Offseasons for athletes have their ups and downs. Sure, there’s the relaxation time, the opportunity to pursue other endeavors and improve on one’s game. On the other hand, extended time away from competition can be boring and tedious for an athlete. For the No. 9 Stanford men’s golf team, the long wait between the fall and spring seasons is finally over, as the Card is scheduled to compete at the Amer Ari Invitational in Kona, Hawaii starting Thursday.
“We were excited about our offseason, and our training is something we’ve placed a lot of focus on over the last month or two,” said head coach Conrad Ray ‘97. “The guys all had very productive winter breaks, and the scores reflected that in our qualifying event. We shot some really solid scores on some tough golf courses. And the weather’s been very cooperative in our prep, so that’s been nice.”
However, weather conducive to solid play may not follow the Cardinal across the Pacific. While the temperatures are forecasted to be in the low eighties, there is a significant chance of rain throughout the week, which could affect the squad’s preparation time on the Waikoloa Kings’ Course. As with nearly all golf tournaments on the Big Island, wind will also play a key role in the scoring, with Ray calling it “always an unpredictable factor.”
Senior Cameron Wilson knows all too well the challenges on the picturesque Kings’ Course. He has never scored under par at the tournament in each of the last three years. However, the seasoned and confident veteran doesn’t believe that he has to adjust too much to be successful this week.
“Last year, I played nicely, save for one to two bad holes each day,” Wilson said. “My game plan [this week] won’t be any different but I need to keep my concentration better to avoid a few slip-ups.”
Wilson, who had a solid offseason capped by a fourth-place finish at the prestigious Master of the Amateurs event in Australia, will be joined in Stanford’s five-man lineup by sophomore David Boote, junior Patrick Rodgers and freshmen Maverick McNealy and Viraat Badhwar. Boote will play in the No. 1 slot this week by virtue of his win at the team’s intrasquad qualifying event a few weekends ago in Monterrey, and the sophomore from England will certainly be looking to improve upon his even-par performance at Amer Ari last year. Ray will also bring along junior Patrick Grimes and freshman Jim Liu to play as individuals.
While the weather may or may not give the Card a break, the field will undoubtedly not. No. 2 Georgia Tech and No. 4 Oklahoma State headline Stanford’s opponents, with No. 14 Washington and No. 15 UCLA also making appearances. The 20-team field also contains eight Pac-12 schools, which will give the Cardinal an excellent feel for how it stacks up within the conference.
“The field at the Amer Ari is the strongest, if not one of the strongest, events we’ll see all year,” Ray said. “We’ll have to be on top of our games.”
Not only will this tournament give Stanford a good test against quality opponents, it could be the springboard the Cardinal needs for a successful spring campaign.
“Starting the spring on the right foot is huge,” Wilson said. “Winning in the postseason will be tough unless it becomes a habit and we are used to being in contention. These next few tournaments are perfect opportunities to contend and make it something we are used to come springtime.”
Contact Cameron Miller at cmiller6 ‘at’ stanford.edu.