The Harvard men’s golf team expanded its comfort zone over the weekend, traveling to Arizona to compete in the Arizona State Thunderbird Invitational.
“We got to play a lot of courses like this over spring break but generally the courses we play in the Northeast are not like this at all,” freshman Rohan Ramnath said. “The course was really hot and there was a lot of desert everywhere.”
Conditions were a key factor for the Crimson squad, which finished in 15th place out of a field of 18, one place behind the University of Denver and ahead of the University of Hawaii.
Junior captain Theodore Lederhausen and Ramnath turned in top finishes for the team, tied for 58th place with scores of 222. Their score comes nine strokes above par and 20 above overall leader Nick Chianello of Oregon State, who finished the course with a score of 202.
“The greens were really fast, which we’re not used to,” Ramnath said. “It was a little bit of a different terrain than we were used to. The ball flies a little bit further because the air is thinner and Phoenix is elevated.”
The invitational was the first competition for Harvard since the team finished the fall season in October.
“I definitely look at this as a stepping stone process that’s moved us along in a positive direction,” head coach Kevin Rhoads said. “We finished 15th out of 18 and obviously that doesn’t sound great, but with the strength of the field and the other teams that were here, that’s actually not a bad result.”
The competition was won by UNLV, which led the field with a score of 843, nine strokes under par, and was closely trailed by the University of California, which was eight under par, and the University of San Diego, which was five under par. Harvard’s team score of 898 put the team 46 strokes above par.
Lederhausen recorded the single strongest round by any Crimson golfer, hitting even par in his first round of play. The junior was as low as three under par with five holes to play, but was hurt by three bogeys down the stretch. Lederhausen followed up with +4 and +5 rounds over the next two days.
“I think the combination of evolving ball striking, good putting and then staying mentally strong was kind of the reason for his big status,” Rhoads said.
Ramnath and junior Kevin McCarthy netted the next two strongest rounds for Harvard. The rookie shot one over par in the first round while McCarthy did the same in the second round. Ramnath followed up his crisp first day by hitting two over par the second day and six over par on the third.
In the third round, Ramnath was set back by two double bogeys and a quadruple bogey on the 17th hole.
“My chipping was really good [in the first round] and in the second two rounds it was as great as it could have been,” Ramnath said. “Yesterday and today I had a couple of big numbers that were basically the different between the first round and the others. The first round was a bit more stable so it was a little bit better that way.”
McCarthy was the third place golfer for Harvard, while sophomore Akash Mirchandani and junior Michael Lai rounded out the team in fourth and fifth, respectively.
McCarthy fell behind in the first round, only able to hit half the holes at or under par, with a score of seven strokes above par. Mirchandani recorded a final score of 19 strokes above par over the three rounds. Lai finished seven strokes above him after a particularly tricky attempt at the 18th hole in the second round caused a score of 13 above par.
Crimson golfers competed against a testing field of schools from the West and Southwest.
Harvard and St. John’s were the only teams from east of Iowa to play in the tournament.
“It was a little bit tougher for us relative to them because they’re playing year round and for us it’s pretty cold in Cambridge,” Ramnath said. “I think we did pretty well relative to how much time we had to prepare.... I know that a lot of these guys are going to see their names on the PGA tour in a couple of years.”
—Staff writer Cordelia F. Mendez can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @CrimsonCordelia.
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