When the Harvard men’s golf team stepped up to the tees at the Princeton Invitational in April, almost five years had passed since the Crimson had last recorded a tournament victory. But after shooting a 20-under 832 as a team—a new program-best score relative to par—Harvard cemented its status as a threat in the Ivy League.
After posting just one top-five finish last season, the Crimson surprised the conference with seven such finishes in its 2013-2014 campaign. Six times the team finished in the top three.
“The guys really [increased] their work ethic and their work level to new places every year,” Harvard coach Kevin Rhoads said. “So it’s not surprising that it showed with some really nice results, especially in the spring, [when] we got our level to a really great place.”
After finishing atop the leaderboard at Princeton, the Crimson built an early 15-stroke lead one week later at the Yale Invitational and coasted to its second consecutive win.
These two victories marked the first time since the 2008-2009 season that Harvard had earned two wins in the same season. These results also included two outstanding individual performances.
At Princeton, junior Akash Mirchandani finished atop the leaderboard—the first time an individual had won a championship for the Crimson in three years. He shot an eight-under 205, edging out freshman teammate Robert Deng for first by one stroke.
At Yale, competing as an individual, sophomore Rohan Ramnath notched his first individual win in his college career. After a mediocre five-over-par performance in the opening round, the sophomore played some of his best golf in the second round of the day, shooting six-under and surging to the top of the pack.
“We have really good talent on this team,” Rhoads said. “Akash is a really good talent, and as a sophomore, Rohan…has a huge work ethic.”
Coming off two consecutive wins, the Crimson entered the Ivy League Championships as one of the favorites. Harvard led the field after the first round with a 299, but was stifled by a remarkable second-round performance by Columbia, as the Lions shot a 276 en route to the conference title. Yale edged out Harvard by two strokes to take second with an 893, leaving the Crimson with a third-place finish.
But Harvard did not leave the tournament empty-handed. Captain Theo Lederhausen shot a five-over 215 and became the first member of the Crimson to capture the individual Ancient Eight crown since 1998. The senior was consistent all throughout the weekend, shooting a 72 in the first two rounds before closing with a 71.
“He had the spring you hope every senior can have,” Rhoads said. “He finished no worse than 10th in every tournament, punctuating it with winning at Ivies. That’s a strong career.”
The victory for Lederhausen was enough to send the captain to the NCAA Regional tournament, in which Lederhausen finished 61st in the 75-player field, shooting a 232 over three rounds. His best round came in Saturday’s finale, as he capped his collegitae career with a three-over 75.
The spring season was one of Harvard’s all-time best, as the team earned five out of a possible six team and individual wins over its last three tournaments.
“We talk about it all the time that the focus is on the process, and the outcome takes care of itself,” Rhoads said. “That’s nice to say when you’re not getting results...but once you start to get results thinking about things that way, people start to buy in more and more.”
In the fall, aside from one slip-up at the Windon Memorial Classic, in which the team finished 15th out of 16 teams, the Crimson also had success. Harvard opened the year with a second place finish at the Doc Gimmler Invitational at St. John’s. The team also tied for fourth at the Temple Invitational and grabbed second place at Ivy League Match Play.
The Crimson will lose Lederhausen along with fellow seniors Seiji Liu and Kevin McCarthy to graduation, but Rhoads will have the majority of his core back next year. Mirchandani will be the only senior on the squad next season.
“We are strong, young, and deep,” Rhoads said. “I have a lot of confidence in where we’re going moving forward.”
—Staff writer Jake T. Meagher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.