The University of Rhode Island golf team struggled to find their form, as they finished in a tie for sixth place (+35 par) at the Finnegan Invitational in LaFayette Hill, Pennsylvania Monday afternoon.
The Rams came into the Whitemarsh Valley Country Club on the heels of a thrilling comeback victory at the Manor Intercollegiate last Monday, and the optimal conditions gave the team an opportunity to claim a consecutive title. URI, however, found themselves unraveling by the end of the two rounds, finishing 26 strokes behind eventual winner Longwood University, one of the teams they edged in last week’s win.
The sunny weather did little to boost Rhode Island’s game, as they did not have a player shoot below par or even for a round, but nevertheless the team was near the top of the 14-team field following the morning session. The team tallied a first-round score of +9 par, which was six strokes off the lead of Drexel University. Sophomore Dawson Jones led the way with a 73 (+1), while senior captain Billy Walthouse came in right behind him at +2 par after the first 18 holes. Head coach Gregg Burke knew that his team was underperforming despite being striking distance of first place, and saw it as an indication of a lack of focus.
“We did not play well from the start,” Burke said. “We made a lot of birdies in practice, but then we got out there and did not play well. It just became a snowball effect.”
The Rams spiraled downward in a hurry, with a disastrous final round tally of 314 (+26 par) forcing them into the middle of the pack. Collectively, the team flailed on the greens. Jones showed flashes of excellent golf on route to shooting a +4 par in the round, tallying five birdies. He overcame a double and triple bogey on the front nine and shot even-par on the back nine to wrap up his afternoon with an overall score of +5 par. Jones was the top Ram on the leaderboard, finishing in a tie for 13th place and nine strokes off winner, Longwood’s Jordan Boulton.
Walthouse and graduate student Chris Houston fell short of playing the type of golf they are expected to produce, but just cracked the top 25 with each shooting +9 par for the tournament. Junior Brody King continued his solid play from last week to start the day, but lost some momentum after a second-round 91 that put him at +12 par overall. Freshman Blake Barsamian got his first taste of collegiate golf, debuting with a +15 par, while also tallying four birdies on the day. Burke knows his team is capable of playing superior golf and that they could have won the tournament, but took responsibility for what he perceived to be a lack of focus on the course.
“I probably didn’t do a good job of keeping them focused,” Burke said. “I think we were maybe proud of ourselves a little too much from comeback, and I should have halted that a little bit more. We didn’t come out with the hunger and that’s on me.”
The team will need to be mentally locked in if they want to bounce back with a strong performance when they come back home for the annual Rhode Island Invitational at the Quidnessett Country Club in North Kingstown beginning Monday. Burke is confident that his team can get back on track and regain that hunger for victory after an underwhelming performance he feels is well below the standards of what he knows they can produce.
“We have guys that have to just play smart golf,” Burke said. “My job is to harness that energy and get us back to playing Rhody golf.”