The Elms golf team is a close-knit group that enjoys spending time together, on and off the course.

Golf Team

Elms Golf Team members (l-r) Ryan Finnerall '17, Chris Miele '17, Mike Fleury '18, Brian Cowles '18, Nick Smith '15 and Dan Olive '17.

Elms Golf: No 'I'  in Team

The Elms golfers may still be finding their team groove on the course, but off the course they are already a tightly knit group that refer to themselves as “a bunch of brothers.”

“We’re probably a lot closer-knit than other teams on campus because there’s only six of us,” said team co-captain Nick Smith ’15, an accounting and math major from Enfield, Connecticut, who graduates in December. “Five of us live on campus, so we see each other all the time. I’ve been a part of a lot of teams, and we weren’t as close as this team is right now. It’s a lot different.”

This is a rebuilding year for the team, Coach Craig Cowles acknowledges, after the graduation last spring of team members such as Henry Fall and Tyler Cudnik. Last fall, Tyler was named First Team All-NECC, while Henry became the first-ever New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) golfer to be named First Team All-NECC in four consecutive seasons.

With seasoned players like Henry and Tyler, the team placed first  at the 2013 New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) Championship and garnered the program’s first-ever bid to the NCAA Division III Championship in May.

Nick Smith

Nick Smith 15' shows off his swing

The team this fall is a mix of veterans such as Nick, Dan Olive ’17, a sports marketing major from Jefferson Township, NJ; Chris Miele ’17, a nursing major from South Hadley; relative newcomer Ryan Finneral ’17, a business management major from Tewksbury; and freshmen Brian Cowles, an accounting major from East Longmeadow; and Mike Fleury of West Springfield.

Still, for a young team they had some impressive showings in the first half of this season: They finished tied for fifth at the 80th annual New England Intercollegiate Golf Association (NEIGA) Championship on Oct. 29.

“At ECAC’s we finished 10th, which was a huge step for us. Last year we finished third, but we finished 10th there with our youngsters,” said Coach Cowles, who is in his fifth year of leading the team.

Also, Mike was named NECC Men’s Golf Rookie of the Week in late September.

Caring about their teammates adds a different kind of pressure, the younger players are finding.

“I think that’s why Brian and Mike have had a tough time when they’re playing bad, because we’re so close knit,” Nick said. “They really want to play so well for us, that it’s tough when they don’t, cause then they have to hang out with us the next day,” he added, laughing.

Ryan agreed, saying, “This has been a rough season for me personally. The pressure is different when you’re fighting for your team and not just yourself. I find that I’m putting more pressure on myself to do better for the team, because if you do poorly you feel like you’re letting the team down.”

Chris, who transferred to Elms from Westfield State University, where he majored in biology, is the first nursing major on the team. He is also in his last year of eligibility as a player, but plans to stay connected to the team, possibly as an assistant coach, even as he enters the most demanding years of the nursing program.

Academic achievements

The Elms golf team also has an impressive track record in the classroom. Last school year, five out of the eight team members - or 62 percent - were named to the Fall 2013 NECC All-Academic Team. Each member named - Tyler Cudnik, Henry Fall, Alison Cowles, Nick Smith and Brian Benson - all had GPAs above the 3.5 minimum, with four of the five earning GPAs above 3.7. For the fall of 2013, the golf team’s combined GPA was 3.74.

That success carried over into the spring 2014 semester, with Alison, Tyler, Brian and Nick all earning places on the Dean’s List, and the team earning a combined GPA of 3.68.

Alison, while still on the roster, works full time as a staff accountant at Moriarty & Primack P.C. in Springfield while pursuing her MBA in accounting and finance at Elms.

Golf at Elms is unique in that it is a two-semester sport, so while other teams are either entering divisional play or practicing to begin, the golf team is merely preparing for the second half of its season.

Spring Semester Outlook

Coach Cowles is optimistic about building the team for the spring.

“I’ve had one recruit come in, and I’ve talked to four others,” he said. “This spring should be a blast.”

The coach actively involves the team in helping recruit new players, and it’s an effective program.

“We’ve never lost one who’s come here for an overnight and we’ve never lost one that I’ve done a home visit with,” he said.