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With springtime approaching, some might think to forego dining hall delicacies to fit the fashions of sunny skies and summer days. Luckily enough for members of both Harvard golf teams, their daily diet of tees and greens has kept them in top shape for the season, setting both squads up for a successful campaign.
“This team actually did more work indoors than any season prior,” women’s coach Kevin Rhoads said. “Golf is a sport that definitely requires a high number of repetitions, and this year’s training has been encouraging.”
This time last year, the Crimson was up to its winning ways: the women kicked off their spring with two wins over Lynn and Central Florida, and the men with a crushing 6-1 victory over Cornell.
But, with what seemed to be the coldest and longest winter in recent memory, the climate has limited much of the team’s training, keeping them indoors, and putting them at a disadvantage against schools with more moderate weather.
“The challenge that we have every year with our particular climate is matching up to all the other schools that play outside longer than we do, and beating them at their game,” Rhoads said.
But, with only half of last year’s men’s roster returning, and an underclassman majority in the women’s team, replicating that success looks to be no walk in the park for hopeful Harvard.
The Crimson went winless in 11 combined fall competitions combined, but both squads finished up the fall with runner-up finishes in their final outings. Still, both coaches and squads remain far from giving up.
“We’re very optimistic going into it,” junior Mark Pollak said. “It’s going to be a shootout since the Ivy League has gotten a lot more competitive, but I feel that we have a very good chance still.”
For the men’s team, which consists of four freshmen, one sophomore, and three juniors, the void in senior leadership has caused many of the younger golfers to step up.
Freshman Theo Lederhausen was Harvard’s most consistent competitor in the fall, constantly leading the team or coming a close second in each of his outings. Fellow rookie Seiji Liu, listed by Golfweek Magazine as one of the 20 Freshmen to Watch this season, has been similarly impressive, going undefeated against Yale and Princeton and leading the team at the Big Five Invitational.
With a preseason under their belt now, the younger players on the team look prepared to step up.
“We have a completely new dynamic,” Pollak said. “They bring in a lot of new ideas, practice techniques, and outlooks that have really done a lot for the team.”
On the women’s side, the Crimson hopes to atone for a slow start to its spring campaign. Having lost to Rollins College by eight strokes, and No. 4 UC-Berkeley by 16, the squad is looking to improve its record sooner rather than later.
“It’s the first season that we’ve struggled in for the last five or six years,” Rhoads said. “It’s a much different situation than we’re used to, but it’s good for our team. I definitely have faith that they can get it together.”
This season has not been without its standouts. Living up to her accolade as one of Golfweek Magazine’s 20 Freshmen to Watch this season, freshman Bonnie Hu’s one under par performance against the Golden Bears tied for the individual medal. Also, junior Jane Lee’s 75 strokes in the match against the Tars was only five short of the medal. Freshman Julie MacDonnell and junior Christine Cho were only two strokes behind her, tying for third.
With this kind of depth, Harvard could very well come back from its disappointing start.
But, in the shadow of last year’s results, and with much different rosters this time around, the test of these Crimson teams will undoubtedly be their ability to measure up to their past, something which neither program has failed to ignore.
“Oddly enough, our scoring averages this past fall were about the same as last year when we were ranked No. 45 nationally, the highest ranking of any Ivy League team ever.” Rhoads said. “But, anybody could win the Ivy League this year; we’ll just have to find out if we’re up to it or if we need to work harder next year.”
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