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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.