The Elon University men’s golf team hosted a local tournament for the first time in 33 years Oct. 19-20. Head coach Don Hill spent two years planning and preparing for the Elon Invitational at Alamance Country Club.
“Brad [Ellinger, general manager of Alamance Country Club] and Adam [McLaughlin, head golf professional at Alamance Country Club] and I sat down in one of my first weeks on campus,” Hill said. “I felt like Elon, to establish a golf program where we want it to go, needed to have an event.”
The three-round tournament was the first event Elon has hosted at Alamance Country Club since the 1982 NAIA Championships, which the host Fightin’ Christians won.
“I feel very comfortable saying we had a successful event,” Hill said. “It was a lot of work and a lot of time, but I feel it was very worthwhile to see players play in front of their friends on their home golf course.”
In the 16-team tournament, the Phoenix finished fourth as a team at 25-over-par (287-288-302--877), only trailing East Carolina University, Charleston Southern University and Virginia Commonwealth University. Leading Elon was senior Jonathan Dilanni’s sixth-place finish at 1-under-par (69-69-74--212) for the tournament.
“Getting to play at home is really nice because you’re so comfortable,” Dilanni said. “You’re comfortable when you’re playing, especially off the tees and around the greens. And also having parents, friends, and even some professors come out makes this event really special.”
Joining Dilanni in the top 20 was senior Troy Beaver, who finished at 6-over-par (72-73-74--219). Beaver found the course to be challenging, even with the familiarity of playing the local course.
“We play here all the time — we play most of our qualifying rounds and practice rounds out here,” Beaver said. “The pins this week were tough. They weren’t in spots that we hadn’t seen, but with the combination of the pins and the green speeds, it was a little bit difficult knowing where to miss putts and play shots.”
The 9 a.m. start Oct. 19 was delayed 30 minutes as the region was hit with a bitter chill, with temperatures dropping below freezing early in the morning. It did warm up during the day, reaching 60 degrees later in the afternoon.
“Going into the third week of October, you know there’s an element of cold weather, but I think this is one of the earliest frosts we’ve had in some times,” Hill said. “You just have to laugh. You control what you can control, but the weather is what it is. We still got all 54 holes in, and we played the schedule we wanted to play.”
Oct. 20 brought a 40-degree fluctuation, going from 32 degrees in the morning to 72 degrees during the final holes, which led to a multitude of unexpected challenges for golfers.
“When its cooler, the ball doesn’t travel as far — we actually haven’t played Alamance this cold all year,” Dilanni said. “Some tees, you needed to hit with a little more club, and some Par-3’s, you might want to adjust how you typically hit, because when it’s 15 to 20 degrees cooler than normal, then the ball doesn’t travel as far. There were definitely some adjustments in that regard.”
Hill laughed as he recalled the weather, and he said he was just happy the team avoided rain at Alamance Country Club.
“The golf course was in perfect shape,” he said. “[The frost] didn’t affect pace of play, other than fast greens and tough hole locations and a full golf course.”