Hitting the Links

On the golf course with the Colonials.

Max Hamm swinging golf club in GW uniform
May 03, 2010

By Julia Parmley

If you think golf is just a game of leisure, try competing against approximately 70 Division I players while walking and carrying clubs over five miles of sand bunkers, woods and water hazards.

“Golf is a fantastic sport, but it’s very challenging, both mentally and physically,” says head GW Golf Coach Terry Shaffer, B.B.A. ’79. “There’s a lot more to golf then most people know.”

Among those who do know are the nine players on GW’s Golf team, which just wrapped up a successful season with a cumulative win-loss record of 103-61.

Competing in NCAA Division I, the team earned three top-5 and 10 top-10 finishes this season against opponents like Penn State, Temple and Saint Joseph’s.

“Any time you go over 100 wins in a year, you have done exceptionally well as a team,” says Mr. Shaffer, who took over GW’s head coach position in 2008. “We hope to keep this trend going year after year.”

From April 31 to May 2, five of the Colonials’ top players competed in the 2010 Atlantic 10 Men’s Golf Championship at the Mission Inn Resort near Orlando, Fla. Senior Cole Turner placed sixth out of 60 golfers, helping GW earn a fifth-place finish out of 12 teams.

“The tournament is a grueling three-day test for all of the teams involved,” says Mr. Shaffer. “Each year we have improved; we went from eighth place last year to fifth place this year and very close to fourth. Cole Turner’s play has been exceptional all year. He has had many below par rounds this year which has helped the team immensely and is the MVP for this year’s squad.”

The team, which Mr. Shaffer describes as a “very cohesive group,” practices three days a week at GW’s “home course” — the Laurel Hill Golf Club in Lorton, Va. Shorter practices, which consist of driving and putting, are at East Potomac Park Golf Course at Hains Point in Southwest D.C.

“Golf is a sport that brings people together,” says Mr. Shaffer. “We’re an international team— we have players from around the world, including Colombia and Hong Kong—but they’re also a group of really special people.”

Senior Max Hamm, this year’s team captain, came to GW in 2007 from Frankfurt, Germany, to play for the Colonials. In Europe, Mr. Hamm won five German Junior Championships and was a member of the Europe Junior Ryder Cup Team in 2002. “I knew I wanted to study business in the United States because this would be the best place for me to combine academics and athletics,” says Mr. Hamm. “At GW, I immediately got the feeling that the team would want me on board. It’s the best decision I’ve made in my life so far.”

Although golf is an individual sport, Mr. Hamm says GW golf players support each other. “We all want to compete and be in the top five but at the end of the day, we are friends,” he says. “I’m definitely proud to be part of the team and to have taken a leadership role this season.” Mr. Hamm credits Mr. Shaffer, a former MVP for the GW golf team in 1979, with helping each player improve his game.

With the May graduation of three players, Mr. Shaffer says he is already working on filling the roster for next season. He says he hopes to recruit up to four players and continue the “great quality” of golf. It’s also important to Mr. Shaffer to keep alumni involved. “We had a fundraising tournament in May that was very successful, and we’ve gotten a lot of support from the GW community,” he says. “We’re really excited about what we’re doing, and I think each year is going to get better and better.”

Although both Mr. Hamm and Mr. Shaffer describe golf as a “mental sport,” they say the challenge is just a part of its draw.

“Golf is the only sport where players officiate themselves, so there’s a real honesty and integrity to the game,” says Mr. Shaffer. “Golfers are fierce competitors but there’s a real camaraderie to the game as well. It’s easy to get hooked.”