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After a positive ending to last year’s campaign, the Harvard men’s golf team entered this season fresh off an offseason of substantial change.
The Crimson lost two key graduating players in Tony Grillo and Mark Pollak, two of Harvard’s best golfers in recent history. The two finished their senior seasons with two of the lowest scoring averages since the 1993 season.
In addition to the loss of Grillo and Pollak, the team introduced new head coach Kevin Rhoads, who had previously exclusively coached the women’s team. The new coach brought a completely different style of coaching to a team with heavy emphasis on the mental game.
“Speaking for myself, having a coach like Kevin helped me a lot,” freshman Rohan Ramnath said. “He’s not only a very good technical coach with our swings, but [regarding] the mental aspect [he] is very positive in making sure we’re in the right place mentally, and that’s probably the hardest part of the game to change.”
The team went through an adjustment period early on in the season as the Crimson adapted to a new coach and the absence of two of its best players. Harvard finished 11th out of 16 at the McLaughlin Invitational and 14th out of 15 at the Windon Memorial tournament to begin its season in early September, two of the Crimson’s worst performances of the year. Harvard would rebound with a strong fifth-place finish at the McDonald Cup to finish the month of September and set the stage for the rest of the season.
Harvard continually faced similar ups and downs throughout the course of the year. Individual players showed flashes of brilliance that put them in contention in tournaments throughout the fall and spring, but the team was plagued with inconsistency and injury that hurt their final results.
Junior Seiji Liu finished second at the McDonald Cup in the fall, and junior captain Theo Lederhausen finished seventh at the Princeton Invitational in the spring. The team’s fifth and sixth place finishes at those two tournaments were Harvard’s best results of the year.
Despite these promising finishes, however, players were unable to carry strong performances throughout the length of the calendar year. Brown ousted the Crimson in the first round of fall Ivy League match play. Liu suffered a wrist injury shortly thereafter that would sideline him for the entirety of the spring season, and Ramnath struggled throughout the fall with a back injury. Rhoads said that, despite the injuries, the team demonstrated progress throughout the year.
“It was an extremely helpful year,” Rhoads said. “Players learned a lot of what I asked of them. I think that showed in spurts throughout the year. We had a number of really good rounds where we did everything that we’re trying to, but putting it all together for all two or three rounds is something we’re going to have to do better.”
The team can take comfort in the fact that freshmen Ramnath and Un Cho showed a lot of promise and steadily improved their games and results over the course of the season.
“Both freshman had a tough time in the fall,” Lederhausen said. “Rohan had a back injury so he couldn’t really play in the fall. Over the winter, they both worked incredibly hard, and it paid off well for both of them; they both played really well in the spring.”
The team finished sixth of eight teams at the Ivy League Invitational—two spots lower than last year—to finish the spring season, with the freshman duo leading the team throughout the weekend.
Cho sat in fourth place on the last day despite a fever. A lukewarm last day of play left him in twelfth, but he still finished with the best score among the Crimson. Ramnath finished second among Harvard players in 21st place.
The results bode well for the team’s future, especially considering that the team is bringing back its entire roster for next year’s season.
“I think the upcoming seniors are going to do really well,” Rhoads said. “They’ve been through a lot and have shown a lot of leadership, and if they set the right example, then it’s going to be really good for the rest of our team. The guys have been working super hard, the work ethic has been off the charts, and I really believe that this is going to pay off next year.”
—Staff writer Alex L. Saich can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Sensaichonal.
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