With the Ivy Championship looming on the horizon, the Caves Valley Spring Intercollegiate was an important match for the Crimson men’s golf team.
After struggling against Ivy competition last week at the Princeton Invitational, this weekend had to be different if Harvard wanted to turn its season around.
The squad did just that, as the Crimson dominated the field to win by 13 strokes, positing a combined score of 595 (294-301). George Washington came in second, tallying a team score of 608.
Facing off against the majority of its Ivy competition, with the exception of Columbia and Dartmouth, the team thrived.
It was able to clinch an easy victory on Sunday, running away with the title by shooting a 301.
If the squad can get the same quality of play, from top to bottom, it will be favored to win the Ivy championship next weekend.
“This week was a huge confidence booster for us,” freshman standout Mark Pollak said. “Going into next weekend, we feel like, as the Yale coach put it, we’re the team to beat.”
On the first day of play, the Crimson came out firing. The team shot a combined score of 294, six shots ahead of its rival Bulldogs.
Led by the stellar play of Pollak, who shot a team-best round of 70 (-1), Harvard left the rest of the field far behind and put itself in excellent position to claim victory on Sunday.
Pollak did not compete last week at the Princeton Invitational, taking a weekend off to focus on academics, and the squad suffered as a result.
On the second day of play in Princeton, the Crimson posted an abysmal 315, falling into eighth out of 14 teams.
At Caves Valley, Harvard was in need of a spark, and Pollak provided it, leading the team with a fourth-place overall individual finish.
“Last week we didn’t have one of our best players in [Pollak],” junior Greg Shuman said. “It was great to have him back.”
Pollak has been a force on the course all year, coming in as the first Crimson competitor at nearly every tournament.
Shuman, coming off an outstanding third-place individual finish at Princeton the week before, continued his hot play, finishing sixth overall to pace the Crimson attack.
The one-two punch of Shuman and Pollak proved lethal for the rest of the competition. The squad hopes it will be more of the same next week.
“Having [Shuman] here really pushes me to be a better player,” Pollak said. “We’re always battling it out to see who will win this week.”
Harvard was able to get back to its winning ways in part because the conditions were greatly improved. Facing blustery winds and cold rain, the Crimson struggled at Princeton.
At Caves Valley, it was smooth sailing, as the squad played well on a great course with even better conditions.
“We got really lucky with the weather,” Pollak said. “It was nice to finally warm up the muscles and take a full swing. I always feel good in the spring time.”
The team had already won the Yale Invitational early in the spring, shooting under 600 at 595 in early April. In winning again this weekend, Harvard is righting the ship just in time, as the Ivy Championships will take place next weekend.
The Caves Valley tournament was introduced this year by Yale to serve as a final chance for the Ancient Eight schools to test the waters before the three-day Ivy League Championship begins Friday at Atlantic City Country Club in Northfield, N.J.
Bucknell and George Washington rounded out the eight-team field, and the golfers got to attend a special dinner Saturday night with guest speaker Mark Whittaker, who is the Washington Bureau Chief for NBC News.
After gaining momentum back at Caves Valley, the Crimson is poised to make a run at an Ivy title.
“It’s an overall effort—everyone has to play well for us each week,” Shuman said. “While it helps to have [Pollak and me] up there, it’s important that everyone plays well.”
—Staff writer Walter E. Howell can be reached at email@example.com.