After finishing sixth at the A-10 tournament last year, golf is looking to improve its team building to perform better this season.
The Colonials concluded their first tournament of the season with a score of 893, ranking 16th overall in the Gene Miranda Falcon Invitational hosted by Air Force. Head coach Chuck Scheinost said the team is concentrating on strengthening their bond after COVID-19 restrictions made it difficult for teammates to get to know each other last season.
Scheinost said he was “pleasantly surprised” with the team’s current performance because many members of the team did not have the opportunity to practice over the summer.
“One of the big focal points for us is getting back to being ourselves, our team has always had a tight bond and been close-knit, and that pushed each other to get better, and to perform,” Scheinost said. “And during COVID the ironic part is that other teams that struggled with that got it because most of our guys live together, where our guys didn’t necessarily live together.”
The team is expected to play four other tournaments in the fall semester.
Scheinost said the team needs to work on their consistency to have a successful season, as many are still getting used to being back on the course. He said the team needs to work on their short game, specifically wedges, to continue raising their game.
He also said the team needs to decrease the number of doubles and increase their shots on the course. He said the team had consistently endured an underwhelming start to seasons in the past, but said the team has honed their warm-up routine to enhance their tournament play.
“We had a lot of opportunities with wedges in our hands, but we weren’t able to capitalize on them and really capitalizing is hitting it within 15 feet where you have a realistic birdie opportunity,” Scheinost said. “So for us, that’s another big focus, we’re doing weekly wedge testing in our track man, simulator room and pushing that aspect of things.”
Golf welcomed three new members to the team this year, including freshman Arav Patel and graduate student Florian Blatti, who participated in the Gene Miranda Falcon Invitational. Patel hit a two-over-par 228 ranking 79th and Blatti hit a 16-over-par 232 ranking 88th. Schenoist said the new players are adapting well to the program but still have some learning moments to face this season.
“Both of them can actually challenge to really push guys for spots this year and really contribute to the team as we go throughout the year,” Schenoist said. “So I’m very excited about our freshmen class and I think combined with what we got, it bodes well for the future.”
Graduate student player Clifford Thompson tied for 13th overall in the individual category with a six-over-par 222 at the invitational. The South Africa native said the seniors building a camaraderie with him was a “big thing” when he was a freshman and he aims to do the same for the freshman now that he is an upperclassman.
“I’d never come to America before,” Thompson said. “They were reaching out and talking to me before I even came to America. I was very confident coming in just because of that. We try to keep that same sort of team bonding in a way. We just try to keep each other close.”
Thompson said he feels more optimistic about this year after the team struggled to maintain relationships and morale last season. He said they were not allowed to interact outside the course due to the health guidelines imposed during the pandemic and the disconnect translated to their performance last season.
He said he and his teammates help one another out with schoolwork.
He said the team is looking to increase the amount of competitive rounds with each other, to play more qualifying events. Thompson said that during practices they have been focusing on short game challenges with each other.
During the Gene Miranda Falcon Invitational, senior Luis Alfonso Preciado hit a hole-in-one from 142 yards, the first of his career. He said he is concentrating on maintaining a level head to decrease his mistakes.
Preciado said the team has been working hard to get better every day and enhance team camaraderie this season.
“I want to average under 74 and a half,” Preciado said. “That’s a very ambiguous goal, I would say that I just want to get better every day. If I can get better, a small percentage, and learn something every day, I think that’ll put me in position to achieve that goal.”
The Colonials will return to the course at the River Run Invitational hosted by Davidson Monday and Tuesday.