The University of Rhode Island golf team won the Quechee Club Collegiate Challenge in thrilling fashion over the weekend, as the clutch play of first and second place finishers Chris Houston (-4 par) and Billy Walthouse (-3 par) propelled their team to its second victory of the season in Quechee, Vermont.
URI set the pace in the tournament’s opening round on Saturday, building a seven-stroke lead on the strength of a 68 by Walthouse and an overall dominant -9 par afternoon for the team.
Sunday, however, brought with it strong winds, and a rejuvenated Harvard team, who nearly erased an eight-stroke deficit to complete a monumental comeback. The sense of urgency set in as the round progressed and a once-certain Ram victory started to slip away.
The Rams, however, did not falter from the pressure, as they prepared to determine their fate on the eighteenth hole. Graduate student Houston, who shined as the field’s most consistent golfer with a score of 70 on both days, hit a timely birdie that would have been enough to force a playoff with the Crimson, before Walthouse capped off a successful tournament with an eagle to clinch the title. When the score cards were signed, The Rams’ two-day total of 578 edged the Crimson by two strokes.
Despite a strong response by Harvard, head coach Gregg Burke expected his team to win, but was nevertheless pleased by the growing prowess his team has displayed early in the year.
“We went up there to win it,” Burke said. “We knew they changed the golf course, and it made us have to think harder and be precise. We were able to block out our surroundings, and survive a great round by Harvard.”
Houston, who last played for Penn State, stole the show over the weekend with a composed couple of rounds of golf that proved crucial for his team’s success. The win was especially important to him, as he is from neighboring state New Hampshire, and had in attendance a strong following, cheering him to the victory. Burke is proud to have Houston as a new addition to his team, and sees him as being a key cog in what they hope to be a prosperous season.
“He is a gem,” Burke said. “Chris has a different way about getting ready to work. We don’t call it a practice round, we call it a pre-tournament round, and Chris has done a great job with that. He has made us all that much better. He’s helped me as much as anyone.”
Houston, along with Walthouse, who finished one stroke behind his teammate after shooting +1 par on Sunday, are forming a duo that their coach believes can elevate the team to a whole new level. While they are at the forefront, Burke knows his whole team has the ability to produce a special season for URI.
“We have all of the ingredients, the will, the kids who work hard, but we are not close to what we can be,’ Burke said. “We work so hard in the weight room, but we are no way near as good as I know we will be. There is zero doubt that we will get better.”
Redshirt freshman Jason Short also finished in the top 20 with a +4 par with sophomore Dawson Jones one stroke behind. Senior Eric Marchetti rounded the team roster, tallying a +15 par. Freshman Blake DiPaola found some success competing as an individual with a final score of +6 par to finish in a tie for 24th place.
URI is still looking to string together consistent top-notch performances against elite fields, but they will have chances to establish themselves as a premier program. They will resume their quest of reaching their full potential this Monday at the NC State Wolfpack Intercollegiate.