May 23, 2004
New Haven, CT - You could say that the teams playing The Course at Yale as part of the NCAA East Regional May 20-22 enjoyed it so much that they didn't want to leave -- in fact, two of them needed an extra one-hole playoff to determine the final qualifier for the NCAA Championship. North Carolina and NC State's battle to the finish was just one highlight of a tournament that brought the attention of the college golf world to New Haven.
The regional brought an interesting mix of top teams and players to the Elm City, marking just the third time that the Elis had hosted such an event (1991 and 1995 were the others). Top teams like No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Clemson (who won with a 856) and top golfers like Wake Forest's Bill Haas (who won the individual medal with a 207) were only part of the story. No. 22 Rhode Island provided a pleasant surprise by shooting an 877 and becoming the first New England school to advance out of the regional since the current format was adopted in 1988.
Rams head coach Tom Drennan noted that it was special to do it in New Haven. The Rams had played here previously in the Macdonald Cup (shooting a 900 last September to finish 7th), and knew the extensive renovations that The Course has undergone recently.
"I'm thrilled we did it at The Course at Yale," Brennan said. "It's a course we've come to love in all its various stages. To be successful on it at its toughest and best is special to us. We respect this place so much."
The majority of the teams in the regional were from the South, and gained a new appreciation for Yale and its golf facilities.
"I think it's a great venue for a regional," said Vanderbilt's Ben McClung. "It's the perfect layout for such a competitive event."
Teammate Mark Donnell agreed.
"You can tell it's a great venue for the event by the way the scores are bunched up," he observed. "That will happen on a good course."
The Course at Yale is known for its punishing character, and even the best collegiate golfers found making par a challenge. There were successes, from the double-eagle on the par-5 16th by Army's Scott Manley to the hole-in-one on 13 by Wake Forest's Kyle Reifers in the final round. There were also plenty of struggles with The Course's unqiue characteristics, from the swale in the green on the legendary ninth hole to the 621-yard 18th.
"We haven't played anything like this," Donnell said. "We all thought it was very interesting. The greens were the biggest challenge."
In the end, 10 teams met the challenge better than the rest and advanced to the Championship. North Carolina edged NC State by two strokes in the playoff to wrap up a remarkable three days of golf at Yale.
report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity Department