By Shanna O’Mara
The golf team tied for fifth place among nine teams in the MAAC Championships April 24-26, only 13 strokes away from third.
Despite placing in the middle of the pack, coach Jason Barry has seen improvements since the beginning of the season.
“We were a better team at the end of the fall than we were at the beginning of the season,” he said. “With that being said, we are a better team now than we were in the fall. Our guys worked hard in the offseason. Although our ultimate goal is to win the tournament, we did improve from last year.”
On day one of the three-day tournament in Orlando, senior Cole Clark and junior Tom Yarson each shot an opening round of 76. Both tied for 17th place out of 45 golfers after the first 18 holes. Senior Luke Liddell shot a 77, tying for 24th place. Barry has seen nothing but positives on Rider’s best individual performer.
“Luke is a captain of the team and has served as a great leader to some of the younger golfers,” said Barry. “His game has gotten so much better than when I first met him. He’s a power player, and his swing is one of the prettiest I’ve seen.”
Sophomore Brian Dempster had a 78 on Friday and tied for 27th place, while sophomore Aaron Simone tied for 32nd after an opening round of 80. The team finished in sixth place at the end of the first day where it remained throughout the second round.
After a two-day total of 152, Liddell and Yarson tied for 16th place out of 45 golfers while Clark tied for 21st place, shooting a 153 throughout 36 holes. Dempster and Simone were tied for 25th place at the end of the second day, both scoring a total of 155.
The men wrapped up the championships on April 26, and it was broadcast on ESPN3, in fifth place, with Liddell and Yarson both scoring a three-day total of 229 and finishing in 16th place. Simone tied for 20th place with a total of 231, and Dempster tied for 23rd. Clark scored an 81 in his third and final round on Sunday, tying for 25th place with a total of 234.
“Cole has been an excellent captain and another leader of this team. His game is also much improved, and we will miss him next year,” Barry said.
Liddell, who finished just three strokes out of an All-MAAC caliber performance, is happy with the steps the Broncs have taken in the last few years.
“The improvements that we’ve made since I came here have been night and day,” said Liddell. “When I started, we were struggling to stay out of the bottom of the pack in most of the tournaments. Now, as a senior, we expect to win. I have been playing consistent throughout the spring, and it’s a good feeling.”
Rider shot rounds of 307-303-308 and finished tied with Siena, which shot 303-303-312 throughout the championship.
Saint Peter’s (885) won the team title, followed by Iona (894), Fairfield (904) and Monmouth (907).
In 2011 and 2012, Rider placed eighth with rounds of 328-326-323 and 314-316-323, respectively. In 2013, the team placed seventh after 327-314-311 rounds, and they placed eighth last year.
After the conference championships, three Rider golfers were named Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference All-Academic. Clark, as well as junior Joe Hughes and sophomore Sam DiGaetano, were all recognized for a cumulative grade point average exceeding 3.2.
DiGaetano has compiled a 3.58 GPA. Hughes has earned a GPA of 3.38, while Clark has obtained a 3.32 GPA.
“These players are students before athletes, and that’s something we take very seriously here at Rider,” Barry said.
The golf team will return five letter-winners for the fall 2015 season, leading Barry to have some high hopes for what is to come.
“These guys are going to have busy summers playing in tournaments, as we will look to build on momentum for next year,” said Barry. “The goal is to keep improving and to put ourselves in contention to start winning these tournaments.”