After two of last year’s starters graduated and another quit the team mid-year, the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 Harvard women’s golf teams hardly resembled one another. And to make matters worse for the squad, an influx of talented freshmen into the Ivy League made the conference that much stronger.
The odds were not in the Crimson’s favor, and for the first time in recent memory, Harvard failed to win a tournament all year.
But after a slow start in the fall, the Crimson dramatically improved its play by the end of the spring, finishing just four strokes behind Yale to take second place at the Ivy League Championships.
“What we accomplished during the year—I was very, very pleased,” Harvard coach Kevin Rhoads said. “[But] it’s unfortunate not to win a tournament this year…It’s tough to be so close.”
At the beginning of the fall season, the team wasn’t close at all. In the Crimson’s first tournament, the Princeton Invitational, the squad finished a disappointing sixth out of 12 teams in the field. In 2008 and 2009, Harvard finished first and second, respectively.
“We played terribly,” captain Mia Kabasakalis said. “Just absolutely horrendously. And I think…because we’ve had such stellar years in the past, [everyone] thought that would carry over. But when people finally got to their first tournament and played badly, we were like, ‘Oh, why is this happening?’ ‘Oh, because I haven’t been practicing enough.’”
As the team began practicing more, both in and out of competition, the results began to improve. In the fall season’s final tournament, the Harvard Invitational, the Crimson finished second.
Even with the disappointment in the fall, the team did have one bright spot: the play of freshman Bonnie Hu. Named a “Freshman to Watch” by Golfweek magazine before the season, Hu didn’t disappoint, placing in the top six in three of the fall’s four tournaments.
By the year’s end, Hu, a Crimson business editor, managed a scoring average of 75.55, the lowest in team history. Hu also earned an individual selection for NCAA Regionals, another Harvard first.
“Bonnie is always an incredible player,” Kabasakalis said. “We’ll see incredible things from her for the next three years.”
Not even Hu could save the Crimson from a lackluster start to the spring season. After losing to Berkeley and Rollins in two dual matches, Harvard placed eighth in a field of 17 at the Georgetown Invitational on Apr. 4.
The Crimson rebounded sharply the following week at the Spring Brown Bear Invitational. On the first day, Harvard shot a 306 to take control of third place.
But it was the second day when the Crimson began to play like a potential Ivy League champion, shooting a year-low 291 to finish in second. Kabasakalis shot two-under par, the best score of her collegiate career, en route to a tie for fifth place among the 77 players in the field. Hu finished one shot behind the senior.
“After [the Brown] tournament, it got us into the mindset, ‘Wow, we’re so close [to winning],’ and we had come so far from where we started,” junior Christine Cho says.
After its strong performance at the Brown tournament, Harvard appeared to be a legitimate contender at the all-important Ivy League Championships the following weekend. And even coming into the final day of the three-day event, the Crimson had a chance, only two strokes behind Yale with a lot of golf left to play.