he Elizabethtown College golf team began its fall season with an eighth-place finish at the Messiah Falcon Classic at Blue Ridge Country Club and a 13th-place finish at the Bridgewater Tom Kinder Memorial at Lakeview Golf Club. After finishing sixth at the Commonwealth Conference Championships last season, the Blue Jays look to begin their season on a positive note.
With the temperature reaching the mid 90s, you would have thought it were early July rather than mid-September on the course. Despite the unusually hot weather, Etown was able to successfully break the top 10 in a field that included 18 teams and 93 golfers overall.
The Blue Jays kicked off their fall campaign by shooting a 327 (+39). Despite the eighth place finished, Etown was only 14 shots shy of the Tournament champion, Messiah. Neighboring Division II school, Millersville University, finished as runner-up, shooting five shots behind the host Falcons. The teams that finished spots two through eight were only separated by a total of eight strokes.
Fourth-year Head Coach Bob Pyrz talked about how his team dealt with the difficult weather conditions during play. “The conditions were fierce with a heat index touching 103 degrees, and the greens were much faster and challenging than any other greens the team had seen thus far in the season. As a result of these conditions, several errors were made amongst the team around the green,” Pyrz said. “Without these small errors, poor chips or three putts, the team easily could have finished in the top three for the tournament.”
Junior Ryan Laudeman shot the best individual score for the Blue Jays, finishing the competition shooting a 77 (+5). Etown’s number one, who had bogeyed five times through the first 13 holes, finished the round with five consecutive pars. Laudeman’s score was good enough to tie him for sixth overall on the weekend, leaving him only six shots shy of the leader, Muhlenberg College’s Chris Lucarelli. Lucarelli was the only player in the field of 93 to finish under par, shoot a 71 (-1). This is the 15th time in Laudeman’s three-year career which he had placed in the top 10 of a tournament.
First-year Chuck Johnson finished with the second best score for the Blue Jays, shooting an 80 (+8) in his first collegiate debut. Johnson struggled during the first round of play with five bogies, but finished strong shooting a 36 on the back-nine. This score was good enough to tie Etown’s number four golfer for 18th overall. Along with Johnson, two other first-years made their debut first the Blue Jays.
One of those first-years, Kyle Hakun, finished with the Blue Jays’ third best score, shooting an 85 (+13) on eight pars. Junior Ryan Forbes matched his teammate on the weekend with the same score of 85. Forbes had Etown’s only birdie of the tournament on the second hole of the classic.
First-year Dan Sheppard rounded out the tournament for the Blue Jays, shooting an 87 (+15) and finishing tied for 59th.
Pyrz was happy with the team’s first outing of the year. “For the first tournament of the season, with three first-year players competing in their first collegiate events, I was very pleased with how the team performed,” Pyrz said. “Overall, I thought the team hit a lot of excellent shots and portrayed a great deal of maturity around the golf course which impressed me for such a young team.”
Etown headed back to the linked the following weekend in the Bridgewater Tom Kinder Memorial at Lakeview Golf Club in Harrisburg Va.
Forbes and sophomore Adam Amspacher both shot career bests on Saturday, both shooting a 79 (+7). This was the fourth time in Amspacher’s collegiate career where he shot within the 70-stroke mark. The Blue Jays shot a combined 321 as a team and headed into Sunday in 13th place.
The Blue Jays lowered both their individual and team scores on Sunday. For the second tournament in a row, Laudeman recorded the best individual score for Etown, shooting a 74 (+2) on Sunday. Laudeman was able to move up 13 spots on his second round effort, moving up from 40th to 27th place overall.
Hakun shot well for his second straight tournament, finishing the weekend shooting an 85.
“We played well and still have room to improve,” Amspacher said. “I think the team really has improved from last year and season and I think we have a lot to look forward to this coming spring.”
The Blue Jays will be on the greens today in the Gettysburg Invitational at the Bridges Golf Club in Abbottstown, Pa. With the influx of youthful talent mixed with seasoned veterans, the Blue Jays look prepared to be a top contender in the MAC for another season.