we were going to get a bid,” Allen said. “We knew we had a phenomenal fall. After the fall half of the season, we knew that we were in a good position to go. Each week in the spring we knew the teams we needed to beat.”
The accomplishment did not come without hardships, Allen said.
“We stumbled a little bit in late March,” Allen noted of the team’s eighth and ninth place finishes in the William & Mary Colonial Invitational and GW Invitational, respectively. The Colonials rebounded with a tied third-place finish at the Princeton Invitational two weeks later and used the momentum to finish fifth in the 13-team field at the Atlantic 10 Tournament last weekend in Winter Park, Fla. The tournament’s victor, Charlotte, received the conference’s automatic bid and will join the Colonials in the East Regional along with Rhode Island and Richmond. Xavier, the A-10’s final qualifier, will tee off in the Central Regional.
“We felt good going in, but after 60 years, you don’t actually believe it until you get it,” Allen said.
Allen has been a member of GW’s golf program since 1989, when he transferred as a student from Delaware. He was a four-year letter winner and, in 12 seasons of coaching, has become the winningest coach in Colonials golf history.
“This has been a huge, huge week for the guys,” Allen said. “They’re being recognized on campus for the first time ever. They’re receiving high fives from people they don’t know. It’s been a special time for them.”