Christine DeRosa/Pipe Dream Photographer Junior Ryan Rodriguez notched a score of 10 over par to lead all Bearcats in the golf team’s first invitational of the spring.

After a long, grueling winter, the Binghamton golf team returned to the greens earlier this week to kick off its spring schedule with an appearance at the Golden Horseshoe Intercollegiate in Williamsburg, Virginia. The three-round invitational, hosted by the College of William & Mary, came to a close on Tuesday, with the Bearcats finishing squarely in the middle of the pack, earning 12th place in a field of 21 schools.

“We’re still a little rusty coming out of the offseason,” said Binghamton head coach Bernie Herceg. “We had a great second round coming back after a tough first round … Overall, I thought [our performance] was okay.”

Individually, junior Ryan Rodriguez put together the best performance of any Bearcat, finishing in a tie for 21st with a score of 10 above par. Rodriguez’s second-round score of two under par was the best single round for any Bearcat golfer in the event, and one of only two under-par rounds BU had all week. Rodriguez now leads all Bearcats on the leaderboard for the second consecutive invitational.

Meanwhile, sophomore Justin Lane and senior Zak Ottman, the two co-champions at the Matthews Auto Invitational last fall, had uncharacteristically poor outings in the invitational. The two combined for a score of plus-41 and finished tied for 47th and 73rd, respectively. This marks the first time this season that Lane failed to finish in the top 20.

After a rough first round in which the team shot a combined 316 and accumulated only four total birdies, the Bearcats rebounded with a strong showing in the middle round of the event. Shaking off some rust from the five-month winter offseason, Binghamton shot a 287, or three over par, for the day. Rodriguez led the way with his two-under round of 69, supplemented by sophomore Nacho Glagovsky’s round of 70. Having markedly improved from round one to round two, the Bearcats, who typically save their best round for last, seemed poised to post another solid finish.

Unfortunately, worsening playing conditions plagued every golfer during the final round. Every school’s score went up dramatically from the second round to the third, and BU was no exception. The Bearcats shot an underwhelming 315, just one shot better than their opening round performance.

“Today [Tuesday] was a very difficult day with playing conditions,” Herceg said. “If you look at the average score, it really was a lot higher than yesterday’s [Monday]. The guys really grinded out there, they struggled — everybody did, just because of how tough the conditions were.”

At the close of the final round, it was Campbell University at the top of the leaderboard, led by exemplary showings from the meet’s co-champions, junior Max Theodorakis and senior Ray Kraivixien. Binghamton finished 11 spots behind Campbell with a combined score of 918, or 66 above par.

With the Golden Horseshoe Intercollegiate behind them, the Bearcats have only have one month until they head out west for the 2019 Big Sky Championships. Binghamton was picked to finish fourth in the conference’s preseason poll, the highest placing for the Bearcats since they joined the Big Sky in 2015.

“I think it’s a very fair ranking,” Herceg said. “We’re in a competitive conference. A majority of the teams are out west and are playing year-round. The strength of our team definitely puts us where we are. This is the first year in a while that I really feel, going into the conference championships, that we’re going to be competitive and have some opportunities to be up there in the top.”

Before the Big Sky Championships arrive, however, the team will compete in three more invitationals, the first of which comes mere days after the William & Mary event in a quick turnaround for BU. Coach Herceg believes that the result in Williamsburg could act as a springboard from the team heading into its next tournament at Lehigh.

“These past three days, competing and playing … We’ll learn from that,” Herceg said. “Overall, we need some more reps on the range to gain a little more confidence in our ball-striking. Thursday and Friday we’ll have some good workouts to prepare for the weekend coming up.”

The BU golf team next plays in the Lehigh Valley Collegiate Invitational in Easton, Pennsylvania. The tournament kicks off this Sunday, March 31, and will conclude the following day.