Brownout: College cuts affect GAP members
Shock, surprise, sadness, anger.
An emotional avalanche toppled Luca Jezzeny once he heard the news. On May 28, he learned that Brown University cut its men’s golf program. The Doylestown Country Club member completed his freshmen season — albeit a shortened one — competing for the Bears.
One and done. The college golf experience Jezzeny envisioned suddenly vanished.
“The reasoning wasn’t because of COVID-19 but rather an initiative they’re pushing to try and make their athletic department more excellent,” he said. “It was a bit surprising when they came out with that reasoning.”
“It was shocking and jarring at the same time, and still is.”Luca Jezzeny
Brown unveiled its Excellence in Brown Athletics Initiative, thereby cancelling men’s golf, in addition to 10 other varsity programs. The initiative’s launch follows a deliberate process that dates back to an external review of Brown Athletics conducted in the 2018-19 academic year.
The COVID-19 pandemic merely shortened Jezzeny’s college golf career. He didn’t expect it to end altogether via a Zoom meeting.
“It was shocking and really jarring at the time, and still is,” Jezzeny, 19, of Furlong, Pa., said. “I love my coaches at Brown. It was an incredible experience because of the men’s golf team. Now that it’s no longer there is really sad and frustrating.”
Jezzeny, an applied mathematics-economics major, competed in five events — four of which occurred in the fall. His college golf crescendo — for Brown that is — occurred in the Savannah Invitation Feb. 15-16 at the Club at Savannah Harbor in Savannah, Ga. Jezzeny paced the Bears with scores of 78, 74 and 73.
Overall, he led the men’s golf team in scoring average at 75.5.
“I feel bad for Luca because Luca was our best player by far. The best golf is ahead of him,” Mike Hughes, Brown’s men’s golf coach since 2007, said. “He’s really a terrific kid and a great player.”
“The coaches have been incredible,” Jezzeny added. “All of the guys on the team are incredible people, inspirational really. Their leadership really pushed me to be better. I’m still shocked that I won’t be able to finish my last three years as a Brown varsity golfer, but I’m glad that I had the opportunity while it lasted.”
One of Jezzeny’s teammates, Cole Kemmerer, is also connected to the GAP region. The Waynesborough Country Club member finished his sophomore year at Brown, where he is majoring in business economics.
He expected an announcement regarding the fall season’s cancellation due to COVID-19 to come from that May 28 Zoom meeting.
“Then everyone got on the call, and our athletic director (Jack Hayes) said, ‘These sports are cut. Future questions will be taken tomorrow.’ I was so surprised and disappointed. So many emotions ran through me,” Kemmerer, 20, of Malvern, Pa., said. “A part of me was taken away. All of that time spent playing golf just to be playing in college and to represent a school was my dream, and now that’s taken away in a five-minute Zoom call.”
On and off the course, Kemmerer represented the Bears with pride, according to Hughes. Kemmerer carried a 77.7 scoring average during the shortened 2019-20 campaign. That number closes one golf chapter; a new one — club golf — is expected to open.
Kemmerer is among those spearheading the charge for golf to continue at Brown.
“We’ve already been invited to a bunch of tournaments by other Ivy League schools. If that happens and we get to play golf every day and still have all of the members of the team present, it’s almost like we’re going to be that same team, just without the varsity title,” Kemmerer said. “We may be a club team, but my hope is to get almost all of the same amenities just without the varsity titles. As an upperclassman and I took it upon myself to do everything in my power to make sure we’re still like a varsity team. I felt it was my duty to make golf happen for our underclassmen.”
“He’s grabbed the bull by the horns and said that he wants to be the leader as far as getting the club team going. He’s a terrific kid and joy to be around,” Hughes said.
For Kemmerer and Jezzeny, it isn’t a case of “athletics or bust.” A good college education bears more weight.
“I’m going into my junior year and I’m not trying to play golf professionally,” Kemmerer said. “I’ve made such great friends and taken such great classes. I don’t know if I could go anywhere else.”
“The academics there are so great that I wouldn’t want to let that go to waste, the opportunity I have right to pursue my degree at Brown. I really think I’ll stay,” Jezzeny added. “We’re hoping that it stays and we’re still able to play some tournaments so it doesn’t completely go away. We’re hoping to maintain some sort of normalcy in that sense.
“I think most of my teammates are on the same page as I am. We’re all very committed to our academics. We’ll definitely work together to try and make the club team the best it can possibly be.”
Celebrating Amateur Golf since 1897, GAP, also known as the Golf Association of Philadelphia, is the oldest regional or state golf association in the United States. It serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. The Association’s 288 Member Clubs and 75,000 individual members are spread across the Eastern half of Pennsylvania and parts of New Jersey and Delaware. The GAP’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.