Rider finishes 12th at Princeton Invitational

By Benjamin Shinault

With countless days of pouring rain and overall miserable conditions all during the week, the melancholy weather finally subsided and the Springdale Golf Club was ready to host the Princeton Invitational. 

Rider has gone through a rough patch entering the tournament to put it simply, as it finished in the top five only three times this season, those being at the Temple Invitational back in September, and most recently in October when Rider took part in the Lehigh Invitational.

After the finish at Princeton, it looks like the Broncs are still in that funk, as on April 6 and the 7, Rider finished 12th out of the 14 teams that participated. 

Let’s go golfing

The Broncs headed out on the green on Saturday morning with brisk weather and northern winds at around 13 mph. The weather the whole weekend was tough for the Broncs to handle, and overall played a big part in what Rider has been able to do this season.

“It’s been a brutal spring,” Head Coach Jason Barry said. “We’ve had very little time to get outside and practice in decent conditions, and each tournament we’ve played it has been cold with massive winds.”

Despite the adverse weather conditions, especially the breeze present on the greens, graduate student Connor Bekefi had a good performance, as he shot one over the par-3 holes, earning him the third-best score on the day. Bekefi also had six birdies on the day. 

“Connor has been very solid all spring. He’s averaging a shade over 73.5 in absolutely brutal conditions,” Barry said. 

Outside of Bekefi, a couple other Rider golfers followed close behind him, those being sophomore Ben Ortwein, who finished the day at 75, and graduate student Joey Lostumbo with 76. Overall, the Broncs had trouble navigating the course at Springdale Country Club.

“I was playing good leading up to it,” Bekefi said. “Springdale is a short little course but with tough greens, fast greens … along with the weather, it was tough, it was cold and windy, so we had to dial in.”

At the conclusion of the two rounds on April 6, Rider was trailing and was slotted in at the twelfth spot. Howard was the leader of the tournament at 285-281-566 (-2) only two strokes ahead of the local Princeton group. 

Another tough finish

The tournament’s second day dawned upon Rider as it was looking to improve from its previous day on the course, but it finished in 12th once again to close out the tournament. 

On day two, Ortwein led the way for Rider, cementing his performance at the Princeton Invitational as a solid one. Ortwein shot even-par 71 and Ortwein’s 32 pars led the way for the Broncs. With those numbers, Ortwein closed out the tournament slotted in at 32nd overall. Bekefi was able to translate some of his elite swings to day two as he finished the day with a 74 as the Rider’s top performer and slipped into the 26th spot.

As a team, the Broncs shot 300 on the seventh and 904 overall for the tournament. With the tough finish, Rider is still searching for that breakthrough.

Looking forward

Bekefi, the captain of the team, is hoping for a switch in the weather, which he believes can directly translate onto the green.

“The weather hasn’t been great this spring. It’s been cold and windy, but hopefully over the span of the next couple weeks, we can get some better days and get out there and really dial in our game,” Bekefi stated.

Despite the Broncs struggling this season, Barry has full confidence in his squad that they pull off the late-season turnaround, something they have done before.

“This team has a ton of talent and a lot of potential,” Barry said. “We have a week and a half before our conference championship to turn things around… These guys play with a lot of heart, the fight for every stroke, and will not give up.”

Rider won the 2022 MAAC championship and according to Barry, who took over for the team back in 2013, it’s only a matter of time until Rider can cut down on its numbers and really do damage in the upcoming MAAC championship down in Florida.

“It wouldn’t surprise me to see us turn things around and give it a run,” Barry said.

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