The Harvard women’s golf team is no different.
Having conquered the Ancient Eight the past two seasons, the Crimson is setting its sights on regional and national competition this year as it aims for an unprecedented third consecutive Ivy League crown.
“When we are able to compete against better teams, we get better ourselves,” captain Claire Sheldon said.
“Our strength of schedule and ranking will also improve when we take on teams from outside the New England region.”
Harvard’s first tournament of the year provided the team with the opportunity it was looking for—the chance to play with proven competition from around the country.
This past weekend, the Crimson traveled to Las Vegas’ Paiute Resort Golf Club in Primm, Nevada for Golf Week’s Conference Challenge tournament, a three-day event taking place on the club’s Desert Course.
The competition included a member university from conferences throughout the country, including University of California, Berkeley out of the Pacific 10 Conference and Ohio State University out of the Big Ten Conference.
“We usually do not get the chance to play against that strong of competition,” said Harvard’s reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year, sophomore Christine Cho.
“This tournament gave us a good chance to compare our skills against schools that play a lot more golf than us against better competition.”
Despite the stiffer competition, the Crimson more than held its own, as the team of five individual golfers finished in a tie for seventh place with the University of Nevada Las Vegas out of a field of 18 of the nation’s best teams.
Harvard tallied improving team marks of 310, 303, and 291 over the course of the three days, to finish the tournament 40 over par on the par 72 course.
Pepperdine University the re[resentative from the West Coast Conference won the event with an overall mark of 17 over par.
“We showed we can compete at a higher level against tougher schools,” Cho said.
“This tournament was definitely a confidence booster for us.”
Individually, Cho led the way for the Crimson, shooting rounds of 76, 76, and a one-under 71 on the final day, to finish the tournament tied for 18th out of the 89-player field.
Junior Mia Kabasakalis placed 25th in the event, only one shot back of Cho with a final tally of 224.
“I was able to find my swing after the first day, and my game got sharper after that,” Cho said.
“My short game also helped out a lot.”
Freshman Katie Sylvan finished the event tied for 28th place, with rounds of 79, 77, and a two-under 70 on the final day of competition, Harvard’s lowest round on the Desert Course.
The highly-touted newcomer will be counted on significantly this year to step up and fill the void left by last year’s seniors, including four-time All-Ivy team member and 2006 individual Ivy League champion Emily Balmert.
“Katie is probably going to be one of the best players in the Ivy League this year,” Sheldon said.
“And after four years, she might be one of the best ever to come through the Ivy League.”
Senior Sarah Harvey and Sheldon rounded out the Crimson contingent, finishing in ties for 43rd and 66th positions, respectively.
“We showed that we can keep up with highly ranked teams and hold our own,” Sheldon said.
“It was a great way to start the season.”
—Staff writer Thomas D. Hutchison can be reached at email@example.com.