MEDFORD - With a dramatic performance in the second round of the conference qualifier on September 30, the Tufts University golf team qualified for the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Championship for the second year in a row. Senior co-captain Justin Feldman's one-over par 73 on Sunday helped the Jumbos pass Williams College to take the fourth and final spot in the championship field.
Trailing Williams by five strokes after Saturday's round (304), the Jumbos scored 13 strokes lower (291) on Sunday to join Middlebury, Trinity and Hamilton as conference championship qualifiers. Middlebury will host the event on April 25-26. This is the second straight year that the Jumbos will play in the NESCAC Tournament.
Feldman was a member of last year's team and has been one of the leaders as Jumbo Golf has made significant strides in recent years. Last year, Tufts played in the championship for the first time since the qualifier was instituted in 2007. Feldman led Tufts to a fourth-place finish at the event with a two-day score of 158. Now the Jumbos have made it again, with junior Brandon Karr, sophomores Henry Hughes and Harry Theodore and freshman Mac Bredahl joining Feldman to help the team get there.
GoTuftsJumbos.com caught up with Feldman recently to talk about the team and some of his own interests recently ...
Question: Can you share some of the excitement of the team's performance in Sunday's round at the NESCAC Qualifier?
Answer: To say the least, Sunday was incredible. After shooting what we thought was a solid score of 304 on Saturday and still being behind fourth-place Williams by five shots, we knew we had to convert every possible opportunity we had on Sunday to even give ourselves a chance. Basically, we knew we had to shoot just above even par as a team, which we had never done before. As every member of the team came in from their round on Sunday, we all recounted incredible shots. Shots hitting flag sticks, getting up-and-down from 70 yards to save par, making five birdies. Usually we are bringing up the bad breaks like we had to make a double bogey or two to shoot 76 or 77. There was energy like I've never experienced before from the team and our efforts ended up paying off against all odds. We knew what was at stake, and we executed.
Q: You personally played better on Sunday as well, improving by 11 strokes. What were the keys to your own improvement?
A: I would call Saturday's 84 a bit of an off day. I haven't shot above an 80 in a golf tournament in a few years so this was a bit of a shock. The 10 I made on the 15th hole surely didn't help. The second day, I really just played better all around. I didn't change anything fundamentally in my swing. That's just the way golf is sometimes. Luckily, my teammates were able to pick me up on Saturday and I was able to turn things around and contribute on Sunday.
Q: As part of the team that played at the NESCAC Championship last season, what did you learn from that experience that you and the team can use to your advantage in the spring?
A: With my experience from last year, my major takeaway was that the winning team of the four playing in the tournament did not have two average days to win. To win, you need to have two great days as a team and everybody needs to contribute and be locked in at all times. I'm very happy with the mentality we went into the qualifier's second round with and I think that is a good jumping point for the spring championship. Don't be stupid on the course, but play aggressively. The experience last year, despite our shaky performance, was second to none. All the teams were very focused and driven and a lot of spectators were on the course. It was a very cool atmosphere.
Q: Have you ever hit a hole-in-one? If so, tell us about it ...
A: My first hole-in-one was actually last year the day before our last fall tournament, the New England Championship on the Cape. The team went down to a great golf course on Cape Cod called The Golf Club at Sacconnesset. It was the 13th hole, slightly down hill, into the wind, playing about 240 yards. I swung easily at a 3-wood and really just hit a great shot exactly how I wanted to. Granted, the greens were punched so they were sandy and it was late in the day so the sun reflected off the sand weirdly. I saw my ball hit the green but lost it in the reflection once it started rolling. I had no idea it went in until we got up to the hole. I was playing with my best friend and teammate Nik Nugnes, Coach Pendergast, and an owner of the golf club which made the experience even cooler.
Q: His disappointing performance at the Ryder Cup notwithstanding, how do you feel about Tiger's return to prominence in the PGA?
A: I am so happy this question was asked. Tiger's comeback, without a doubt, is hands down one of the greatest comebacks in sports history. They will make a movie about his comeback one day. He's the reason so many people enjoy the sport of golf and found it so entertaining. I was with the team in the van on the way back from our tournament at Williams when he won the tournament. I connected my phone to the car speaker and played a live stream. I was sitting in the front seat and the rest of the team gathered around me living and dying with every shot he hit. Absolutely surreal. Good to have him back!
Q: In your dream foursome, who are the other three people you're playing with, and what course are you playing at?
A: In my dream foursome, I am playing with my dad, my cousin Jeff, and Tiger at The Country Club at Brookline. Even without Tiger there, that threesome would mean everything to me at any golf course.
Q: What drew you to Tufts?
A: Since Tufts is a great academic school, is so close to Boston with its own campus, has an engineering school, and I had the opportunity to play good golf or baseball, it was definitely at the top of my list. I've met some great lifelong friends here and know that at the end of the day, my time at Tufts will have been a great life changing experience for me.
Q: What is your career interest at this point?
A: I switched over from Biomedical Engineering to Mechanical Engineering my junior year. I'm a little up in the air as far as my career path right now, but I am casting a wide net as I would still be excited to work for either an engineering tech firm, financial consulting firm, or investment firm.
Q: When you're not studying or golfing, how do you like to spend your time?
A: When I'm not studying or golfing, I really enjoy playing guitar and singing. I've been trying to teach myself guitar for the last few years and I'm sure my roommates aren't entirely thrilled with it. I am also a die hard Red Sox fan so I would probably be reading Red Sox articles or actually going to Red Sox games. Otherwise, I really just enjoy hanging out and going out with my friends.