Just over one year ago, the Harvard women’s golf team outpaced the rest of the field to win its second straight Ivy League title. And while there were only five Crimson women on the squad for the 2012-2013 season, it looked as though the group would be hard pressed to top its growing list of accomplishments.
But with all five veteran golfers returning this past fall and the addition of two solid recruits, Harvard managed to do just that. Beginning with a 12-stroke win at the Princeton Invitational in September, the Crimson won five of the eight events during the fall and spring.
The team also further cemented its status at the top of the Ancient Eight with its third consecutive Ivy League title and among the elite of Division I golf programs with a Harvard-best 13th-place finish at the NCAA Division I Central Regional in Stillwater, Okla.
Harvard coach Kevin Rhoads voiced his happiness with his team’s performance in his ninth year at the helm and pointed to the stellar play of Ivy League Rookie of the Year Anne Cheng in particular as the driver of its success.
“I think we were deeper than even last year when we were really good,” Rhoads said. “I thought Anne’s year exceeded expectations…. Having that in addition to the already strong [returning] team was great.”
Not only were Cheng’s consistent performances impressive at the Ivy League level, but also her 74.32 score average was just outside the top 100 in the nation. She had five rounds out of 22 at par or better, and had five top-five finishes on the year. Cheng also set the Harvard record for lowest scoring average for an entire year, beating teammate Tiffany Lim’s 2011-2012 average of 75.45 by over a stroke.
The freshman saved the best for last, finishing at the top of the leaderboard at the Ivy League Championships and tied for 10th at the NCAA Central Regional en route to attaining Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors.
“[Cheng] in some ways grew into herself, but it was more for her about adjusting to balance school, travel, and the team, as well as college golf versus high school golf,” Rhoads said. “All facets of her game are strong—she’s a really good ball striker and she’s very consistent.”
Lim matched Cheng’s two tournament wins and nabbed a second-place finish of her own after a middling sophomore campaign that didn’t yield a top finish and saw her average score rise over three strokes.
The San Jose, Calif., native had the Crimson’s top single round of the season with a 66 at the Princeton Invitational in Harvard’s first competition of the year. Her six-under-par day was the best of the field by four strokes, and Lim would ride her stellar start to a three-stroke tournament win. Lim also shot 11-over-par over three rounds at the Ivy League Championships in April, which was good enough to tie for fourth.
Held at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield Township, N.J., the conference-deciding event saw four of the five Crimson golfers finish in the top seven. Following Cheng and Lim, captain Bonnie Hu and sophomore Christine Lin tied for seventh for the three days.
“I think this was a really good tournament, but we had a very good year in general,” Lin said. “Coming this close to qualifying for nationals motivates us even more and basically proves to ourselves that we are as good as any other team out there.”
Lin came away with a share of the top spot at the Claremont Mudd Scripps vs. Harvard event over spring break, tying sophomore teammate Courtney Hooton at one-under-par. Just a stroke behind, Hu took home a third-place finish.
Though she did not compete in the postseason, Hooton had a strong spring season, earning the top spot at the CMS vs. Crimson event, a ninth-place finish at the Rebel Intercollegiate tournament, and a spot just outside the top three at the Brown Bear Invitational.
Junior Brenna Nelsen, who is also a Crimson sports executive, only competed in three spring tournaments, but still managed to pick up a second-place finish at the Brown Bear Invitational with a 14-over-par mark. Also appearing in only a few events, freshman Nina Fairbairn shot a 163 at Providence, R.I., which was good enough to tie for 13th.
In another sign of the Crimson’s recent rise to the top of the conference, the current Harvard women hold 12 of the 15 lowest single-season scoring averages in program history.
—Staff writer Caleb Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.