After a sluggish opening round, the Binghamton golf team put forth a solid comeback on day two to finish third on the leaderboard at the Matthews Auto Collegiate Invitational this past weekend. Led by sophomore Ryan Rodriguez’s performance, the Bearcats posted the best score of the final round, going even for the day.
In addition to propelling the team, Rodriguez placed highly on the individual leaderboard, earning a third-place finish out of 90 participants. Rodriguez struggled through his first few holes on day one before rebounding with an eagle on the 12th hole to save his round. That powered Rodriguez to a seamless final round and a final score of three under par.
“[Rodriguez] had a lot of confidence with his ball striking today,” said BU head coach Bernie Herceg. “He had a lot of good shots, and he putted well over the past two days. Overall, his performance was just very solid and consistent.”
He wasn’t the only one who played well, as freshman Nacho Glagovsky and sophomore Chris Yustin tied for 18th place on the leaderboard, each posting scores under par in the final round. Sophomore Tom Mandel and junior Zak Ottman weren’t far behind, each finishing tied for 29th at seven over par.
The Bearcats’ third-place finish came amid a crowded field of 17 schools. They finished the first round in the middle of the pack, tied for sixth. They were sitting at plus-12 as a team and all but one player had shot under par.
“We had a very slow start,” Herceg said. “We did not play well on the front side. I felt very fortunate that we were only five shots off the lead.”
The Bearcats, however, managed to turn things around in the final round. Yustin started things off by birdieing the first hole, while Rodriguez strung together four consecutive birdies to round out the front nine. Slowly but surely, the Bearcats began moving up the leaderboard, culminating in a respectable finish.
Binghamton’s placement was its best of the season by far, as they had finished 11th, 12th and 10th, respectively, in their first three tournaments. Despite this, there was a lingering feeling of defeat among the team as they fell short of their ultimate goal: winning the invitational.
“I could feel it in the guys — they’re disappointed,” Herceg said. “We felt like we had a good chance to win this tournament, a home even, and we didn’t pull off that objective.”
The Bearcats ultimately fell two strokes short of the win, which was earned jointly by Lehigh University and St. Bonaventure, who finished in a tie at 10 over par. The Bearcat players had finished their respective rounds first, so they were consigned to watching and waiting, hoping for a shift on the leaderboard that never came.
Rodriguez himself was in a similar situation on the individual leaderboard. At one point late in the day he was even sitting in first place, until junior Ross Pilliod of St. Joseph’s Pennsylvania and sophomore Nikolas Maff of Monmouth overtook him.
Despite the disappointment, however, Herceg was still proud of his team’s performance.
“I was proud of the guys,” he said. “We made a really valiant comeback. They really played with their heart. Having moved up on the board, shooting some better numbers, seeing some of the guys shoot under par, it definitely builds confidence in us.”
Herceg and the rest of the Binghamton golf team look to take that newfound confidence forward into their final event of the fall: the Austin Peay Intercollegiate. The two-day tournament tees off on Monday, Oct. 16 from Dickson, Tennessee.