With its infamously challenging 238-yard ninth, The Course at Yale consistently ranks among the most difficult in the country. Yet, the Crimson women’s golf team, who placed sixth of 16 teams in 2015 and fourth of 19 teams in 2016, has only seen improvement at the Yale Invitational that took place this past weekend, but was cut short due to inclement weather conditions on Sunday.
Ending play two shots behind Delaware on Saturday, the Harvard team managed to close the gap on Sunday and tie the Blue Hens for third placed with a total of 594 points and 26 over par. In the tournament of fifteen, the Crimson finished behind only Scottish competitor Stirling, who dominated at 12 over par, followed by Lamar, who finished 22 over par.
“It’s a good result in the field. We were the top Ivy school so [the results] compared pretty well,” Harvard coach Kevin Rhoads said. “We have won [the tournament] before and then we also have finished a little bit down. I like where we were, and I just wish we had the last day to build on some of the momentum that we were creating in the second round.”
The Harvard women’s golf team was led by 2016 All-Ivy League First Team player, Michelle Xie, along with up-and-coming freshman Belinda Hu, who finished second for Harvard at both the Nittany Lion and Princeton Invitational earlier this season. This year was a significant improvement for junior Xie, who last year placed 18th overall with a +4 146. This year, Xie tied Lamar’s Elodie Chapelet for fourth place with a shot total of 144 after scores of 72 in both the first and second round. Hu trailed not far behind in seventh place.
Round 1 proved to be a challenge for most of the Crimson women’s golfers, including junior Anna Zhou, who finished the first round with a score of 78, along with freshman Jessica Luo, who finished with 79. This slow start to the weekend had to do with many factors, including adjusting to the difficult course.
“The Course at Yale is one of the more challenging ones we play. It asks a lot from tee to green.” Rhoads said. “The course [requires you] to be able to hit it hard and high. You need to be able to be able to control distance and direction well. The greens are also massive; they have a lot of slope on them…And then there a lot of subtleties around the hole…so you could be doing well, and not seeing a lot of puts go in.”
Since the Invitational was a Friday to Sunday tournament, the Harvard women’s golf team played their practice round much earlier than their usual practice round the day before the tournament, possibly contributing further to the team’s slow start.
“We actually played our practice round a couple weeks earlier,” Rhoads said. “We didn’t get to play our normal day before practice round and I think that probably affected us a little in our ability to sharpen and score”
Yet, the Crimson did not let this slow start keep the team down during the tournament. With the perfect weather conditions on Saturday and the improved familiarity of the course, almost all players on the Harvard women’s golf team were more successful in the second round. Zhou put together a score of 73 in the second round and Lou saw an improvement with a score of 76. Most notably, freshman Belinda Hu fired a 70, good enough for the lowest round score of the day.
The Yale Invitational marks the three-quarter mark of the season and a continuation of the strong performance set by the Harvard women’s golf team at last week’s Princeton Invitational. The Crimson has the Lady Blue Hen Invitational on October 21st and will be preparing for this last tournament of the season in the upcoming weeks.