The University of Rhode Island golf team enjoyed some individual success and a seventh-place finish in a competitive field at the North Carolina State Wolfpack Intercollegiate tournament, which concluded on Tuesday.
The Rams, along with 17 other teams, competed on the vast, almost 7, 400 yard Lonnie Poole Golf Course in capital city Raleigh over the course of two days. The first two rounds concluded on Monday, and saw URI sitting in fifth place (even-par) due to strong play from graduate student Chris Houston and sophomore Dawson Jones. They both tallied a two-day -3 par and were tied for fifth place going into the final round. Senior captain Billy Walthouse was not far behind at -1 par, adding to what looked to be a solid foundation for URI to build upon in the event’s conclusion on Tuesday.
The winds picked up in the final round and as a result, scores dropped throughout the field. URI was not immune and lost ground en route to shooting +12 par on the day and ultimately for the tournament. East Carolina University had already built a sizable lead over most of the competition following the first day of play and survived an ill-fated comeback by Kennesaw State (-12 par) to claim the title with an overall score of -15 par.
The result was not what head coach Gregg Burke had hoped for, but under the circumstances he was more than pleased with the growth and strides his team has made.
“I’m proud of the guys,” Burke said. “Great field, very big golf course. The fact we were even-par after two rounds is phenomenal. We didn’t play our best Tuesday, but we feel pretty well. Five years ago we shot +65 par here, and this time we shot +12 par. I love the improvement.”
Houston fell down a bit on the leaderboard, but still finished in a tie for 20th in what was an overall solid two days for the Penn State alum, as was evident by his team-high 13 birdies in the intercollegiate. Jones and Walthouse wrapped up their afternoon with an identical overall total of 213 (even-par), which was good enough to share thirteenth pace. Walthouse has been a pillar of consistency and has played at a high quality throughout his career at URI, while Houston has been a “stalwart.” Jones, long pegged by Burke as the next great Ram, has been emerging as another premier talent for the program.
“He has been right there with Billy and Chris every step of the way,” Burke said. “The environment is perfect for him, He is a superstar just starting to bud. He was recruited to be a four-year player, two-year superstar.”
Freshmen Jason Short and Blake DiPaola, who competed in his first college tournament as a member of the team, rounded out the roster and both shot +14 par. Burke knows the big course, coupled with a highly accomplished field can rattle underclassmen, but felt his players answered the call well.
“I thought they handled themselves well,” Burke said. “Blake stepped up, he was +4 par through six holes and he got to even-par. That showed strong character. Jason scratched and clawed. He is a tremendous competitor.”
URI will leave North Carolina a little more battle-tested as they prepare for a two-week layoff before resuming play on Monday, Oct. 17 at the Georgetown Intercollegiate.