Quaker Valley grad Tanabe hopes to build on first collegiate golf victory
Michael Binney thought the jinx was over. During a fall-season match, the Bucknell men’s golf coach watched two of his players, Connor O’Brien and Quaker Valley grad Chris Tanabe, get into a four-man playoff for the title at the Quechee Club Collegiate Challenge in Vermont.
A Bucknell golfer hadn’t won a tournament in nearly seven years, and now Binney was staring at a 50-50 chance for that to end. But Brown’s Drew Powell won the playoff.
Bucknell won the event, but Tanabe, a sophomore, felt just a bit of emptiness after falling short of the simple goal he had set when he entered college: win a tournament.
Victory didn’t elude him much longer. On April 1, Tanabe earned medalist honors by one stroke at the Abarta Collegiate Challenge hosted by Lafayette.
He endured back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 11 and 12 in his second round but went par-birdie-eagle on his next three holes. Because the tournament was a shotgun start, Tanabe wasn’t sure where he stood until the rest of the field finished.
“When the scores came in and it was final, I was overcome with joy,” he said. “In any sport, you draw upon past experiences under pressure. I just slowed everything down and played one shot at a time.
“I played in every tournament my freshman year, and the learning curve with playing college golf against better players and harder courses … it’s not hard to get down on yourself when you’re losing to 50 kids.”
Tanabe didn’t allow himself to get down, and his even-keeled attitude, Binney said, sets him apart.
“If he got upset at himself, it was literally just a shake of the head,” Binney said. “It’s very rare for a kid to be able to hit ‘control-alt-delete’ and go to the next hole.”
Through the Bison’s April 8-9 match against Villanova, Tanabe ranked third on the team with a combined fall-spring scoring average of 74.6.
That is down nearly two strokes from his freshman season.
He attributes the improvement to experience.
Binney said Tanabe’s physical development has a lot to do with it, too, noting he put on several pounds of muscle during the offseason.
“He’s a bigger, stronger version of himself,” Binney said. “That strength … that lends itself to confidence on the golf course.”
In terms of his mechanics, Tanabe hasn’t changed much of the formula that helped him win WPIAL and PIAA Class AA titles at Quaker Valley. Any tinkering he does generally focuses on the facet of his game he struggled with in the previous tournament.
Tanabe, of course, wants to earn more medalist honors. In the immediate future, he will try to help Bucknell end another drought: The Patriot League championship is April 27-28 in Hamilton, N.Y., and it has been a decade since the Bison took the trophy.
“I definitely want to win more tournaments, but we have our conference tournament coming up in a couple weeks and the goal is try to win conference and go on to regionals and maybe to the national championships,” he said.
Binney, in his fifth season as coach, has made team accomplishments the focus of his program. But he knows having one of his players earn medalist honors gives the team a better chance to win. He wouldn’t be surprised if Tanabe is the one getting those wins.
“Chris is the complete package,” Binney said. “He’s got the swing mechanics. He’s got the strength — he’s sneaky long — and he’s got the mental aspect nailed. He’s a good putter, and he’s got a good short game.
“He just needs to improve on what he is good at.”
Chuck Curti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .