Head coach Nathan Gilchrist predicted that the Hillsdale College golf team would shoot sub-300 scores this season. On their first day of tournament play, the team did just that.
The Chargers played at Bucknell Golf Club in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, over the weekend for their first tournament in the non-championship season. The team carded a 295 for the first day of play and followed it with a 305 for Sunday’s round. The Chargers finished with a total team score of 600 and in seventh place out of twelve teams. Their placement is especially impressive as they were the only Division II athletes amid a field of Division I golfers.
In their first collegiate appearance, freshmen Joel Pietila and Henry Hitt led the team through rain on the first day, each carding a one-over par score of 71. Pietila went on to become the overall team low scorer with a 146, finishing tied for 11th place. Hitt finished one shot behind Pietila with a 147, placing him tied for 16th.
Each player contributed to the Charger’s strong showing. Sophomore Logan Kauffman, freshman Peter Beneteau and sophomore captain Steven Sartore shot tournament scores of 151, 157 and 158, respectively.
Though Robert Morris University won the tournament with a 574, players and coaches alike are pleased with the team’s performance and the learning experience the invitational provided.
“The low scoring of each player is a sign of growth for our team,” Gilchrist said. “It is a sign of the direction we’re headed.”
Reflecting on their first tournament weekend as Chargers, Hitt and Pietila had similar sentiments.
“It’s a new environment with higher caliber players than high school,” Hitt said. Because the first tournament was Division I, Hitt didn’t know what to expect but noticed a different atmosphere. “Everyone there was capable of shooting a 68 and that pushes you throughout the day to play better. It’s great to be with tough competition.”
As for Pietila, the course allowed him to play to his strengths. “The course fit my game specifically. I’m accurate off the tee, which is needed there. When I was in trouble, I was able to recover.”
Pietila’s patience and ability were not lost on his coach, either. Gilchrist remarked that Pietila is “very mature as a player.”
“Each round players are faced with challenges and Pietila has a very balanced emotional state that allows him to grind out through tough situations,” he said.
Gilchrist emphasized that the team overall has those same qualities, saying “they were very good at taking bad bounces and the weather with a grain of salt. They embraced it and dug deep amid the higher level of competition.”
Gilchrist hopes they can continue to do so.
This weekend, the Chargers take on the GLIAC North Invitational in South Haven, Michigan.
“It’s the first introduction to this year’s conference competition and a preview of the conference championship in the spring,” Gilchrist said.
If last weekend’s finish is any indication of future performance, the Chargers have a lot to look forward to.