Golf team mounts comeback to win Manor, Houston takes first in playoff

The University of Rhode Island men’s golf team overcame early struggles this past weekend to win the team competition with a final score of +8 par (872), while graduate student Chris Houston took home the individual title at the Manor Intercollegiate in Farmville, Virginia

Rhode Island competed in a field of 16 teams and 90 golfers and played three rounds over the course of  two days. The Rams struggled in their opening round on Saturday, tallying a dismal score of +18 par. Senior captain Billy Walthouse was out of sync to start his tournament, shooting an unusually high round of +15 par. The team followed suit and found themselves stuck in the middle of the pack at sixth place with plenty of work needed to claw their way back into contention.

Walthouse, however, regained his composure in the second later that afternoon, as his -3 par (69) breathed new life into the team. URI moved up three spots into a tie for third with the University of Delaware at 585 (297, 288), while Walthouse launched himself out of the basement of the individual leaderboard. The hometown favorite, Longwood University, held a fairly comfortable seven-stroke lead (576).

Houston remained consistent throughout the first day of competition. He was able to card back-to-back 71s and finish his Saturday –2 par (68) in a three-way tie for third place. Head coach Gregg Burke was not happy with his team starting off slow, but was impressed by the team’s overall ability to overcome the early deficit and make up for it on the second day. Burke was especially impressed with the production his team got from junior Brody King in the fifth spot of the rotation, which had been an issue this season.

“Almost everyone responded very well,” Burke said. “Dawson (Jones) played great, and we had a first place and a fourth place. That is really who we are and what we should be doing, and for the first time this year we finally got good numbers out of the five spot. Brody in the fifth spot going +3 and +3 in the final two rounds, he won the tournament for us. For the reason that we haven’t gotten that out of the four and five spot all year.”

The Rams brought their best effort of the weekend in the final round on Sunday, shooting a team-high score of 287 to pass both first and second-place teams Longwood and Dartmouth College. In the comeback effort, Walthouse birdied three of his final five holes, sophomore Dawson Jones birdied two of his final three, King stepped up and birdied two of his last four and Houston birdied the 18th hole to give the Rams sole possession of first place and himself a share of the lead on the individual leaderboard after shooting a third consecutive 71. Houston, with the team victory already secured, sought individual glory in a playoff against Delaware’s Jack Gianniny. He birdied the first playoff hole to edge out his opponent and capture the individual title with a -3 par for the tournament. Houston’s clutch play earned him URI athlete of the week honors for the second time this season.

Burke was impressed not only by the Pennsylvania State University graduate’s individual win, but also by Houston and Walthouse’s leadership skills, which he believes propelled them to victory.

“Chris is the most experienced golfer we have and he never let bad holes upset him in anyway,” Burke said. “The golf course was in very poor conditions, and Chris just ignored it and played good solid golf. He proved what a champion he is, birdying his 18th hole and then he birdies his first playoff hole. That is what champions do. Billy put the team on his back after shooting the big number and was -3 in his next round making a statement that we are not a team that is sixth place.”

Jones also earned a top-five finish, his second of the season,  placing fourth overall with a final tally of -1 par. Walthouse finished tied for 37th overall scoring a +10 par, King finished +14 par and Short rounded out the team victory tied for 51st, finishing +16 par.

Rhode Island’s next challenge will be at the Finegan Invitational next Monday April 10 at the Whitemarsh Valley Country Club in Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania.   

“I am hoping that we turned it around and got back to where we needed to be,” Burke said. “We had a really bad opening day at Georgetown and then we had a bad final day at Wilmington and now we had a really bad opening day at Manor.  I am hoping that we don’t have a bad day since it is only one day at La Salle. We are the best team in the field, we have worked harder than any other teams, and we just have to put the right lineup on the field and go down there to win it.”