Men’s Golf Hosts Alex Lagowitz Memorial: Underclassmen lead Raiders to 40-stroke improvement from last year

Junior Ryan Skae discusses his approach shot on the 18th with Coach Keith Tyburski. Skae finished the competition +21, good for second on the team.

Theo Asher, Colgate Sports Editor

This past weekend, Colgate men’s golf played host to the first of their ten competitions this season, the Alex Lagowitz Memorial Invitational tournament at Seven Oaks Golf Course. Coming off a season that saw the development of young talent and a strong recruiting class, the team came into this home competition primed to make a statement.

The competition field this time around was unquestionably tougher than years past, with elite Ivy League powers joining Colgate and the other Patriot League teams to compose a pool of 17 teams. With such a loaded field, Coach Keith Tyburski emphasized the importance of home turf.

“Anytime that we have a tournament on home soil our main mission is to defend our ground. We don’t want to see the hardware go to somebody else. This is our golf course, we know it better than anyone else,” Tyburski said.

In theory, competing in a golf tournament on one’s home course should give a significant edge, but there are a multitude of variables at play. The squad is much younger than years past, with only one senior on the varsity roster. For Colgate to score low at this tournament, that means the young guys, particularly the first-years, must step up and perform out of the gate.

“Obviously with a younger team, guys are still getting to know the golf course. The superintendent has done a great job of getting the course into playable conditions. Some of the guys haven’t seen those conditions yet so there’s some acclimatizing that has to take place,” Tyburski said.

It didn’t take long for freshman and Cairo, Egypt native Dean Naime to adapt to his new environment. He had the second-best score on the team in round one and paced the entire Raiders squad in round two with a solid 71. Naime displayed a quiet confidence on Saturday in the face of daunting opposition and a new level of competition.

“I’ve played well but haven’t capitalized on some of the opportunities I was given. You gotta stay focused on the now, and just think about the next shot,” Naime said. “The course is playing as easy as it can play. The scores are gonna be low today. We’re in scoring conditions, so you gotta go and take advantage of them.”

Golf is a game of acute calculation and precision, demanding varying

degrees of finesse for every hole. You may need to utilize a heavy driver for the 525-yard, par-5 18th hole, then, a few minutes later, a sharply-cut 9 iron or pitching wedge for the 142-yard, par-3 2nd hole. Seven Oaks, like many Northeastern golf courses, forces competitors to make these calculations in demanding, often unpredictable conditions. Tyburski’s strategy for the team’s handling of the conditions has been fine-tuned to accommodate for anything the course throws at them.

“With such firm greens, the golf ball is just gonna want to run away from you. It’ll be tougher to control… In some situations, you might be able to hit a driver and get close, but if you’re so close that you can’t get any spin on the ball, you’re kind of restricting yourself in how you can get to the hole. Knowing the course, we did our best to figure out the game plan for each hole going into it,” he said.

This strategy, exemplified by the confidence of young players like Naime, paid dividends through the first two rounds for Colgate. At the end of the day on Saturday, Colgate’s A team (Maroon) sat in second place out of 17 teams, shooting +9 overall. Junior Ryan Skae pulled his weight for the Raiders in round one with a sharp 72, and Naime led the group with a 71 in the latter-half of Saturday’s action. One of the highlights of the day was Junior Alejo Soto coming inches away from an ace on the 2nd hole, demonstrating the physical precision Tyburski frequently alluded to in his course strategy.

The energy the team exhibited on Saturday would not be enough to lift the hardware on Sunday, however. Lafayette ended the tournament on top with an exceptional team score of +3, with the next closest team ten strokes back in second place (Drexel). Colgate finished the competition in 8th place at +25, a respectable but nonetheless unsatisfying performance. Three Raiders placed in the top-20, all of them tied for 18th place (Naime, Andrew Huber and John Hayden Wood).

The main takeaway from this competition should not be frustration. Last year, Colgate finished 13th out of 15 in this competition, shooting a dismal +68. In this year’s iteration of the Alex Lagowitz Memorial, they faced unquestionably tougher opposition and made genuine strides to finish over 40 shots better than last year. With confidence stemming from the coach’s seat and stellar young talent, Colgate men’s golf brims with optimism, as succinctly expressed by Naime himself: “Course feels good, team and the coaching staff has been great, I’m excited to be a Raider.”

Contact Theo Asher at [email protected]