Although it had been over four months since the five members representing Harvard women’s golf at the Yale Invitational had last teed off in tournament play, the team did not show much rust in a second-place showing at the three-day event.
Sandwiched between a Yale team playing on its own course and Xavier in the final results, Harvard came up just short of denying the Bulldogs their second straight title at their own invitational.
“This was the first tournament that a lot of us have played in four months, and it was really exciting for us,” sophomore Anne Cheng said. “It’s been awhile because a lot of us didn’t play a ton of golf over the summer compared to a lot of other schools. Coming out to this tournament, we felt…we did better than we expected.”
The 16-team field brought various East Coast schools to New Haven for three rounds at the par-71 Course at Yale and also included fellow Ivy League competitors Penn, Brown, and Dartmouth, who finished fifth, eighth, and 12th, respectively.
Keyed by an improvement in their total score each day of the tournament, the Bulldogs grabbed the lead on Saturday and never relinquished it en route to the tournament title.
Leading Harvard to a second-place finish was junior Christine Lin, who took fourth.
“For quite a long time, I think I lacked this inner confidence,” Lin said. “[But] this weekend I really trusted my game and mentally I was very strong, and that carried through with the results, and I just stayed patient, and played pretty well.”
The Crimson teed off strong on the first day, recording a composite score of 298, just a stroke behind the Musketeers for the day one lead and a stroke ahead of the Bulldogs. Lin paced the group with a one-over-par 72, while senior Brenna Nelsen was just a stroke behind her teammate after carding a 73, just three shots off the individual lead.
“I think we all knew what we needed to focus on,” Lin said. “We all had a lot of confidence in ourselves, even though the results weren’t showing leading up to the weekend. We were very in our element and had great composure on the course, and I thought we dealt with playing conditions quite well.”
But Yale leapfrogged the top-two teams on day two, posting a score of 295 to take the lead headed into the final day.
Championship Sunday saw much of the same, with the Bulldogs pulling away with a score of 293, a tournament low for all teams, and five strokes ahead of Harvard. Yale sophomore Elisabeth Bernabe posted a final round score of two-under-par, edging Xavier’s Shane Crutchfield for the individual title.
The Crimson in total placed four players in the top ten individually. Junior Courtney Hooton finished tied for sixth after carding a 72 on Sunday, while Nelsen and Chang—who took home the individual title at last year’s Ivy League Championship—finished tied for tenth.
Though Coach Kevin Rhoads was absent for the final day of play as he was with the men’s team at another tournament, his influence was still felt by the members of the team.
“[Rhoads] passed on a message telling us that… we haven’t been out in four months playing a tournament, and he thought we did very well in focusing on the things we could control and putting ourselves in a tournament mode,” Lin said.
Having shaken off some of the stiffness leftover from a summer off from sanctioned competition, the Harvard women are looking to make a run at a title at the Penn State Invitational next week. Part of reaching that goal will rely on the methods that brought them to a solid finish at New Haven.
“We stayed ready on the course this entire week,” Cheng said. “We focused on our process, did our own things, and tried our best.”
—Staff writer Caleb Y. Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.