The Pomona-Pitzer Sagehen golfers arrived early at Diamond Valley Golf Club for the opening round of the 2012 SCIAC Championships. Rested and confident (belying the 8 a.m. Sunday wakeup), the men spent a leisurely hour warming up, hitting shots on the driving range and getting a feel for the speed, breaks and nuances of the greens. One by one they began their rounds; the tension mounted.
The 95-degree heat met their efforts with contempt as they struck shot after shot, putt after putt, plotting their way around the par-72 layout with precision and courage. Although often few and far between, crisply-struck shots and drained putts motivated the golfers to keep going, even as the golf course claimed unfortunate victims with water hazards, sand traps and multi-tiered greens throwing obstacles in the path to success.
At the end of the day, John Hasse PO ’12 led the team with a blistering three-under-par 69, supported by a promising 78 from Chandler Jennings PO ’14, a solid 81 from Gabe Romero PO ’12 and an 83 from Kyle Schneider PO ’14 who paid a high price for a few critical mistakes. James Klingensmith PO ’12 rounded out the team with a 101.
After the round, Hasse basked in his season-low performance, but Romero seemed frustrated.
“I hit it so well on the driving range this morning; I thought it would be a great day, but I didn’t have it at all on the course,” he said.
Schneider made similar remarks, but added, “I can’t wait to get back out there tomorrow.”
Satisfyingly beaten by a long day of grappling with the game of golf, the Sagehens retired to the nearby historic town of Hemet, downing a well-earned feast at local hotspot Sweet Baby Jane’s Barbecue. Thus sated, the men retired to their quarters to rest up for the challenges the second day would bring.
Monday in Hemet dawned cloudy and drizzly. The men roused themselves just before 9 a.m. for a nourishing continental breakfast before heading back to the course for the second round. To commemorate their final round as Sagehen golfers, the seniors adopted a surprise throwback style from golf’s golden era: white dress shirts and Sagehen-orange ties, khaki knickers with long black socks and newsboy hats recalled the spirit of golf greats Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen and Sam Snead. Evoking the power and charisma of such gods of the game, Hasse, Romero and Klingensmith looked truly invincible. The fashion splash made upon arrival at Diamond Valley was subdued, but noticeable, and it invested the seniors with the confidence to take charge of their final moments of varsity golf.
Warming up at the course, other SCIAC teams scurried about like little golf-playing machines, completely absorbed in their single-minded determination: win. The Sagehens saw a slightly bigger picture. The austere beauty of the high desert surrounding the rolling links set the perfect stage for the sendoff round. Medium-strength winds and a persistent chill kept scoring conditions tough.
At the final tally, Hasse finished the second day with an 80 (two-day total of 149), Jennings an 85 (163), Schneider an 85 (168) and Romero an 87 (168). A determined Klingensmith showed the only second-day improvement for the Sagehens with a smooth 95 (196). The effort gave the Sagehens a team total (lowest four scores) of 648, securing them an eighth-place overall finish.
“It was a tough day out there today, no doubt,” Hasse said after the round.
“Golf giveth, and golf taketh away,” Klingensmith said, “but I had so much fun out there today.”
He seemed to speak for all the seniors who closed out their storied P-P golf careers in style and swagger. None more so than Hasse, who, in addition to finishing low for the Sagehens, won the prestigious Jesse Clark Award, granted to the SCIAC golfer best exemplifying the character and sportsmanship that underwrite the game.
Like the end of any season, the championships brought sadness at the end of an era as well as hope for the future.
“John’s been great for four years,” coach Bernie Walker said after the round, “but we’re ready to move on. I have a lot of hope for next year’s recruits.”
With the three seniors graduating, Schneider and Jennings will be the only two Sagehen golfers returning for the 2013 season.