No. 15 Stanford men’s golf starts off its spring season this Thursday as it travels to the Big Island of Hawaii to participate in the Amer Ari Invitational.
The Cardinal took seventh during last year’s incarnation of this tournament, which featured a number of collegiate teams from all over the United States and one from Japan. Recent graduate Cameron Wilson ’14, who won last year’s NCAA singles title, earned a third-place overall finish at the event after hitting 14 under par, and Stanford will look to improve at all levels in its rotation in an attempt to replace the loss of this top-caliber player.
The Amer Ari Invitational marks Stanford’s first return to action since November, when the Cardinal took third at the Gifford Collegiate in nearby San Martin, California. Sophomore Viraat Badhwar led Stanford in this tournament with a seventh-place individual finish, one stroke ahead of teammates junior David Boote and freshman Franklin Huang. Head coach Conrad Ray will hope that the time away has given Stanford’s young team a chance to hone its skills as it begins a string of competitions leading up to this year’s NCAA championship.
Player selection for this tournament was determined two weekends ago through the team’s annual Race to Hawaii challenge. This event is played at four different venues in various parts of the San Francisco peninsula, including the Olympic Club’s Ocean Course and the Stanford Golf Course. Freshman Jeffrey Swegle came out on top in this competition with a score of 280 thanks to a dominant second-round performance, and sophomores Maverick McNealy (the No. 6 player in the country according to Golfweek) and Badhwar each followed by a single stroke. These players should be locks for the frequently changing Cardinal rotation when the team tees off on Thursday.
“[Coach Ray] and I are pleased with the play of the team,” posted assistant coach Graham Brockington to the team’s blog after the event had concluded. “We are looking forward to more great play on the Big Island when we tee it up in the first round on Feb. 5.”
This season is considered to be somewhat of a rebuilding year for Stanford men’s golf, with many of the core team members still in their freshman or sophomore years. Still, the squad has already enjoyed a decent amount of early-season successes. A single bad day prevented the team from earning a top-half performance at the United States Collegiate Championships, and the Cardinal finished second to national No. 1 Oregon in the Nike Golf Collegiate Championship in Fort Worth last October.
Consistency will be key for Stanford going forward, as the team has a number of different players who are capable of turning in top-notch performances. Senior team captain Patrick Grimes told The Daily last October that he believes that the experience gained over the course of the extraordinarily long golf season, which features thousands of hours at the range and in tournaments, will help their players deliver in key moments to the best of their abilities.
The Cardinal have been extensively preparing for their upcoming events off the course as well. Former Stanford golf team member and world No. 1 Tiger Woods recently returned to campus to talk with this year’s squad, giving them an open view of the techniques he uses to elevate his game and harness his gameday mentality.
“Our time was mostly spent around Tiger gathered in a circle, where we could fire off question after question ranging from his practice regime to his mindset over a winning putt for a major championship,” remarked Grimes on the team blog. “I walked away knowing that if I know what works best for me, and I do that every day with commitment and passion, that I too will get the most out of my talent.”
Contact Andrew Mather at amather ‘at’ stanford.edu.