This certainly was the case on Thursday, as the Harvard men’s golf team was narrowly edged out by University of California at Riverside, 305-307, at the Nicklaus Tournament Course of the Club at PGA West in La Quinta, Calif.
“I was the first one in, so I didn’t see how the other guys behind me were doing,” freshman Mark Pollak said. “Judging by the play throughout the match, I thought we had a chance to pull this one out. I guess that just wasn’t the case.”
Despite the close finish of the competition, Pollak also acknowledged the exhibition style of the round.
“It was more just for fun,” Pollak said. “We kind of just went out there and played our own game and enjoyed each others’ company and enjoyed the weather. We weren’t playing in a match format, so it wasn’t so much a competition.”
The head-to-head tournament relied on the play six, count-four format, which allowed six golfers to compete, with the top four contributing to the team total. Rookies Pollak and Connor Wentzell, sophomore Danny Amira, juniors Greg Shuman and Danny Mayer, and senior John Christensen filled the ranks for the Crimson.
Andrew Patipaksiri, who transferred from New Mexico State two years ago, lowered his stroke average from 75.1 last season to 72.7 this season and led the Highlanders with a 74. But matching him stroke-for-stroke, the Crimson’s Pollak tied Patipaksiri for the tournament lead.
“I was playing really well,” Pollak said. “I was hitting the ball great. I could have gotten a lot more out of the round, but I guess I had a good day.”
With his 74-finish on Thursday, Pollak continues his dominating rookie campaign, which featured a ninth overall finish at the two-round Big 5 Invitational (71-75) where he lead all players in par-5 holes with a -4 average.
Harvard’s second-place finisher, Shuman, shot 76 on the day—just a stroke behind UC Riverside’s Mark Alvarez at 75.
And while Christensen matched Highlander Scott Clayton at 78 for each team’s respective third-place individual, Wertzell finished at 79, just a stroke behind UCR’s Tom Lo.
With the Crimson’s second and fourth spots finishing a stroke behind the Highlander’s second and fourth spots, Harvard just missed out on a dual-match win.
“While we didn’t play as well as we would have liked, a lot of good work was done over spring break,” captain Mike Shore said. “We were just trying to get the rust out and that’s what [the California trip] is all about.”
Mayer and Amira both shot 84 on the day, while UCR’s five and six—Bruce Doucett and Daniel Brainard—shot 81 and 82, respectively.
Four more Crimson golfers competed individually, not contributing to the team results. Junior Nick Moseley and Shore both shot 79 on the par-72 course. Junior Peter Singh shot an 83, while freshman Tony Grillo finished the day at 92.
With sunny skies and 89-degree highs, Harvard enjoyed the great California weather before its return to New England for the remaining slate of tournaments.
“All the spring break trips have been absolutely fantastic,” said Shore of his four experiences. “Personally, I’ve been pretty fortunate and very appreciative to go [with the team].”
Next up for the Crimson is the Yale Spring Opener, where Harvard will get its first look at Ivy League competition before the Ivy League Championships taking place later this month.
“We could practice way more than if we stayed [in Cambridge],” Pollak said of getting the chance to play in California. “We got to feel like how a southern U.S. team could. We were able to get some practice instead of staying stagnant [in Cambridge].”
—Staff writer Dixon McPhillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.