At the Princeton Invitational this weekend, the Harvard men’s golf team built an early seven-stroke lead over rival Yale and never looked back. The Crimson finished first out of 15 teams, earning its first victory of the season and its best performance at the Invitational since 2009.
“Golf is played over multiple days, and multiple rounds, and multiple hours,” Harvard coach Kevin Rhoads said. “At any one time when things are going well, it’s easy to start projecting forward and getting ahead of yourself and thinking about possibly winning the tournament. We did a very good job of not doing that. There were a number of moments when we were able to just stay present and not look back or look ahead.”
This especially held true for the Crimson after the first six holes of the final round on Sunday. Harvard did not execute as well as it had in the first two rounds, and the team saw its 14-stroke lead over the Bulldogs start to slip.
But the Crimson refocused and returned to form, closing out the final round with a tournament total of 832 strokes. With four top-ten finishers, Harvard finished three strokes ahead of Yale, ending the Bulldogs’ quest for a fourth straight Princeton Invitational Championship.
Harvard junior Akash Mirchandani paced the 78-player field, shooting eight under par over the course of the weekend. The junior entered the final round with a three-stroke cushion after shooting nine under on Saturday. Then, Mirchandani held off a pair of freshmen, teammate Robert Deng and Dartmouth’s Jeffrey Lang, in the third round to finish first overall by a single stroke.
For Deng, the tournament marked the freshman’s best finish with the Crimson thus far, as he improved on his six-under performance Saturday to finish seven under par, tying for second.
The performances from Mirchandani and Deng were just enough to edge Yale, who had three top-ten finishers, but none within the top three.
The depth of the Harvard squad gave it the edge. Freshman Daniel De La Garza and captain Theo Lederhausen rounded out the top-ten finishers for the Crimson. The freshman shot a first-round 68, besting Lederhausen by one stroke, before the two went stroke-for-stroke, each shooting for par in the final two rounds. In the competitive field, the one-stroke difference between the pair left De La Garza in a four-way tie for sixth place and Lederhausen tied for tenth.
“Our lineup is constantly changing,” Mirchandani said. “The players that travel and play in each tournament changes week to week. And that’s just a reflection of how deep our team is. Any week, any player on our team can shoot the best score and that’s really fun to be a part of.”
The first-place finish put Harvard atop the Ancient Eight at the tournament, as every Ivy League school was represented at the competition. Aside from Yale, the Crimson finished 22 strokes ahead of third-place Dartmouth and more than 30 strokes in front of fourth-place Columbia.
But Rhoads warns that this doesn’t necessarily mean anything for the Ivy League Championships in two weeks.
“[This performance] simply means that our skill sets are continuing to improve, and we need to feel confident and feel good about those,” Rhoads said. “[If we] keep working hard on that stuff in the next couple of weeks, that will make the results take care of themselves.”