When the collegiate golf spring season kicks off on March 23, the Amherst women’s golf team will take the course as defending NESCAC Champions for the second consecutive season.
The program has developed into a perennial national contender under the guidance of head coach Michelle Morgan, having won 11 tournaments in the past three years. Once again, this team is deep with talent and will likely contend for another NESCAC Championship.
Still, the road to a third straight Championship will not be easy. This fall, the Jeffs lost their best player and three-time All-American Hayley Milbourn ’11, which certainly showed in their fall performances.
The Jeffs’ relatively poor fall play could also be attributed to the absence of two of their top current players. Juniors Liz Monty and Irene Hickey, who were studying abroad, were key cogs in the Jeffs’ success last season and their return will be critical.
Monty will be looking to pick up where she left off at the end of her phenomenal sophomore season. She was the Jeffs’ lowest scorer in four of the season’s final five events and closed out the year with an incredible 74 in the final round of the Williams Invitational. With Hickey and Monty both back, the team will certainly be improved this spring.
Even without these two stalwarts, however, the Lady Jeffs were still able to put together a solid fall season. The Jeffs finished in the top three of each of their four events, riding the strong performances of the team’s three seniors.
In the season opener, co-captain Liz Monty ’12 took the lead, shooting a two-day total of 163 to help the Lady Jeffs to a third place finish at the NYU Invitational. A week later, she passed the torch to Nina Yoo ’12, who led the team with an impressive eighth place individual finish. Yoo posted a final round 79 for a two-day total of 160.
In the season’s final two events, it was the Lady Jeffs’ other co-captain, Elaine Lin ’12, who caught fire. Lin shot successive rounds of 84 and 85 at the Williams Fall Classic, leading the Jeffs to a third place finish. She backed up that performance in the team’s next tournament, shooting a 156 to finish in third place.
Not to be forgotten, the Jeffs have three sophomores and one first-year who round out the team. Sooji Choi ’14 and Kristen Lee ’14 showed significant improvement this fall and will look to continue that growth this spring. Minjeong Koo ’14 and Katherine Britt ’15 are in a similar situation, as both will look to build on their fall performances as well.
Overall, the Lady Jeffs certainly have the talent and depth to contend with other NESCAC teams and will be looking to successfully defend their Championship come May.
This past fall, the Amherst men’s golf team put together a very respectable season. Although the Jeffs were unable to back up their performance from the year before, when they earned their first-ever NESCAC Championship berth, the team had a host of impressive individual performances and accolades.
The fall season began at the Trinity Invitational, where the Jeffs earned a third place finish out of 12 teams. Senior captain Nate Belkin paced the Jeffs on Saturday with an opening-round 74, while Nicolas Koh ’14 and Alex Butensky ’13 together led a Sunday charge with matching final-round 73s. It was a very solid start to the year for the Jeffs, although their season would, admittedly, hit a few bumps from there on out.
The team followed up that performance with a valiant effort at the Duke Nelson Invitational. Although the team finished 10th, the tournament marked the start of a very impressive streak of performances for Koh. The sophomore posted back-to-back rounds of 73 and 72, earning second place out of 118 competitors. He was one of only three competitors to post a score of even par or better on Sunday.
Koh followed that performance by posting a two-day total of 162 at the Williams Invitational. He barely edged out Belkin, who shot a 163, although the real story of the weekend was junior Ben Johnston. Johnston put together two very impressive rounds, shooting 78 and 75 on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, to finish in a tie for 13th place. As a team, Amherst earned 12th place, finishing only eight strokes out of the top 10.
With four events in the books, the stage was set for the NESCAC Championship Qualifier. The Jeffs needed a top-four finish to earn a berth to the championship tournament in the spring, and unfortunately, came up just short. The team finished in fifth place, falling 12 strokes shy of qualifying.
Individually, however, Koh put together two extraordinary rounds to earn first team All-NESCAC honors. Koh posted a career-low 71 on Saturday and backed up the performance with a final-round 73. He finished at an even-par 144, good for third place overall.
Looking ahead to this spring, the Jeffs have a lot of positives to build on. The emergence of Koh as one of the premier golfers in the NESCAC will certainly be an interesting storyline to follow. Belkin has been one of the program’s top golfers since his rookie season and will look to wrap up his final collegiate season in style. Belkin earned All-Conference honors in his junior year and will be looking to return to that level this spring.
Butensky, who started out the year strong, showed significant improvement during the fall campaign and will hopefully be able to build on that momentum. He was the only member of the team to earn both All-American and All-Sportsmanship honors.
The Jeffs also have some blossoming young talent that will be interesting to watch this spring. First-year Jarvis Sill put together his most impressive performance of his young career in the fall season finale. Sill shot a 162 in the Championship Qualifier to tie for 37th place, showcasing his potential on a big stage.
Similarly, fellow first-year Josh Moser put together an impressive fall season of his own. The highlight of his season came at the Williams Invitational, where Moser posted a 172 that was fourth among Amherst’s golfers.
The Jeffs are stacked with both experience and talent, and they will be looking to prove that they are one of the best teams in the NESCAC. Behind a solid crop of young players and improving veterans, they have the potential to make a big splash this spring.