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Four years ago, they were they only freshmen at the first day of tryouts.
But now, as co-captains of the Harvard men's golf team, seniors Luis Sanchez and Ed Boyda call the shots--sometimes quite literally.
On a cold, windy Thursday morning last week, before the final day's play at the New England Division I Golf Championships at Portland, Me., Boyda and Sanchez set a team goal of breaking 310.
"We had had a bad fall season and a mediocre start to the spring." Boyda said. "310 is the mark between a mediocre score and a good score."
The team responded with an overall .305, the first time this spring that the Crimson shot lower than 310.
"When you shoot lots of bad rounds, it's easy to lose focus," Boyda said. "We wanted to remind the team that we can shoot 305."
"It's nice to set yourself a goal at the beginning and achieve it," Sanchez said. "It's a motivating force in the back of your mind."
Boyda and Sanchez led by example, Boyda shooting a solid 76 on day two. Sanchez did even better: his 70 gave him a total of 148, tied for second place only a shot behind the winner.
The two captains complement each other, both on the scoreboard and off. "Luis is the one who plays well; I deal more with the people on the team," Boyda said. "It's a good relationship."
Sanchez, however, said that Boyda has gradually stepped up to become a consistently good player in his own right.
"Ed's one of the pillars of the team," Sanchez said. "He's Rhodes Scholar, so he does not make stupid mistakes. He's not only a motivational leader, but he's also a leader on the course."
Their friendship has been blossoming for a long time. Joining them in practice on that first, fateful day were Lou Body '93, then a senior on both the golf and hockey teams, then-captain Jack Wylie '94, and Joel Radtke '96, one of last year's co-captains.
"It was a bit windy, but it was a pretty good day, as good as fall can get," Sanchez said.
Sanchez made an impressive first impression, shooting a 75, his lowest ever at The Country Club--the famous and challenging course in Brookline where the Crimson men's and women's teams practice.
"I remember thinking, 'Who is this kid? He must be pretty good,''' Boyda said.
That strong first impression unfortunately began to give way to a sadly commonplace phenomenon in New England college golf: all golfers tend to play worse in college than they did in high school.
"School adds pressure," Boyda said. "We can't practice as much as we want to, and we have five months off between the fall and spring seasons."
That first five-month gap posed a problem for the freshman Sanchez. After spring break that year, he shot 90 at the Yale Invitational and did not participate in the Ivy League Championships. It is the only tournament thus far in his career in which he has not played.
However, that freshman year had its bright moments.
"[My performance in the Yale Invitational] was a wake-up call," Sanchez said. "A week later, I was shooting 75 again."
Boyda woke up from his own hibernation that freshman spring soon thereafter. In the spring New Englands at Pleasant Valley in Worcester that season, Boyda had an 82 on the first day and a 75 on the second--going three-under on the front nine in round two.
"It was the best nine holes I've ever played," Boyda said.
Fast-forward back to the present, to a season that has proven both difficult and satisfying for both players.
"The beginning of this spring season was especially frustrating for me," Sanchez said. "My game wasn't in sync. I was shooting 84, 85 without really knowing why. But I'm over it."
Neither captain was pleased with his score in the Harvard-Yale-Princeton tournament, the team's first tournament of the spring. Sanchez shot 85; Boyda shot 91.
"It was a beautiful day, but some of the guys were still a little bit rusty," junior Amar Goel said. "It says a lot for Ed and Luis that they turned it around."
"We had had a bad fall season all the way around," Boyda said. "I played badly in the fall. As captain, I felt responsible to play better."
But the Crimson turned it around, winning the Greater Boston Tournament last week for the first time in five years. And Harvard's combined 305 at the Spring New Englands last Thursday ranked among the top five scores for the day.
"Almost all of us played well that day." Boyda said. "This spring has been very encouraging."
Boyda and Sanchez have followed long paths in their golf careers.
Sanchez learned to play in Central America, as an eight-year-old growing up in Guatemala City. His father, Felipe, cut a five-iron to length for him. Felipe bought his son a set of "really short woods" a year later.
"I'd go and hit behind my dad," Sanchez said. "He's the number-one factor behind my playing; he likes golf and wanted to ingrain the game in his kids.
Sanchez played golf at The Country Club in Guatemala City with his brother, Jose Javier.
Five years later, their sister, Nancy Sophia, learned to play. Their mother, nancy Castillo de Sanchez, also learned to play as golf slowly became a central part of Sanchez's youth.
"Even when I was eight, I could tell that golf was a very bonding experience with my dad and brother, and, later, a family experience. Now, on Sunday nights, I can talk to my family about Tiger Woods winning the Masters or who's winning on the PGA Tour."
It wasn't always easy for Luis to stay attached to the game. At age ten he stopped playing, but when he moved to Mexico City four years later, he started again. A subsequent relocation to Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1989 followed, but by then Luis was playing full-time.
Boyda, who grew up in Portland, Oregon, started playing competitive golf as a sophomore in high school.
"It's not like other sports, where there's constant action," Boyda said. "You have five minutes to think between every shot."
Over the past four years, Boyda has followed one tradition without fail--he always marks the ball the same way, with one dot above the 'Titleist' logo and one below. But golf has also left a lasting imprint on both players, carrying them through the bumps of a season toward the arc of their future.
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