During a year that has forced most sports into abbreviated schedules, golf designed its busiest spring slate in four years.
The Colonials are set to compete in seven tournaments this semester, the most since the 2017 spring campaign. Head coach Chuck Scheinost said he increased the number of events and scheduled a week between each event to account for potential cancellations or pauses due to potential positive COVID-19 tests.
“It gives us some time in between events to weather the storm if anything crazy happens, which, as you’ve seen, every sport has had issues,” Scheinost said. “That’s something we really looked at. We’re playing seven events, and my philosophy was if we could get four or five of those events in, great. We get all seven in, awesome.”
The squad has already hit the links in two events, the Oldfield Invitational Feb. 8 and Feb. 9 and the Invitational at Savannah Harbor Feb. 20 and Feb. 21. GW’s 79-over par 943 at the Oldfield Invitational was the worst among the eight competing teams, and in Savannah, the squad placed No. 10 out of 15 programs.
After the Atlantic 10 postponed all fall sports to the spring semester, Scheinost said most of the team opted not to return to campus for the fall term to instead attend tournaments without on-campus restrictions. Prior to the start of the 2020-21 season, the squad last played almost a year ago on March 10, 2020, at the Bash at the Beach after the A-10 cut the spring season short at the onset of the pandemic.
The program reunited in January, but a thinning roster for the first few events left little room for error. Injuries and COVID-19-related absences early in the year caused the team to play a small roster at its first few events, Scheinost said.
Only four student-athletes – sophomore Ty Sullivan, senior Clifford Thompson, sophomore Hugo Riboud and junior Luis Alfonso Preciado – were available for the Oldfield Invitational. Sophomore Jakub Hrinda returned for the following outing, and graduate student Adrian Castagnola is expected to tackle the course at the Ross Collegiate Classic Monday and Tuesday.
Scheinost said two student-athletes – senior Stephen Brown and junior Logan Othmer – opted out because of the pandemic, and the team will have a maximum of six golfers eligible for future tournaments. He added that he is pleased with where the team is at the moment and that the group is working to hit its stride for the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
The pandemic altered the Colonials’ practice routine, forcing them away from their normal practice course – the Army Navy Country Club – for health and safety reasons, Scheinost said. He added that the team’s short game facilities have also been limited to comply with Lerner Health and Wellness Center guidelines.
Senior Clifford Thompson said the team calls ahead to ensure they can practice, and the program contacts other golf courses to find areas to play outside and away from Foggy Bottom. Scheinost added that this winter has been one of the coldest during his tenure at GW, meaning opportunities to get the team outdoors have been hard to come by.
With past tournaments as far as Hawaii in 2019, the squad normally flies to events. But to cut down on exposure to COVID-19, golfers said the squad loads up a van and drives to its tournaments in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Georgia.
Thompson said when the team is traveling, everyone stays in their own hotel rooms unless they are on the golf course, including ordering in all of their meals to prevent potential exposure to COVID-19.
Riboud said the new travel arrangements don’t affect the team and even allows them to squeeze more practice rounds in before the competition.
“Actually, we just leave earlier than what we used to, and we have extra practice rounds,” sophomore Hugo Riboud said. “Which is good because with the cold we don’t really get the opportunity to practice outside, so I don’t think of the changes negatively.”
He added that because golf is already a socially distant sport, he and his teammates don’t need to wear masks on the course but do wear face coverings when practicing in other courses and putting greens.
Scheinost said the team needs to continue improving to peak at the A-10 Championship from April 30 through May 2.
“Right now, we need to be at the top of our game in two months when we hit April,” he said. “By that point, I think it’ll be warmer weather, we’ll have better access to some of the facilities. So, if we can just kind of keep progressing each week and each event, I’m going to be very proud of where we’re at.”
The Colonials will continue their season at the Ross Collegiate Classic in North Carolina Monday and Tuesday.