Setting The Scene
What: 2017 Turning Stone-Tiger Intercollegiate, hosted by Missouri
When: Sunday-Monday, Sept. 3-4 (54 holes)
Where: Par-72, 6,882-yard Kaluhyat Course at Turning Stone Resort, Verona, N.Y.
The Field: 15 teams (Alabama State, Binghamton, Boston College, Bucknell, Cleveland State, Detroit Mercy, Missouri, Northern Kentucky, Sacred Heart, St. Peter's, UNC Wilmington, VCU, Villanova, Western Carolina, Youngstown State)
Live Stats: GolfStat.com
About the Bison
• Junior J.P. Raftery and freshman Chris Tanabe both shot 212 over 54 holes to tie for first at Bucknell's preseason team qualifier. They will occupy the top two spots in the lineup this week, followed by junior Connor O'Brien, sophomore Peter Bradbeer, and junior Jubal Early.
• Raftery returns after finishing second at both the 2016 and 2017 Patriot League Championship. His 204 (67-68-69) at last year's PL Championship was the lowest ever by a Bison, and he shattered the team scoring record with a 72.0 average for the full 2016-17 season.
• Early is also a returning All-Patriot League selection. He finished T-7th last year with rounds of 67-73-72, helping the Bison to a third-place team finish.
• Bradbeer and Tanabe both had very successful summers on the golf course. Bradbeer won the Patterson Cup at Wilmington Country Club, and his low aggregate between that event and the BMW Philadelphia Open have him the prestigious Silver Cross. He also shot 70-70-78 and made the cut at the Pennsylvania Open. Meanwhile, Tanabe was runner-up by one stroke at the Pennsylvania Junior Championship at Hershey Country Club.
Bucknell at the Turning Stone-Tiger Intercollegiate
• This will be Bucknell's first appearance at the event.
• Host Missouri has won this tournament in each of the last five years. In 2016, the Tigers shot 283-290-279, using that stellar final round to make up a seven-stroke deficit on No. 24 Texas A&M. Kavan Eubank of Texas A&M was the individual champion with an 8-under 208.
• Bucknell heads to Colgate's Alex Lagowitz Memorial Invitational next Saturday and Sunday at Seven Oaks GC. The Bison finished sixth in a field of 13 teams there last year.
Below is a closer look at the Bison men's golf team heading into the 2017-18 season:
With two-thirds of the lineup back from a record-setting performance at the Patriot League Championship last April, hopes and expectations are high for the Bucknell men’s golf team in 2016-17. The Bison, who lift the lid on the new season Sunday at the Turning Stone-Tiger Intercollegiate, now have nice combination of youth and experience, with the core of the lineup coming from the junior class.
Junior J.P. Raftery heads the returning group after posting back-to-back runner-up finishes at the Patriot League Championship. Raftery set a school record with a 72.0 scoring average last season, highlighted by a 6-under-par 204 showing (67-68-69) in the conference tournament. That was the lowest 54-hole postseason performance in team history, and it culminated a brilliant season in which Raftery posted six top-10s and five top-5s in eight events.
“J.P. has established himself as a legit No. 1 guy, although others are not far behind,” said third-year head coach Michael Binney. “For a guy his size, J.P. hits the ball farther than anyone I know. After two runner-ups at the Patriot League Championship, he is focused on winning one for his team.”
Looking at the credentials of the rest of the returning group, and factoring in some promising newcomers, and it’s no wonder Binney feels as if he has a championship contender. The Bison set 18, 36 and 54-hole scoring records with rounds of 276-285-284 at last spring’s Patriot League Championship, good for a close third-place finish behind Loyola and Army. This year’s championship will be at Saucon Valley Country Club, where the Bison have won the Lehigh Invitational in each of the last two seasons.
“Our guys feel as if they can play with anyone when we are playing our best golf,” said Binney. “We feel like this could be the best talent, one through six, that we have ever had.”
Juniors Jubal Early and Connor O'Brien, and sophomore Peter Bradbeer also return from last year’s Patriot League Championship lineup. Early, a co-captain along with senior J.B. Thompson, opened with a 3-under 67 and finished with a 2-over 212 en route to a T-7th finish and All-Patriot League honors. He finished the year with a 75.9 scoring average while playing in all but two of the team’s tournaments over the course of the fall and spring seasons.
