The Lords won the NCAC tournament for the first time in the Kenyon golf team’s history. They swept all of the awards in the competition, including the tournament win by Nick Lust ’22 and the NCAC Coach of the Year honors for head coach Grant Wallace.
The tournament was played at Westbrook Country Club in Mansfield, Ohio where the par was 72 strokes. The club has hosted numerous high level events, including the Pro Golf Association (PGA) Jr. series and an NCAA Division III final. “The golf course was set up very difficult with the greens rolling very fast, so we knew it was super important to just stay patient and let other teams get frustrated and beat themselves,” Eric Lifson ’22 wrote in message to the Collegian.
At the end of day one, Kenyon found themselves in second place, four strokes back of first-place Wittenberg University. Lifson, playing as the Lords’ No. 2 golfer, led the team with 74 strokes on day one, but several members of the team felt they could have done better. The No. 1 seed golfer for the Lords, Armand Ouellette ’25, shot a 77 on day one. “I felt pretty good about where we were at after day 1,” Ouellette wrote in a message to the Collegian. “I didn’t play well at all, so to finish the round and see we were only 4 back was a relief.”
The entire golf team was able to improve upon their performance on day two. Lust powered the Lords up the leaderboard to the top spot. He had a historic day, breaking the Westbrook Country Club’s course record and Kenyon program’s record. Lust shot a 64, which was eight under par. He went through his routine to play a phenomenal round, and everything seemed to be dropping his way. “At a certain point, I just knew everything was going to go well,” Lust wrote in a message to the Collegian. He also credited his teammates for their ability to pick each other up. “We have all shot well under par this year and it frees us all up to go shoot our best because we know the other guys will pick us up if we don’t,” Lust said.
The other Kenyon golfers joined Lust in improving their day one scores, with four having their best round on day two. As a result, the Lords moved into first place with 592 strokes. The next closest team was Wittenberg University with 605 strokes, followed by Allegheny University and Denison University with 613 and 614 strokes, respectively.
The Lords went into day three knowing that if they played their game, they were 18 holes away from being crowned NCAC champions. The team tried to approach day three like any other day. “We didn’t make it too big or put any pressure on ourselves,” said Lust. “I think we all just tried to focus on doing as well as we could individually and making sure we were beating the Wittenberg guys we played with as they were the only ones who had a realistic shot at catching us at that point,” said Lifson.
All five Kenyon golfers enjoyed solid days, finishing within a few strokes of each other. Lust led the Lords with 75 strokes, while Andrew Kotler ’22 and Ethan Manalo ’22 rounded out the backend of the team, each shooting a 77.
Lust took home the Bob Nye Award for being the tournament winner, with 214 strokes. Lifson placed second overall with 223 strokes. This tournament meant a lot for Lifson because he took a gap year last year and was able to come back to play in one more season. “It feels really good to cap my senior season like that,” said Lifson.
Ouellette ended day three tied for fifth overall with 228 strokes. He picked up two awards for his solid year: NCAC Newcomer of the Year and the Dick Gordin Award for NCAC player of the year.
By winning the tournament, the Lords automatically qualified for the NCAA Division III Championship in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla. “This is what Lord’s golf is all about,” Lust said. “This win is huge for our program and for momentum to carry into nationals.” Though Kenyon’s only other appearance in the tournament came in 1989, the A-team is veteran-laden, with four senior and first-year standout Ouellette. “As a freshman, I feed off of the confidence that the upperclassmen have, no situation or tournament is too big for us,” Ouellette said.
Kenyon will join 43 other teams in the national championship being held May 10-13. At the halfway point, the field will be cut down to 18 teams. Given their win at the Hanover D-III Showcase, the Lords feel that they will be in the tournament for the final 36 holes.
“We’re all just so excited that we earned our spot and that we are going to get the chance to go down there and compete against all those teams again,” said Lifson. “As happy as I am for the individual success, I’ve been dreaming of going to nationals since freshman year so that was the part that excited me the most walking off the golf course.”