Yeah yeah, Minnesota is getting all of us good with this weather, but there are some among us with even more reason than usual to be excited about the fact that it’s finally comfortable to be outside. The men’s golf team has managed to fit in only one tournament this spring, and even that came in frigid conditions at the Wartburg College Spring Invite, located in Waverly, IA. There is hope, however, that this recent climatic improvement will allow for another tournament to be held before season’s end, most likely this Sunday at the St. John’s Spring Invitational in Monticello.
Despite a dearth of competitive opportunities, the team has still spent numerous hours preparing for matches by practicing indoors. Most of the team’s outdoor golf was played during the fall (spring is more of a practice season) when the squad was transitioning to new coach Tomas Adalsteinsson’s system. James Meyerson ’16 (Weston, FL) credited Adalsteinsson as a positive influence with regards to “improving skills and [his] mental approach to the game.” That said, Meyerson acknowledged that it took him some time to get used to playing for a new coach.
“As with any coaching change, there’s an adjustment period,” Meyerson said. “It takes a while for players to learn a coach’s style, for a coach to learn a team’s dynamics, and for a team to forge a level of trust. I certainly feel we’re moving in the right direction.”
The transition was, at least for the fall season, a difficult one. At the MIAC championships, a mid-tournament illness to Andrew Gage ’15 (Piedmont, CA) forced the Scots to finish with four players, leading to a disappointing last place result. While such a setback, when combined with this spring’s trying conditions, would seem to paint a picture of a struggling program, the team sees things differently.
“We [potentially] have three first years coming in next fall,” captain Tyler Hanck ’13 (Park Ridge, IL) said. “Dan Shi ’15 (Loveland, OH) is peaking. [And] James shot his collegiate best in Iowa.”
Indeed, Shi demonstrated great improvement from his freshman year campaign, cutting almost two strokes from his season average (going from 84.3 to 82.7).
He also shot the two lowest rounds on the team this year, firing rounds of 74 and 75. And after Meyerson struggled a bit during the fall season this year (averaging 92.5 strokes), he broke through at Wartburg by recording a career-best 83. Hanck was encouraged by Meyerson’s performance in Waverly. “James is a talented player…but the transition to collegiate golf has been difficult for him, much like it is for the majority of first year players,” Hanck said. “He has put in the hard work, and now we’re starting to see the scores he is capable of firing. Obviously, he’d like to be about five shots lower, but it’s a good first step in the right direction.”
Another step in the right direction would be actually getting on the course. Unlike most sports teams at Macalester, the men’s and women’s golf teams were unable to go on a Spring Break trip for the first time in recent memory due to budget cuts. Without getting to play their traditional six rounds at Jekyll Island in Georgia and being subject to the extended Minnesota winter, the team has only been able to play around 45 total holes outdoors this season. However, their limited schedule hasn’t been for a lack of trying. Just this past week, the team drove more than a hundred miles just to find an open course on which to practice, an indication of the team’s hunger to improve and overcome obstacles.
Meyerson presents a hopeful outlook for the team in coming seasons. In addition to feeling confident about personal improvement, he cited a balanced team and continuity as reasons for being hopeful about the state of Macalester’s golf program.
“Personally, I’ll be more comfortable playing college golf next year and I hope that comfortability will translate into lower scores, which would obviously help the team as a whole,” Meyerson said. “As far as optimism for the team, I think we as players will better understand what coach expects from us and what his direction for the team is. I think having that knowledge will allow us to put more energy into improving our games rather than investing it into learning a new coaching style.”
Despite Meyerson’s optimism about next year, the team loses their best player this spring with Hanck’s graduation. As the sole remaining player of a four-man class of 2009, Hanck’s contributions to the program can’t be understated.
“I’m gonna miss the guy,” Shi said. “He offered friendly competition and unique insight on golf that added to his value as a teammate and leader.”
Hanck will leave his mark on a team that can look ahead to future seasons and see a solid nucleus of young players, some exciting new blood and a greater comfort level with their coach. It’s a combination that bodes well for a program bearing the brunt of winter just a little more than the rest of us. Now if they could only get in a round of golf.