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The Harvard women’s golf team started and ended its 2012-13 campaign in the exact same place: on top of the Ivy League.
The squad won its second straight Ancient Eight title this spring despite battling injuries with a roster of just five golfers all season. Despite the difficulties presented this season, the young team proved itself dominant in the conference, from the Yale Women’s Intercollegiate Tournament in September to the Ivy League Championship in April.
“As it was, the five that were playing were the five that were very likely to have traveled to every tournament,” Crimson coach Kevin Rhoads said. “Those five–it’s probably the strongest, most talented five that we’ve had in my time coaching the team.”
This season represented a transition for the Harvard golf program as Rhoads pulled double duty, taking the reins of the men’s program in addition to leading the women through his ninth season with the team. Lending a hand to the women’s team was Claire Sheldon ’10, a Crimson golf alum and three-time All-Ivy player.
“Whenever there’s transition you wonder at first if it will affect the teams in a good way or a bad way,” Rhoads said. “The good was certainly evident, and what Claire brought to the women’s team was fantastic.”
Freshman Christine Lin gathered the Crimson’s fourth Ivy League Rookie of the Year award. Lin’s performance at the league tournament allowed Harvard to take the title by just one stroke, the smallest margin of victory in the tournament since 1998.
“I think that having the emotional connection brought us closer to achieving our team and individual goals,” Lin said. “I actually think our team chemistry is why we did so well this season. I thought it was really working for us [all season].”
Early tournaments revealed the talent of a young team that consisted of four underclassmen and one junior. The Crimson landed itself on the podium in the first invitational of the year, taking third in New Haven, Conn., at the Yale Intercollegiate tournament on Sept. 23. Just a week later, the team set the program record for the lowest single round of 18 holes with a four-under-par 284 in State College, Penn., at the Nittany Lion Invitational, where Harvard placed second in a field of 17.
“That was a big turning point and a big breakthrough for our team, especially since we’re only five girls, and we all know we can shoot really low,” Lin said of the performance.
A 14th-place finish at the Stanford Invitational in October earned the team its highest-ever ranking, No. 45 in the nation.
While the fall saw the team compete somewhat seamlessly despite the small size of the group, in the spring, the game started to take an evident physical toll on the players.
Sophomore Brenna Nelsen, who is also a Crimson sports editor, and junior captain Bonnie Hu, who is also a Crimson business editor, managed injuries that prevented them from following a full practice regimen during the week. Despite these setbacks, the team continued to perform on a high level, taking third in the Brown Invitational on April 27.
“We were all supportive of each other during times of difficulty,” Lin said. “I think that’s made us stronger, and it worked out really well.”
The team received its final Ancient Eight test before conference championships at the two-round Brown BEAR Invitational on April 14-15. Harvard shot 16 above Yale’s season-best round of 295 for a third-place finish.
“We obviously wanted to win, but Yale beat us pretty bad,” Lin said. “It was like a wake-up call, and it showed us that a lot of other teams were working really hard for Ivy’s, too, and that we really needed to pick it up in the next week.”
The wake-up call was answered as Lin took second place in the Ivy individual competition after a single-hole playoff with Princeton’s Kelly Shon. Her score of 221 put Harvard ahead of Princeton by one stroke, 909-910, to take the Ivy trophy. The win gave the Crimson an automatic berth for the NCAA regionals at Stanford, where the team ended its season with a 20th-place finish in a the field of 24.
“In the face of all the distraction, to come out on top and win our second Ivy League championship in a row and our fourth in six years, I’m just extremely proud of the team,” Rhoads said. “They’ve overcome more than any other team has had to, and they came out on top.”
—Staff writer Cordelia F. Mendez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @CrimsonCordelia.
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