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They say you can’t win a championship on the first day—but you can lose it.
This became all too apparent to the Harvard men’s golf team this past weekend at the Ivy League Championships at Galloway National Golf Club in Galloway, N.J.
Though the Crimson’s golfers were able to shoot well in the second and third round, Harvard’s first-round hole proved too deep to escape.
“It was a big disappointment,” junior Mark Pollak said.
Yale, whom the Crimson had beaten the weekend before, took the Ancient Eight championship, stopping Columbia’s run of three straight titles. The Lions, who took second, finished 20 strokes back.
Harvard’s team score of a 324 on Friday put it in seventh after the opening round. Only Cornell, which shot a 330, fared worse.
“We haven’t been a very consistent team, and that really showed true in the tournament,” junior captain Tony Grillo said.
Only Pollak went below 80 in the first round, as the junior shot a 79. Rookie Theo Lederhausen shot an 81, Grillo and freshman Seiji Liu each shot an 82, and rookie Michael Lai shot an 89.
The team had trouble responding to challenging weather in the opening round.
“The course was really difficult—we had some bad weather,” Pollak said. “But the course rewarded good play ... It was very fair.”
But the Crimson was able to pick up its play on Saturday, and actually had the second-best round of the league’s competitors that day.
Only Columbia was able to top Harvard’s combined score of 310. The Lions shot 307. Three Crimson players—Pollak, Lederhausen, and Liu—broke 80, with Pollak once again leading the way, this time with a 75.
But the second round wasn’t nearly strong enough to compensate for Harvard’s struggles in the first round, and after two days of play, the Crimson found itself tied for sixth place with Brown.
Meanwhile, Penn had surged to first place overall after turning in a combined 619, with the Bulldogs trailing by one stroke at 620.
With Princeton and the Lions tied for third with 626 apiece, the stage seemed to be set for a four-team showdown for the title.
That is, until Yale blew everyone out of the water in the third round with a 288 that allowed it to cruise to a 20-shot victory.
The Bulldogs’ team score was 14 shots better than the best round for any other team in the tournament.
Columbia’s 302 in the final round allowed the Lions to move past Penn for a second-place finish. The Quakers finished three strokes back to place third. Dartmouth was fourth, and the Tigers finished fifth.
“Yale played really excellently, and they are surely deserving of the victory,” Pollak said.
The Crimson tied with the Big Green for the third-best team performance on Sunday, but it was nowhere to be seen in the title hunt.
All Harvard’s third-round performance did was move the Crimson into sole possession of sixth place.
The Bears and the Big Red finished seventh and eight, respectively.
But while Harvard didn’t attain much success as a team, Pollak shot well enough to earn second-team All-Ivy honors.
“He was really the anchor of our team,” Grillo said. “He played the most consistent. If the rest of us played as consistently as he did, we probably would’ve won, but we didn’t play well.”
Like his team, Pollak found the most success in the second round. Sitting in 13th place after his first-round 79, the junior moved into a tie for sixth place.
But another 79 moved Pollak back into a tie for 11th place with Dartmouth’s Andrew Jankowski.
Lederhausen was the Crimson’s second-best finisher. The rookie, who took 13th, was just one shot shy of tying Pollak to join him on the second-team All Ivy roster.
The Crimson’s performance throughout the season gives it reason for optimism as it heads into the offseason.
Harvard graduates none of its athletes, and its performance at the Century Intercollegiate showed that the team could keep up with the league’s top golfers.
But while the future looks bright for the Crimson, Harvard once again ends its season a dark note.
Another year of play has left the Crimson still looking for the Ivy title that has eluded it since 1974.
—Staff writer Christina C. McClintock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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