GALLOWAY, N.J. -- The men's golf teams converge upon a familiar site this weekend to vie for the 2012 Ivy League Men's golf title. Both team and individual honors will be on the line when the 40 golfers tee it up on April 27-29 at the Galloway National Golf Club in Galloway, N.J.
The Ivy League Championship returns to Galloway National for the second time in as many years, and the fourth time overall. Galloway National also played host to the event in 2007 and 2008. Yale comes in as the defending champions, having won last season's championship by 20 strokes over second-place Columbia. After the second round of play in 2011, Penn led the Bulldogs by one stroke and Columbia, Princeton and Dartmouth were all within 10 shots of the lead but a final day four-over par 288 saw Yale pull away for its first Ivy League Championship since 2003.
The League's eight teams recently helped comprise the 14-team field at the Princeton Invitational (April 14-15) and Yale proved victorious with a six-over par 858 total. Amongst the Ivies, Columbia finished second at eight-over par (860) and Princeton placed third at 15-over par (867) in the de facto Ivy Championship preview event.
Last weekend, six of the schools, including the second place finishers from Harvard, took part in the Century Intercollegiate. Princeton (third), Dartmouth (fourth), Yale (fifth), Brown (sixth) and Cornell (seventh) also took part in the Century Intercollegiate. Meanwhile, Penn captured the won the 20-team Navy Spring Invitational and Columbia placed third at the same event.
There is no shortage of team highlights from the 2011-12 season, indicating that the 2012 Ivy League Championship should be closely contested. All told, three different teams captured tournament titles this season, including two each by Dartmouth, Yale and Penn. In October, the Big Green caught fire and won back-to-back tournaments, including the Big 5 Invite and the Classic at Shelter Harbor. In addition to the Princeton Invitational, Yale also took top honors at the Macdonald Cup (Oct. 1-2). Penn had the League's other wins when it finished first of 12 teams at the George Washington Invitational (March 16-17) and then won last weekend's Navy Spring Invitational (April 21-22).
At the individual level, Dartmouth senior Peter Williamson enters 2012 as the defending champion. In 2011, he won medalist honors for a second time, as he also captured the title in 2009 as a freshman. In last season's first round, Williamson fired a two-under par 69 to take a three- shot lead over the field that he would not relinquish, though 2010 Ivy League Champion Scotty Williams of Penn did cut that lead to one shot after shooting a second-round 74 in windy and wet conditions.
Winners of the last three Ivy Championships, Williamson and Williams figure to be amongst the favorites as they duel one last time for the League title. Williamson already etched his in the Ivy League history books as one of five golfers to win medalist honors twice at the League Championship, while Williams is looking to become the sixth. Dating back to the first League championship in 1975, Williamson could become just the second golfer to win Ivy League medalist three times. Yale legend Bob Heintz is currently the only member of that exclusive club. Heintz, who has split time between the PGA and Nationwide Tours in his professional career including five seasons on the PGA Tour, won the Ivy title from 1990-92.
Williamson, one of the five finalists for the 2012 Byron Nelson Award presented by Cleveland Golf/Srixon, has had a strong 2011-12 season, including wins at the Macdonald Cup (Oct. 1-2) and the Princeton Invitational (April 14-15). He also finished as the runner up at the Big 5 Invitational (Oct. 8-9), the Classic at Shelter Harbor (Oct. 15-16) the Yale Spring Opener (April 7) and the Century Intercollegiate (April 21-22).
Williams has five top-15 finishes on his 2011-12 resume, including a second-place showing at the George Washington Invitational (March 16-17). He could be getting hot at the right time, as four of those five top-15 performances have come in Penn's spring season. Williams' teammate Max Marsico could also figure in the race for Ivy medalist honors. The sophomore leads the Quakers with a 72.4 stroke average (heading into the Navy Spring Classic) and won three tournaments this season, including the Maryland Intercollegiate (Sept. 12-13), the George Washington Invitational (March 16-17) and the Navy Spring Invitational (April 21-22).
Sam Bernstein, the 2011 Ivy League Rookie of the Year, looks to lead a deep Yale lineup to consecutive Ivy titles for the first time since 1996-97. Bernstein, who finished one stroke behind Williamson to place second at the Macdonald Cup (Oct. 1-2), finished ninth at last season's championship to earn second team All-Ivy honors after closing strong with a final round one-over par 72. Bernstein's teammate Jeff Hatten put up a strong showing at the Princeton Invitational (April 14-15), shooting a four-under par 209 to place second, one stroke behind champion Williamson. Hatten, who tied for fourth at the 2011 Ivy League Championship to claim first team All-Ivy honors, closed the Princeton Invitational with a final round 67.
Columbia senior Brendan Doyle finished third at last year's Ivy Championship and the senior figures to be amongst the challengers at this season's event as well. He tied for fourth at the Princeton Invitational, totaling a two-under par 211 in the three-round event. Doyle's teammate Michael Yiu has also had a strong season for the Lions. Yiu, a junior, has posted a 21-2 mark versus Ivy foes this season (as of April 18), and he led Columbia with a tie for 15th at the USF Triumph At Pauma Valley, its first event of the 2012 spring season.
Other players who figure to be in the mix for medalist or All-Ivy honors include Harvard senior Tony Grillo, who leads the Crimson with a 72.31 scoring average (as of April 18) on the season and he has also carded four eagles this year. Grollo's classmate Mark Pollak, who was the lone Harvard player to earn All-Ivy honors in 2011, will be looking for similar success in 2012.
A pair of upperclassmen also lead the Princeton lineup including junior Bernie D'Amato and senior Evan Harmeling. D'Amato became the first Princeton golfer to earn medalist honors since 2007 when he defeated Williamson on the first playoff hole at the Classic at Shelter Harbor (Oct. 15-16). Harmeling tied for fourth at the Princeton Invitational and last season he tied for 18th at the Ivy Championship, where he was tied for sixth after the second round of play.
Brown junior JD Ardell as well as Cornell sophomores Craig Esposito and Carl Schimenti guide their squads to Galloway National. Ardell has the added benefit of having played the course a season ago, when he tied for 32nd. Most recently, Schmenti tied for 27th at the Princeton Invitational.
Several freshmen could also make their presence felt at the Ivy Championship, including Dartmouth's Charlie Edler, Yale's Will Davenport and Brown's Justin Miller. In fact, entering the Century Classic on April 21-22, Miller was the Bears' low scorer in five of their six tournaments.