Amid virus outbreak, NJ's collegiate golfers look to the Future
Photo: Princeton University Men' Golf Team
Junior Chris Gotterup of Little Silver, the defending NJSGA Open champion, was in the running for Big Ten Conference Player of the Year after winning the Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish Invitational last fall with a record score of 14-under-par 199.
Senior and team captain Evan Quinn of Morristown was looking forward to leading the Princeton University men’s golf team to its defense of its 2019 Ivy League Championship.
Sophomore Ami Gianchandani of Short Hills was coming off a record-breaking year, had already won a spring tournament, and was planning to help the Yale University women’s team capture an Ivy League crown.
Anina Ku of Basking Ridge, the NJSGA Women’s Amateur champion, was a second-team All-Ivy League selection in 2019 who helped Harvard win the Ivy League Championship and was planning to do so again in 2020.
Sam Goldenring of Florham Park, the senior captain of Williams College, was looking to defend his NCAA Division 3 individual national championship.
All of these talented collegiate athletes from New Jersey now have one thing in common, a golf season cut short due to the COVID-19 virus.
Gotterup, whose stellar 2019 season had set the stage for an even better 2020, reflected on the events of the past week. “We heard about our season ending right after they canceled the basketball season. It’s disappointing because I started out well. But, health is more important than playing in a couple more tournaments. You have to respect the decision.
“Fortunately, this isn’t the end for me. I feel bad for our basketball team that was probably going to play in the NCAA Tournament. So much is unknown about this virus. We’ll just have to shut down things for a little bit. And I’ll be taking classes online,” stated Gotterup, who was about to accompany Rutgers on a trip to California where they were to play Los Angeles C.C., Trump National-Los Angeles and the Valley Club. Barring future changes, he will have a full competitive schedule this year, starting with the U.S. Men’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship in late May at the Philadelphia Country Club. Gotterup will compete with friend Peter Knade of the University of Maryland.
The story is different for Evan Quinn, whose collegiate career ended abruptly.
“You have to remain optimistic and hope for the best for everyone’s sake. The way I look at it, I had no choice. So, I’ll spend most of the time staying in touch with friends and teammates, and do my online classes. Hopefully this gets resolved by summertime,” said Quinn, who won the 2016 NJSGA Four-Ball Championship with Justin Chae, a Duke University senior.
Last Friday, the NCAA granted an extra season of competition to all student-athletes who have participated in spring sports this year.
For Quinn, that is an unrealistic possibility, considering he is closing in on his senior thesis on robotics and sustainable energy. One robotics project he is part of looks at more efficient underground irrigation for agriculture that could possibly include golf courses.
“This was definitely a shot to the gut. It was tough learning the season was canceled. Not only was I playing well but the team was playing well. We are Ivy League champs and didn’t graduate anyone (in 2019),” said Quinn who has a consultant position with Deloitte lined up for the summer.
“Golf defined my college experience … the trips and courses we able to play and to do it with a group of people you grew to be close with. This past fall we went to Portugal and Rome on our international trip which happens once every four years. Last fall, we went to northern California to and played those great courses like Pebble Beach, Cypress and Spyglass.”
Gianchandani, who won the 2015 NJSGA Junior Girls’ Championship, was fortunate to complete two spring golf trips. The team had just concluded a 54-hole tournament in Honolulu when it was informed that the season was canceled. Gianchandani shot 78-67-72-217 to finish 10th overall out of 80 golfers, many of them representing Pac-12 schools. Earlier, in Florida Atlantic University’s Winter Warmup Tournament on February 10-11, Gianchandani fired a two-under par 214 to claim victory.
“I’ve been given the most opportunities to play in the college season and the post season, and I was looking forward to competing in the NCAA’s this year. I’m going to use that to be even better next year.
Gianchandani feels for Yale senior captain Beryl Wang, who was looked up to by the entire team.
“I feel badly for the seniors who had goals for their final season. For the NCAA to give them an extra year to pursue their dreams will alleviate a lot of stress around this situation and it will give them the opportunity to finish their college career,” said Gianchandani, whose focus will turn to summer events, including the NJSGA Women’s Amateur, the North-South Amateur, the WMGA Amateur and the Connecticut State Open.
Anina Ku returned home from Harvard on Sunday, and is looking forward to two more varsity years. Her fall season was strong, as she finished third in the Dartmouth Invitational last September and second at the Yale Women’s Intercollegiate in early October.
“I felt really happy with my game. I had a great fall. I was able to practice a bunch in the winter because the weather was nice and we were able to get out. This shutdown is so unexpected, but I will have time to rest and recharge and, hopefully, be able to play in the summer again,” Ku said.
For now, Ku is taking her classes online. She is an applied mathematics major and personally is applying her math into the fields of psychology and economics. “You’re supposed to put the applications of my major into the real world. I’ve really been enjoying it,” she said.
Fortunately, for Ku and her Harvard teammates, no seniors are set to graduate this spring.
Goldenring has definite designs on pursuing golf on the next level, but he remains disappointed. “I’ll be missing my final semester here, my senior season, and I won’t be able to defend my national championship.”
As for Goldenring’s plans for the summer, “I’ll stay an amateur this summer, then in the fall will play as an amateur-professional (in qualifying and mini-tour events) to see if I really want to turn pro next year,” he said while packing up his apartment in Massachusetts before heading home to Florham Park.
“It’s all been taken away and there is no sense of closure. The only comfort is the other spring athletes feeling same thing as I am. We’re all going through the same thing.”
As Division 3 champion, Goldenring is under consideration for a spot on the prestigious Palmer Cup team as a wild-card selection. The event is a Ryder Cup-style tournament featuring the top male university/college golfers matching the United States against Europe. The event is scheduled for the first week of July at LaHinch in Ireland.
Goldenring has also qualified (along with college teammate Will Kannageiser) for the U.S. Men’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship. He also plans to play in the NJSGA Amateur and Open championships this summer.
“I may take a ride to Florida with my older brother Jake, a third-year med school at Penn who is also on break, just to play golf. My remote learning starts on April 6 and right now, all classes are cancelled. I don’t have any jobs lined up because I’m pretty sure I’m going to pursue golf,” said Goldenring, an economics major. “I’ll see if I really want to turn pro.”