At about 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning, Georgetown senior golfer Vincenzo Salina
(Vandoeuvres, Switzerland/Institut Florimont) will step to the tee box at the first hole
of the Innisbrook Resort & Golf Course with the chance to do something he has been
hoping to do for three years, since he first stepped foot on the Hilltop.
Salina will be the last of the five Georgetown golfers to tee off - starting at 8:50 a.m. with Taylor Hall,
followed by Danny Hathway at 9 a.m., Brian Dorfman at 9:10 and Brandon Ellis at 9:20 - in the final
round of the 2010 BIG EAST Golf Championship. Heading into the third and final round of the
league's championship, Salina and the Hoyas lead the field of 12 teams by five strokes.
The first round of play was delayed because of rain and Georgetown shot a respectable 10-over par
294 over the first 18 holes, which were completed Monday morning after darkness halted play. When
the soggy conditions cleared, it paved the way for some low scores, and the Hoyas were the lowest,
firing a 2-over par 286 to take the lead after two rounds with a 12-over par 580.
Salina led the way for the Blue & Gray, firing a 2-under par 69 on Monday to finish with a 36-hole
score of 1-under par 141, which places him second individually.
"It'd be amazing," Salina said over the phone when asked if he had thought about the feeling of leading Georgetown to a team win. "In my three and a half years, my goal was to win a team title or an individual. I haven't done that, and to do it in my last tournament well, it would be a dream come true."
Salina paused after he said that because he remembered that if the Hoyas do win tomorrow - claiming the first BIG EAST men's golf title for the program since 1998 - he would have some more golf to play since it would qualify the team for the NCAA Regional Championship.
But really, all I wanted to talk to Salina was about how the team played on Sunday and Monday. I spent most of my day on Monday following the live stats link - http://www.golfstatresults.com/public/index.cfm?SPSID=92516&SPID=11221&DB_OEM_ID=19400&tournament_id=1732 - and watching as the Hoyas continued to maintain the lead. When I texted Vincenzo, he was at dinner with his teammates, but after I got him on the phone, the first thing I asked was if he was surprised.
"Yes and no," Salina said. "Yes, because we haven't played like this all season and no, because we've had some bad luck in our face and some tough results all spring, but we never gave up. It's the resolve of us preserving and knowing that we could make it at least just once."
To complete that ride, Salina and his teammates will need to make it through 18 more holes. The Hoyas are five strokes ahead of second place St. John's and seven ahead of third place Seton Hall. Louisville is tied for third and Notre Dame is in fourth place, eight strokes back.
"There 's a great momentum in the team right now," Salina said. "Everyone is feeding off each other's good shots, and we're getting good feedback. Everyone's in a great mood and we're playing some of the best golf we've played in each of our careers, myself included. It's a great spiral we're in right now and we're hoping it can continue."
I asked Salina what he and his teammates spoke about after the round, especially knowing that Louisville and Notre Dame, teams ranked among the top 85 in the country, are lurking right behind.
"What I told the guys is that we have absolutely nothing to lose, we're the underdogs," Salina said. "We are going to play the exact same way and hit the exact same shots we have the last two rounds. We don't want to put extra pressure on shots. We don't have to put any pressure on us. Let's just go out and enjoy what is a great experience for Georgetown golf."
The BIG EAST Championship is being played at the newly-renovated Innisbrook Resort Court, one of America's most celebrated. The resort has consistently received top accolades - including Golf Magazine's "Top 100 You Can Play" and Golf Digest's "Top 75 Golf Resorts in America" - and it hosts an annual PGA Tour championship and the LPGA Legend Tour's first major.
And despite the challenges of playing on such a tough course - it is a par 71, 7,150-yard course with, as Salina said, tight fairways, strategically placed bunkers and one of the toughest courses a college golfer will play - the Hoyas came out in the second round and posted their best team round since shooting a 286 during the first round of the 2008 - 2008 - John Dallio Memorial Classic. That's nearly two years.
"To play like I am on this type of course, it's some of the best golf I've had here in my time at Georgetown," Salina said. "To have it coming at my last tournament, it's a great feeling. I'm very happy with the way I'm playing right now. I told Tommy (Hunter) that I'm really excited with our team. I hope I can continue this tomorrow."
And he's seen a lot of fight from his teammates too.
"Danny (Hathway) is a fighter," Salina said. "He may not have the talent of some other guys, but he's never going to give up. He showed that today by shooting one of the best scores he's had all year. He's helping us and he's really fighting for us.
"Brandon (Ellis) had a grind of a round, but he really hung in and made some big up and downs late in the round. It wasn't the easiest 71 he could have had. Taylor (Hall) had some trouble off the tee early in the round, but I think he has a better feeling coming in to tomorrow. And Brian (Dorfman) had some putting issues, but he practiced afterward. We all have a really good feeling about our team coming into the last day."
Obviously, the biggest question was the one you don't really want to ask, but since I know Vincenzo pretty well, I felt comfortable, so I went with it: Have any of you guys talked about what it would be like to win this thing?
"We've been talking about it. It's in the back of our minds, but the main focus is to play that round and play it the best we can," Salina said. "We know we can do it. We just want to play our round and try to put it (the thought of winning) aside."
That Georgetown is leading this 54-hole tournament with 18 left to play is not all together surprising. The team certainly has the ability to do it. And it's not like Georgetown doesn't have a good history in men's golf. That said, should they hold on, it would be the team's first win at the event since 1998. And it would come just a few weeks before members of the Georgetown Athletics Department and golf family gather together for a special anniversary. When I brought it up, Salina said that he was well aware that the party to honor Head Coach Tommy Hunter on his 25th Anniversary of coaching would be held next month.
"I know it's his 25th anniversary of being at Georgetown and I can't think of a better present to give him at graduation," he said. "It's in the back of my mind and Brandon's, it's in our head. We think it would be a great farewell present for us to give to him."