Junior Billy Johns hits a ball at the Saucon Valley Country Club on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015. Johns finished second on the Lehigh men’s golf team, while the team as a whole placed second out of 12 teams in the Lehigh Invitational Tournament on Friday and Saturday. (Courtesy of Lehigh Athletics)

Lehigh men’s golf aims for first tournament win of season in league championship

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The Lehigh men’s golf team will be competing in the Patriot League Championship on Saturday and Sunday at the Naval Academy Golf Club in Annapolis, Maryland.

The Mountain Hawks are coming off of their final competition against Lafayette College, where they lost the close battle by three strokes 311-308. Freshman Eamon Marone led the Mountain Hawks shooting 74, the second lowest round of the day after Lafayette’s Chad Bell, who shot one over par at 73.

Despite the close loss, the team is focused while it gears up for the championship this weekend.

For the championship weekend, only six members of the team get to compete, and with Lehigh’s seven-man roster, one person is going to have to sit out.

“To determine who that is, coach (Henry D’Alberto) has a 36-hole qualifier and the six lowest scores go,” senior David Olexson said. “Patriots is the biggest tournament of the year, and it’s treated with a little more importance, so everyone is trying to make that six-man qualifying list.”

Once the lowest six scorers are selected, the team can focus on its main goals for the Patriot League Championship, which have been established since the fall season.

Among their goals, they wanted to contend in every tournament in the spring, which means being 10 shots behind the leader, they wanted a 75 scoring average for the four scores that counted, and they wanted to win at least one tournament before Patriot League Championship.

Senior Dave Olexson hits a ball at the Saucon Valley Golf Course on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015. The men’s golf team will compete in the Patriot League Tournament from April 30-May 1. (Courtesy of Lehigh Athletics)

Senior Dave Olexson hits a ball at the Saucon Valley Golf Course on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015. The men’s golf team will compete in the Patriot League Tournament on Saturday and Sunday. (Courtesy of Lehigh Athletics)

Even though the Mountain Hawks didn’t win a tournament before championship weekend, they have had two second place finishes, a third place finish where one shot separated them from the leader and a fifth place finish where they were nine shots behind the leader.

“Our scoring average for the four scores that counted for all the tournament rounds average out to a 75.8, so we are in a good place right now,” sophomore Billy Johns said.

In terms of preparation for the weekend, the main focus for Lehigh is making sure they are prepared to navigate Navy’s tricky greens.

“We have all been working on our physical and mental sides of the game since the beginning of the semester,” Marone said. “Overall, we’ve been preparing for so long that our practice styles won change drastically, but since the course we are playing at requires a very good short game, most of us have been touching up our short game shots to prepare for Patriots.”

Olexson also mentioned some other teams in the Patriot League who are quite competitive, like Army West Point and Loyola University (Maryland) — two teams the Hawks want to keep their eyes on. Navy will also be tough to beat at its home course, and Bucknell University has won three tournaments this year.

“We need to stay in the present during all three rounds,” Marone said. “We also need to make sure to compete with our emotions in check and realize that one bad shot won’t defy a 54-hole golf tournament.”

The Patriot League Championship will begin at 9 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday.

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