Women’s Golf Returns to Tournament Play with 7th Place Finish

In its first event since a second-place finish at last season’s Ivy League Championships, the women’s golf team travelled to Penn State to compete against some Ancient Eight rivals and other East Coast powerhouses in the Nittany Lion Invitational.

The Crimson’s five-person team placed seventh out of a field of 14 teams, shooting 35 over par across three rounds in two days. The Crimson rounded out the top half of the leaderboard, finishing two strokes behind sixth-place Seton Hall and 11 strokes up on eighth-place Yale.

Maryland took home first place, beating out the hosts Penn State by three shots. Maryland played near mistake-free golf; the Terrapins did not tally a single round in the eighties, and Maryland freshman Laura Van Respaille shot a tournament-leading 4 under par, including one of only two rounds in the 60s.

Rounding out the top five were Delaware, Princeton, and Rutgers.

The Crimson got its first look at Ivy League rivals Princeton, Yale, Penn, and Columbia. Princeton, the league’s reigning champs got the better of the Crimson, who finished 10 shots back of the Tigers. The Crimson, however, did place second among the five Ivy League competitors at the invitational.

Also competing over the weekend were teams from Ohio, South Florida, Bucknell, and Youngstown State.

The weekend marked the first time since 2014 that the Crimson travelled to State Park, Penn., to compete in the invitational. The 6,341-yard Blue Course played at a par 72 for the weekend, featuring the customary bevy of four par 5s and four par 3s, that included a heavily-bunkered front nine and two water hazards on the back nine. Only one player, captain Lita Guo, has been on the team long enough to remember the last time the Crimson competed at this Invitational.

“Back in my freshman year, it was still the first tournament of the season,” Guo said. “It’s a good point for us to ramp up and get ready for the season. It felt really similar. It felt like going back to my freshman year.”

The Crimson featured three returners, Guo, Michelle Xie `19, Anna Zhou `19, and two freshmen, Belinda Hu and Jessica Luo. Zhou, a junior from Palo Alto, California, led the pace, finishing one under par over her three rounds, good enough for a tied fourth place finish out of a field of 85. Zhou capitalized on par 5s, posting a scoring average of 4.58 on the 12 par 5s she faced. Zhou’s weekend performance included a 2 under round of 70 on Saturday afternoon, during which she tallied an eagle 2 on hole 6.

“I hit it pretty close. I had 100 yards going in, and then it sounded like a really good shot…I heard it hit the flagstick so I automatically assumed it would have bounced off…but we went up there and it was actually in the hole,” Zhou said. Zhou also recorded 10 birdies over her three rounds. “I was feeling pretty confident coming into this tournament.”

Although this was the first time Zhou played the course as a Harvard athlete, she competed at the Penn State Blue Course in 2013 in a junior tournament and remembers shooting 8 under par.

“I was a little bit familiar with the course,” Zhou said. “My putting was in a good place as well so I just tried to focus on the process, and the support of my teammates helped a lot. Everything just fit together.”

Freshman Belinda Hu finished in a tie for 20th in her first collegiate tournament, and junior Michelle Xie finished 25th.

“I think the freshmen really enjoyed their first tournament,” Guo said. “They learned a lot about how college tournaments work. I think they played great. They did their job.” For her part, Guo relishes her additional involvement on the team this year. “I was able to pass down the wisdom upperclassmen had passed down to me, seeing the team develop throughout the year.”

—Contributing writer Chris M. Vassallo can be reached at cvassallo@college.harvard.edu

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