After more than four months of offseason during the summer, the Binghamton golf team’s autumn season is finally underway. The team is slated to compete in five invitationals over the course of the fall, with the first of those tournaments, the Turning Stone Tiger Intercollegiate at the University of Missouri, already in the books.
“I’m really excited,” said BU head coach Bernie Herceg. “In the past there’s been seasons I get really looking forward to and excited … but this year it’s something special. I really feel with the three new players coming in [that] our team is much deeper and the talent is much better than last year.”
New to the team this season are freshmen Scott Kleeschulte and Gavin Simon as well as sophomore transfer student D.J. Griffiths, all of whom hail from New York state. Griffiths, a Binghamton native, returns to his hometown following a brief stint at Florida Gulf Coast.
“It’s a pleasure to have him back,” Herceg said. “He’s a very talented golfer … to get him on the squad really helps the strength of the team.”
In addition to the newcomers, the Bearcats are returning all seven of last year’s team members, all of whom now have a year of college golf experience under their belts. With that experience, Herceg hopes his team, especially last year’s freshmen, is able to take that next step forward this season.
“I think we didn’t really reach our potential last year,” Herceg said, “but we finished on a pretty good note down over at the Big Sky [Championship]. Going forth, it’s only going to be better; they definitely got that experience.”
One of Binghamton’s key returning pieces this year will be sophomore Justin Lane. During last year’s spring season, Lane, as a freshman, finished as the Bearcats’ top performer in several invitationals, and was the highest-finishing rookie at the Big Sky Championship last April, placing 10th overall.
To start the fall season, Lane picked up right where he left off, with a 17th-place finish at the Turning Stone Invitational this past Labor Day weekend. Lane once again was the top Bearcat in the competition, finishing with an overall score of four above par. Lane turned relatively clean cards over the course of the invitational, scoring worse than par on only eight of 54 holes across three rounds.
Unfortunately for the Bearcats, the team as a whole did not share in Lane’s success. Dragged down by a combined score of plus-23 in the second round, Binghamton found itself in 15th place after two rounds of competition. Lane’s final round score of plus-one and junior Ryan Rodriguez’s even better final round of one-under weren’t enough to lift the team back up the leaderboard. The Bearcats went on to finish in 15th with a final, even score of plus-50.
Taking advantage of its home course, Missouri took home the top spot of the invitational, demolishing the competition with a final score of 16 below par, a full 29 shots ahead of the second-place finishers, North Dakota State. The race for the top spot on the individual leaderboard was much tighter, with Boston College junior Christian Cavaliere pulling it out in the final five holes.
While the Bearcats got their fall season off to a slow start, there are still more opportunities on the schedule for the team to prepare and build up momentum to get the season back on track. All of this leads up to the Matthews Invitational at the end of the month, the annual tournament that Binghamton hosts that is cited by the team as the crown jewel of the fall schedule.
“There’s no doubt, it’s the event of the year … that we want to win in the fall,” Herceg said. “Last year we were right there, and we didn’t complete the tournament the way we wanted to, but where we’re at right now, I feel really positive that we’re going to be able to give it a good run and have ourselves a good chance to win come the final day there on Oct. 1.”
The Bearcats’ fall season continues this upcoming weekend at the Alex Lagowitz Memorial Invitational hosted by Colgate University. The two-day tournament kicks off Saturday, Sept. 8 from Hamilton, New York.