Just a few hundred yards from one another, Anne Cheng and Theo Lederhausen made Harvard athletics history.
Playing on the Upper and Lower Courses of the Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J., this weekend, Cheng, a freshman on the Harvard women’s golf team, and Lederhausen, a senior on the men’s team, did what no pair of Crimson golfers has done before—win both the men’s and women’s individual titles at the Ivy League Championship. Finishing just a few strokes over par across the three rounds, the two battled wind and rain delays en route to a third-straight Ivy crown for the women’s team and a third-place finish for the men.
Yet for Cheng, the conference’s Rookie of the Year, and Lederhausen, a two-year captain for his squad, the victories came from very different paths. While Cheng may have opened her tournament play with a birdie on her very first hole and had a five-stroke lead heading into her 54th and final hole of the weekend, Lederhausen, who was tied for fourth after two rounds, won through a sudden-death playoff with Brown senior Nelson Hargrove.
“[Lederhausen] had a week where he was super in-control of himself and his emotions,” said Kevin Rhoads, head coach of both the men’s and women’s teams. “Nothing got to him [and] nothing bothered him.”
Patience and balance were certainly key to Lederhausen’s victory. Arriving at Ivies with two straight wins at Princeton and Yale in previous weeks, the senior and his four teammates sought to harness the momentum that carried them to Springfield.
Lederhausen began the third day of play tied with Columbia rookie Christopher Chu, behind Hargrove, Cornell’s Carl Schimenti and Lions junior Brandon Jowers, just two strokes from the top.
Amidst tough weather, however, Lederhausen remained calm. While consecutive bogeys put him at two-over-par heading into the back nine, a series of birdies built him a slim lead heading into his final holes. Even for the day at the start of the 18th hole and unaware of the standings, a three-putt bogey pushed Lederhausen back into the round-ending tie with Hargrove.
But the veteran was unfazed.
“That could have been something that was demoralizing and took the wind out of his sails,” Rhoads said. “Instead, he looked up…. It was so great that he had the opportunity to be in the playoff.”
Heading back to the first tee after waiting for the final wave of golfers to finish play, Lederhausen did not let nerves or the gathered crowd mar his play. He made par on the first playoff hole to defeat Hargroves and win the first men’s title for the Crimson since 1998.
“It was definitely bittersweet out there,” Lederhausen said, referring to his last competition with the team. “[During] the playoff at the end of the day, it was awesome to have my teammates and everyone watching.”
While the men’s side saw a tense, down-to-the-wire competition for first place, the Crimson’s dominance was crystal clear on the women’s side.
Cheng, who made a splash in the fall by winning the Harvard Invitational and has been an anchor in the team’s roster all season, blazed past the competition for a two-under-par score of 70 after the first 18 holes of play.
“Going into the first round I was really pumped and excited,” Cheng said. “At the same time, I was also very focused and concentrating on each shot at a time. I didn’t realize that I played so well until the end of the round when I added up the scores.”
The next day, the rookie maintained her lead as one of just five women in the 35-player field to shoot at or under par with a score of 72, and on Sunday, despite two late bogeys driving up her score, she held on for a five-stroke win over Princeton senior Kelly Shon and played the final two holes at perfect par to end her breakout weekend on the course.
Cheng’s win was the second for the Crimson in three years, following captain Bonnie Hu’s victory at the 2012 Ancient Eight Tournament, and she is the third straight member of the team to receive Rookie of the Year honors from the Ivy League.
Although Lederhausen’s departure will certainly be an obstacle for next year’s men’s program to conquer, the talented youth of Cheng and Robert Deng, the league’s Rookie of the Year and a freshman on the men’s team, hold plenty of promise as the teams await to hear about their respective NCAA Regional competitions.
“It’s a very good year for Harvard golf,” junior Tiffany Lim said.
—Staff writer Cordelia F. Mendez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @CrimsonCordelia.