The Harvard women’s golf team wrapped up its season on Saturday with a 20th-place finish at the NCAA West Regionals in Stanford, Calif.
The Ivy League champions entered the national championship qualifier seeded 20th in a field of 24 schools. The Crimson matched expectations over the three-day event to finish 61-over-par with 913 strokes.
“I was really pleased with our team total; our scoring improved each day,” said junior captain Bonnie Hu, who is also a Crimson business editor. “Everyone had their good and bad days for sure, but overall, they tried their best.”
Sophomore Brenna Nelsen, who is also a Crimson sports editor, led Harvard with an 11-over performance to tie for 50th among 126 individual entrants on the par-71 course. Hu finished just one stroke behind to place 55th, while freshman Christine Lin (+17), classmate Courtney Hooton (+21) and sophomore Tiffany Lim finished 77th, 96th, and 123rd, respectively.
A strong final day allowed No. 1 University of Southern California (+7) to take the team title. The Trojans led the field on Saturday with a round-best 280 strokes to edge No. 14 Purdue (+8) by a single stroke. USC freshman Annie Park and Purdue senior Paula Reto finished the weekend at seven-under to share the individual title.
In addition to Southern California and Purdue, No. 9 Vanderbilt (+17), South Carolina (+22), No. 12 Stanford (+24), No. 8 Arizona (+37), Oregon (+37) and San Jose State (+37) posted top-eight team finishes to qualify for next week’s NCAA Championships in Athens, Ga.
Nelsen produced a team-best 72 in the final round of the tournament Saturday after shooting 73 on Thursday and 79 on Friday. A painful foot injury had limited the sophomore’s ability to practice for much of the season, but an effective cortisone shot provided a boost as she headed into the final tournament of the spring.
“In terms of Brenna, it’s actually really incredible how she played,” Harvard coach Kevin Rhoads said. “She has practiced less this spring than anyone on the team since I’ve been coaching the team… She got another cortisone shot last week, and it actually worked pretty well, so it shows that when she’s not pain free but lower on the pain scale she’s capable of playing really, really well.”
Hu, who has also struggled with an injury this season, tied Nelsen for the Crimson’s best first round score on Thursday before shooting 76 in each of the final two rounds. The junior was satisfied with her performance but acknowledged room for improvement.
“I was happy with my game the whole week,” Hu said. “Just at the end, it just came down to my birdie putts that weren’t going in.”
Less than two weeks removed from her individual runner-up finish at the Ivy League Championships, Lin struggled to pick up where she left off with an 81 on the first day of competition. But the freshman bounced back on the final two rounds, shooting 74 on Friday and 75 on Saturday with a team-high eight birdies.
“She definitely wanted to score better,” Rhoads said. “But I would say that she was playing quite well; her game was in a very similar place as it was for Ivies,”
Hooton opened with an 82 on the first day before matching Hu stroke-for-stroke Friday and Saturday with a pair of 76’s. Lim turned in her best round of the tournament on Saturday with 80 strokes after shooting 85 on Thursday and 87 on Friday.
Having competed in the Stanford Intercollegiate in late October, Harvard was familiar with the course. But the Crimson nevertheless had to adjust to changes in hole-length intended to increase the course’s difficulty for the regional tournament.
“Even though it was longer, it was still fair, so if you hit good shots, you’d still be able to score,” Hu said. “But it was a little tougher for sure.”
—Staff writer Michael D. Ledecky can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mdledecky.