Cenzo Rossi ’22 (He/Him), Sports Writer

The Davidson men’s golf team acquitted themselves well in their first two tournaments. Hosting the River Run Collegiate, they finished tied for third place with Radford at (+18). The Wildcats were close to finishing in second, but a final round (+10) pushed them two strokes behind Marshall. 

Viraj Garewal ‘22 and Alex Heffner ‘24 led the way, both finishing in ninth place at (+2). Will Davis ‘25 also showed promise, whose (+5) finish placed him sixteenth in the field. Garewal and Davis were recognized for their efforts, winning A-10 Golfer of the Week and A-10 Rookie of the Week, respectively. 

Unlike at River Run, the field in the Old Town Collegiate, hosted by Wake Forest, was stacked. Named a Top-10 preseason team by Golfweek, the Demon Deacons bulldozed the competition, finishing thirty-five strokes under par. As of October 7, along with Wake Forest, nine other schools made Golfweek’s Top-100 rankings. The Wildcats came in twelfth place out of sixteen teams, shooting (+6). Heffner continued his strong play, as he was the only Wildcat to shoot under par for the tournament. His performance placed him nineteenth in the stacked field. 

A concerning pattern emerged from the two tournaments: a lack of birdies. At River Run, Davidson only made thirty-five birdies, tenth in the competition. When asked about the River Run performance, head coach Tim Straub said the team “didn’t put well,” and their “short game needed improvement.” Playing in the Old Town Collegiate, Davidson’s thirty-five birdies were last in the field. Captain Cole Walter ‘22 offers a similar view about the team’s short game, saying that the group’s wedges need to get “a lot better quickly.” With designated practices to improve their short games, the team’s birdie total should rise. 

The Berkeley Hills Country Club in Atlanta gives the team a perfect opportunity to rebound. The tournament should suit Garewal’s iron strength, as the 6706-yard course will allow him to be “strategic into the greens,” and “play aggressive at the right times.” Along with Garewal, Heffner and Davis, Brian Garrett ‘23, Ethan Hall ‘23, and Clayton Tribus ‘22 will represent the Wildcats. Positively, Davidson found success in this tournament in 2019, finishing fifth out of thirteen schools. In that edition, Garrett shot (+2), Garewal shot (+3), and Tribus shot (+7). According to Garewal, the team is “feeling great” about the tournament and hopes the Wildcats can “trust our games and play to our strengths.”

With everyone except Alex Ross ‘21 returning this season, the Wildcats look to make a strong push for the A-10 title. Last season, Garewal made A-10 All-Conference, leading Davidson with a 72.27 stroke average, and posted ten rounds of par or better. This year, he has already shot par or better three times. Along with Garewal, Garrett also made the All-Conference team in 2021. While he finished a shaky (+28) at River Run, Garrett looks to recapture last season’s 72.95 stroke average, the second-best on the team. 

Finishing third in stroke average with 73.42, Alex Heffner is certainly building on last season’s campaign. If Heffner continues his form, he will smash last year’s average. Coach Straub and Walter have both praised Heffner’s improvement and ability. Straub indicated that his “confidence is growing.” Walter even goes one step further, claiming Heffner will soon be a “presence nationally.”

Not only do the Wildcats have elite talent, but they also possess great depth. Making only one appearance in 2021, Ethan Hall has already competed in both events this fall, with his twenty-sixth place finish at River Run the highlight. Walter and Garewal have raved about Hall’s improvement, with Walter mentioning he is currently one of the team’s “most consistent players.” Demonstrated by his Rookie of the Week win, Straub added that Will Davis has “really settled in” and is a “key guy” in the lineup. 

Playing in all seven tournaments last season, Clayton Tribus is participating in his first tournament in Atlanta this week. Walter, who only played in three events last campaign, was the second-best Wildcat at Old Town Collegiate. Waiting in the wings are Dean Naime ‘22, Ben Morehead ‘24, and Adam Lauer ‘25.

Indeed, Walter states that this team is the “deepest” in his four years, making “practice and qualifying super competitive.” While winning the A-10 championship and advancing to the regionals is great, the ultimate objective is to qualify for the National Championship. Coach Straub wants to show the country “what we can do,” and this team may have the talent to achieve it.