The Harvard women’s golf team dominated this weekend at Lehigh University’s Kelly Gutshall Invitational, locking up its second championship this month, thanks in part to sophmore Claire Sheldon’s first-place individual finish.
The Crimson shot a combined 643 in two rounds. Day 1 ended with Yale and Harvard tied for the lead after posting 330 shots each.
Then yesterday, the Bulldogs shot 328 to the Crimson’s 313, leaving Harvard with a generous 15-shot margin over second-place Yale at the tournament’s end.
Sophomore Sarah Harvey shot 165 (80-85), freshman Mia Kabasakalis shot 167 (90-77), and junior Emily Balmert shot 168 (85-83). Captain Jessica Hazlett competed as an individual, shooting 167 (81-86).
Held in Bethlehem, Pa., the tournament afforded the team its first opportunity to play at historic Saucon Valley. Often the site of the Senior Open, the three-course club will play host to next year’s U.S. Women’s Open.
“This historic golf course is a really neat place,” coach Kevin Rhoads said. “The course we played had a really neat design and was immaculately maintained.”
But the course owes its notoriety to its difficulty, especially with greens that are not only fast but also sloped.
“It played very difficultly, shown by the pretty high scores for us and evidenced by the rest of the field—[it] was hard for everyone,” Rhoads said.
According to junior Ali Bode, the challenging greens placed an emphasis on both putting and approach shots.
“The wind was up, which made approach shots even more difficult and scores in the field higher than normal,” added Bode, who shot 162 (82-80).
Harvard’s Day 1 score of 330 was the highest the team has posted all season—and especially startling for the squad coming off its historically low one-day score at the ECAC Championship.
“During the round, the girls said, ‘What’s wrong, why am I not playing as well as I’m used to?’” Rhoads said. “Everyone had a real struggle with the difficult course.
“It comes down to how well you can manage yourself,” he added.
Even for the ultimately victorious Crimson, the punishing back nine featured some daunting holes.
The par-four 15th hole’s uphill approach shot, for example, hid “trouble absolutely everywhere,” according to Rhoads. Double-digit scores were common, with more than one 14 and even a 16 on the board.
“The back nine were more difficult than the front nine, with a three-hole stretch, 14 to 16, that was pretty challenging,” Sheldon said. “If you’re not in exactly the right position, you can get into trouble.”
On the whole, the Crimson sailed past these troubles with relative ease. Sheldon led the effort and the field, shooting 155 (82-73) and taking home her second first-place finish in competition this month.
“We’re all so excited for Claire,” Bode said. “She just keeps playing a great game and helping out the team tremendously.
“It seems like whenever we need someone to throw in a low score,” she added, “she’s there for us.”
Sheldon’s quick work on the greens gave her an edge. Sheldon took 38 putts on Saturday and improved to 31 yesterday, with no three-putts.
“What separated her score-wise was definitely putting,” Rhoads added. “She adjusted to the course conditions better than everyone else did.”
After five out of six weeks spent on the road in all-day competition, Harvard now heads into its well-earned midseason break, which will last until March.
Given the Crimson’s domination in recent weeks, Harvard should be the Ivy League favorite in the spring.