The Harvard men’s golf team opened its season this weekend on a high note, finishing in second place out of a field of 14 teams at the Doc Gimmler.
The Crimson finished the two-day tournament, which was hosted by St. John’s and held at Bethpage Red Course, at four-under par 836, which was 16 strokes behind the winner Yale’s 820.
“We actually did really well”, sophomore Rohan Ramnath said. “Most of our tournaments are 54 holes, and we actually broke the school record by 20 shots. Scorewise, it’s the best we’ve done ever in a tournament.”
Joining Harvard under par were Florida Southern, which finished tied for third with Marquette at two-under 838, as well as Columbia and Temple, which finished at 839.
The Crimson started out the first round with a four-under 276, which put it in third place heading into the second round. But Harvard could not keep up with the Bulldogs, who jumped out to a five-stroke lead over Florida Southern with a 10-under 270, led by sophomore Joe Willis, who fired a tournament-low 63 on the par-70 course. Yale led the tournament wire-to-wire, and carried an eight stroke lead into the final round.
Willis also won the individual medal, besting 75 other golfers and posting a 68 in the third round to finish at 199 (-11). Columbia’s Brandon Jowers challenged Willis for the title, mounting a late charge with a 66 in the third round, but fell one stroke short and ended up at 10-under 200. Temple sophomore Brandon Matthews and Yale freshman Jonathan Dai tied for third at five-under 205 to complete the podium.
But the Crimson also had strong individual performances that propelled it to its second-place finish. Harvard’s finest performances came from its youngest players. Freshmen Kendrick Vinar and Robert Deng, playing in their first collegiate tournament, both finished tied for fifth place at 206. Deng, playing in the first position, shot a 68 in the opening round, and followed that up with two more strong rounds of 67 and 71. Vinar, playing in the fourth slot, tied for the team low in the first round with a 67, and then shot 68 and 71 to tie his classmate.
“The freshman lived up to their expectations,” Ramnath said. “They were highly touted and definitely lived up to it, they really led the way. It’s their first college tournament and they’re already off and running; it’s great. We couldn’t have really asked for a better start to the season; it’s a great way to kick things off. It stings a little bit to lose to Yale, but it’s just the start so we have a long way to go.”
“We’ve had a lot of previous experience in junior events,” Deng said, “and the setting hasn’t really changed that much. I understood the team atmosphere pretty well, and so there wasn’t too much of a transition.”
The Crimson had one other top-20 finisher, Ramnath, who played consistently throughout the tournament to finish tied for 19th at 211. He opened with a round of 70, and then shot 71-70 to finish. Junior Akash Mirchandani and freshman Daniel De La Garza rounded out the lineup for Harvard, finishing tied for 34th and tied for 50th, respectively. Mirchandani finished at 4-over 214, while De La Garza ended up at eight-over 218 in his college debut.
The Crimson placed second out of the four Ivies competing in the tournament. Besides the victorious Yale and the fifth place Lions, Princeton finished in eighth place, at 11-over 251.
It was a positive performance for Harvard to open its second season under head coach Kevin Rhoads, and bodes well for a team that returned its entire roster from last season and added several key freshmen.
The team will next play this weekend at the Windon Memorial, which is hosted by Northwestern and will take place at the Knollwood Club.
“I think we definitely played well considering it’s our first event,” Deng said, “but I believe we could do better. And that has to be with not all of us playing well all of the time. It’s difficult to adjust near the beginning of the season, but once we settle in and get in to the swing of things, we can see some lower numbers.
—Staff writer Alex L. Saich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Justin C. Wong can be reached at email@example.com.