“Jubal brings tremendous maturity to the team, on and off the course,” said Binney. “He sets an example for the other guys in terms of his work ethic, and anything you ask him to do, he gets it done for the team. He is a very consistent player, always in our top three or four, and as he showed at the league championship, he can go low.”
O’Brien also logged a 75.9 average in 2016-17, highlighted by a T-7th finish at the Bucknell Invitational. He bookended his Patriot League Championship with 72s, but a second-round 79 took him out of contention.
“Connor has come close to winning a tournament two or three times in his career, and he has the expectations of breaking through and winning one this year,” said Binney. “He is consistently our number two or three guy, and he also has the capability of going low.”
As a freshman last season, Bradbeer compiled the second-best scoring average on the team (74.6) behind Raftery, but Binney says that both he and Bradbeer feel that much more is possible. He shot 74-71-75 and finished T-26th at the Patriot League Championship, and he tallied three top-10 finishes in the fall, including a fourth-place effort in Bucknell’s win at the Lehigh Invitational.
Bradbeer is coming off a brilliant summer playing prestigious tournaments in the Philadelphia area. He won the Patterson Cup at Wilmington Country Club with a 2-under 140, and that gave him the Silver Cross as the player with the low aggregate at that event and the BMW Philadelphia Amateur. Bradbeer also made the cut at the Pennsylvania Open by opening 70-70, before finishing with a 78 to place 40th.
“The taste of success that Peter had as a freshman at Bucknell and then playing so well this summer has really made him hungry for a big year,” said Binney. “He is very confident, and he really wants to win a tournament, not just for himself but for the team. He definitely has the tools to do it.”
Thompson and Jack Gregor are the team’s two seniors this year. Thompson hits the ball a mile, and he is working on the consistency in his short game and putting needed to crack a regular spot in the lineup. He averaged a 77.4 last year, and his 1-under 70 in the second round of the Cornell Invitational was an example of his potential.
Gregor is an interesting name to watch. He was on the roster as a freshman in 2014-15, but then had to shut down his golf game after having shoulder surgery. After considerable time off, he rejoined the team last spring, got into one tournament, and now is fully healthy again and playing very good golf. Gregor is a player good enough to have shot 64 at Marion’s East Course, and Binney is excited to see what he can do this year.
“Having Jack healthy is almost like getting a free recruit,” Binney said. “He has been frustrated about not being able to play, and he is raring to go.”
Ashton Radvansky rounds out the junior class, along with Early, O’Brien and Raftery. The Houston native played in six of the seven fall tournaments last year, averaging 76.6 with a low round of 70 at the Donald Ross Intercollegiate.
“Ashton has the talent to post low scores,” said Binney. “He hits the ball a ton, and he could be ready to break through. He is close, and he has huge upside if he can keep the ball in proper position.”
Binney is also excited about his two first-year recruits, although he will have to wait a bit to see one of them in action. Sewickley, Pennsylvania native Chris Tanabe, who was runner-up at the 2017 Pennsylvania State Junior Championship at Hershey Country Club, joins the Bison along with John Kalavritinos of Potomac, Maryland. Both bring wonderful junior credentials, although Kalavritinos will miss the fall season while recovering from hip surgery.
Tanabe shot 72-68-72 to tie Raftery for low honors at the team’s 54-hole preseason qualifier. He will play in the No. 2 spot in the season-opening event at Turning Stone.
“We are all super-excited to have Chris here,” said Binney. “He is quiet and reserved and doesn’t show a lot of emotion on the golf course. He just goes about his business and posts great scores. John Kalavritinos was a highly recruited played out of the D.C. area. We are excited to see what he can do when he is healthy next spring.”
The Bison will play for the first time at the Turning Stone event, hosted by Missouri and featuring a very strong field. That will be followed in the month of September by tournaments hosted by Colgate, Cornell, Dartmouth and Yale. Bucknell’s home invitational moves back to Oct. 7-8 this year, and then the Bison finish the fall season at the Lehigh Invitational, an event they have won in each of the last two seasons.