Nothing reinvigorates a program quite like an influx of young talent. After a last place MIAC finish in the 2012 season, the men’s golf team has added three promising first-years to the squad.
As of press time, the team’s lowest scorers are Josh Wingardner ’17 (Boxford, Mass.) and Drew Gumlia ’17 (Tustin, Calif.) with average rounds of 80.3 and 81.9 apiece. Luke Poulsen ’17 isn’t far behind at fourth on the team with an 83.3 mean score.
Wingardner, Gumlia and Poulsen represent the strong recruiting that second year coach Tomas Adalsteinsson hopes can lift a team bereft of a single senior.
Coming from competitive high school programs, Wingardner, Gumlia and Poulsen possess experience that impressed Adalsteinsson during the recruitment process. In Gumlia’s three years of high school varsity golf, he remained within the top three seeds despite self-admittedly “plateauing junior year.”
Wingardner transferred to one of Massachusetts’ top golf schools his sophomore year and helped his team to a state championship in his first year and top three finishes the following two years.
Adalsteinsson claims that the introduction of such high performing first-years puts pressure on returners to raise their own level of play. “In an individual sport, you see two new guys that are performing this way, and this is what I need to do to get at that level as well,” Adalsteinsson said. He also noted how thrilled he has been with the first years’ work ethic, focus and knowledge of the game.
Despite a 15th place team finish out of 16 competitors at the season’s opening Augsburg Fall Invitational, Adalsteinsson said that the tournament “went better than the score suggests.” Although the following weekend’s Saint John’s Fall Invitational saw the team finish 22nd out of 23 squads, Coach Adalsteinsson noted that the team “finished and showed great strength” despite having to play through the pouring rain in the first round.
Additionally, the second round was the team’s best round in nearly two years.
According to Adalsteinsson, the best moment of the season thus far came in the form of Wingardner’s 74 at The Jewell during the Scots’ dual match. It was “one of the best rounds we’ve seen in the last couple of years at a very tough course. And [Wingardner] showed at the St. John’s Invitational that he’s capable of replicating that.”
Although both first-years are proud of their success, Gumlia and Wingardner know that there is plenty of room for improvement. “I’ve been all over the board and I’ve played pretty mediocre golf,” Gumlia said.
“I’ve had some strong scores, but inconsistency has dragged me down,” Wingardner said.
This self-criticism is something Adalsteinsson has noticed many times before.
“There seems to be a general trend that when you’re starting in college athletics, and particularly golf, you tend to post higher scores than you’re used to in high school because the courses are tougher and the environment offers a bit more pressure,” he said.
Those responsible for easing this pressure may very well be the team’s returning leadership, a trio of Erik Alfvin ’15 (Shorewood, Wis.), James Meyerson ’16 (Weston, Fla.) and Dan Shi ’15 (Loveland, Ohio). Although Wingardner said that “everyone holds themselves and each other accountable” regardless of year, he recognized that each returning player assumes a different leadership role.
“Dan’s been the leader on the course,” he said. “James puts in a lot of effort in the weight room. Erik’s been a good mentor both on and off the course. He keeps a positive attitude about the direction of the team. He’s been one of the leading causes in the improvement in effort and motivation.”
As the team continues to improve as a cohesive unit, Adalsteinsson and the first-years look to the MIAC Championship on Oct. 5-7 as an opportunity to gauge how the team stacks up against the rest of the conference. Coach Adalsteinsson stressed that “it’s important that we peak at that time” as he views the MIAC tournament as “the biggest of the year.”
Although an All-MIAC title, which is ensured by a top nine finish in the tournament, may be a stretch this season, both Gumlia and Wingardner consider it their premiere goal for the next three years.
Considering half the team consists of first-years, Gumlia said “this has to be viewed as a rebuilding year.” Rebuilding year or not, the additions of Gumlia, Wingardner and Poulson have the men’s team on the upswing.