Junior Will Halamandaris’ golf journey began when he was just two years old, and recently culminated in him becoming the first Lafayette medalist at the Patriot League Golf Tournament since 2010. Halamandaris took the title after a five-hole playoff, clinching the win with a two-foot putt on the par-4 first hole.
“It certainly shows the program had its up and downs since we won in 2010,” head golf coach Jim Hutnik said. “Throughout the year we’ve had some consistent play from a lot of different players and I think this is the culmination of an outstanding year for the team.”
The team finished second out of eight teams at the tournament, while Halamandaris was named the Patriot League Player of the Year and a member of the All-Patriot League team. The philosophy major from Annapolis, Md., will head to the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Regionals next week for a three-day tournament at the University of Georgia golf course in Athens.
“Will certainly has shown in the past that he can compete in tournaments and win tournaments, since he won last year at the University of Rhode Island [Invitational],” Hutnik said. “But it means a lot to the team, certainly creates a lot of excitement, a lot of buzz, not only on the team but also for next year with the team.”
Halamandaris began golfing when he was just two years old, and said he has stuck with it through physical and mental adversity.
“I picked up my dad’s putter in our living room and just started messing around with it,” he said. “After that I just always wanted to be around it and I started playing in tournaments when I was seven.”
According to Halamandaris, a lot of college coaches did not believe in him. Instead of letting this hold him back, he used this as motivation to improve.
“I always want to be better, I am very competitive and always want to be the best player that I can be,” he said. “Another thing that keeps me motivated are all the coaches that told me I would never be successful in college golf.”
“I was looking at a lot of schools, but I have a very unorthodox swing that scared off most of them,” he added. “So I always have that chip on my shoulder.”
According to Hutnik, the overall game of Halamandaris caught his eye during the recruiting process, in addition to his match play and command of the course. Hutnik said that it was important to not solely focus on a player’s swing when evaluating their golf ability.
“I think a lot of coaches will try to take a look at his swing and try to change things on him,” Hutnik said. “I saw [Halamandaris] enough competitively that I was able to say that when he made contact and the way he played the game and the way he managed the course that he would continue to be a pretty good player and that he could play collegiately at a Division I level. I looked at his overall game rather than just the pure swing.”
Apart from challenges with other coaches, Halamandaris has also been able to overcome multiple injuries and subsequent setbacks.
“I’ve had a laundry list of injuries including some neck issues in high school and a fractured vertebrae that kept me out all of my sophomore fall here at Lafayette,” he said. “Battling back from those has been difficult, but I love the game and just kept working to get better.”
Halamandaris described his injuries as the biggest challenge he’s overcome during his golf journey, and that he has stuck with the sport partially due to his father’s influence and his mentality.
“A couple things I attribute my golf success to are the work ethic my dad taught me as a kid, the chip on my shoulder that I play with, and my love for the game,” he said. “Those things combined have been what has gotten me to this point, and they are what will help me to continue to grow as a player and continue to get better.”
Halamandaris explained that his father and professional golfer Steve Stricker have been two major positive influences during his time playing the sport.
“My biggest role model is my dad, he taught me a lot of things growing up, including how to work hard as well as how to battle back from adversity,” Halamandaris said. “[My dad] has been the biggest influence in shaping me into who I am today as a person and as a golfer.”
“I always tried to model my game after [Stricker’s] on and off the course,” he added. “The way he was kind and compassionate to his competitors as well as everyone around him, as well as the way he mapped his way strategically around the golf course.”
With just over a year left at Lafayette, Halamandaris said he hopes to see consistent improvement from himself and the team now that they have more “experience under our belts.”
A goal of his is to help the team make NCAA Regionals next year, as he thinks the team “can accomplish a lot.”
“Lastly, I want to enjoy the rest of my time here [at Lafayette] as much as I can,” he added. “The real world is just around the corner, so I want to enjoy all my time here before it is all behind me.”