Varsity golf team has high hopes for season

The Carnegie Mellon golf team capped off a successful week of play with a record-setting victory at the McDaniel College Invitational on Sunday, all the while keeping pace with the their goal of a first-ever appearance in the Division III national championship tournament.
Over the weekend, the team blew by the competition at the tournament held in Gettysburg, Pa., and finished at the top of the 11-team field, 14 strokes ahead of their nearest competitor, Susquehanna (Pa.).
“It’s probably our biggest win ever. To shoot 599, that’s our best two-round score ever,” said coach Rich Erdelyi, who has guided the team for 20 years. “I’m really happy for them. They worked hard and they deserve it.”
Senior Matt Simone led the tournament after the first round on Saturday with a 72, despite tough winds that made for difficult playing conditions. “We shot 304 as a team [on Saturday], which is our best score of the year,” said Simone, whose first-day eagle chip on the fourth hole highlighted his play.
Sophomore Howard Smith’s first-round eagle on the 18th hole also stood out. “It was straight downwind with water on both sides, so I hit two-iron, then four-iron to like two feet and kicked it right in.”
The Tartans followed up their season-best Saturday total with their lowest second-day round score ever, a 295 led by first-year Alex Timmons’s 72. Simone and senior A.J. Straub each shot 73 on Sunday.
The team’s short game proved to be one of the main factors in the blowout victory. “Overall we putted pretty well today,” Straub said. “I know personally I didn’t have any three-putts and made everything inside of 15 feet.”
The Tartans’ productive week began last Monday with a collective 315, nine strokes behind first-place Allegheny (Pa.), at the Titan Invitational in New Castle, Pa.
Timmons tied for second overall, firing a 76 on the wet par-72 course. “I thought he played intelligently,” Erdelyi said. “He played a very smart round of golf. He went after pins he knew he could. He made a 25-foot putt that was a ‘no-brainer.’ I thought 75, 76 was going to be a good score that day, and it was.”
“It was a par-three, number 13 I think,” Timmons said of his lengthy putt. “Not many putts were dropping all day because the greens were wet and sloppy. I got up there and just knocked it in and it helped me out confidence-wise. It is hard to get confidence on those greens because you are missing one-footers, two-footers because you hit a bump and a kick. There is nothing you can do about it, so any confidence helps and dropping one that is outside 20 feet helps.”
Simone and Smith each shot 78 at Westminster, tying for seventh place while sophomore Blake Darby and Straub carded 83 and 87, respectively. First-year Joshua Chen competed as an independent and fired an 85.
“I was pretty happy. I didn’t hit the ball particularly outstanding, but everyone pretty much kept [the ball] in front of them, didn’t do anything too crazy, and we ended up having a good team score,” Simone said.
The Tartans’ stellar play has kept them in the hunt for an appearance in the national Division III men’s golf championships, a tournament in which Carnegie Mellon has never competed.
Following Monday’s third-place finish, the Tartans climbed to fifth in the Mid-Atlantic regional rankings. At the end of the regular season, the top three teams from each region qualify for the 120-team national championship tournament. After the first-place finish at Gettysburg, Erdelyi expects the Tartans to rise in the rankings.
“For a senior, [reaching the national tournament] would be the ultimate culmination of an athletic career at Carnegie Mellon. We’ve never gone,” Simone said, “So to be the first team that would be able to accomplish that would be huge.”
The Tartans have four tournaments in the next 15 days and hope to continue their strong play to secure a championship tournament berth. “This is great. We’re riding high right now,” Straub said. “Hopefully we can carry that into our match on Thursday and regionals this weekend and just keep the low scores coming.”