Out of a field of 86 golfers at the Yale Invitational this past weekend, only 21 carded scores of par or below on any of the three days of action. Two Harvard players were able to shoot their way into this group, and they happened to be the team’s two freshmen.
While the future of the squad was certainly in the spotlight, the Crimson women’s golf team took care of business in the present, as it secured a 6th-place finish at Yale’s annual tournament. The results for the freshmen, and team as a whole, were even more impressive considering the level of competition the group faced.
“Four of the teams we faced are in the top-40 nationally and aren’t usually participants in this tournament, but I think our girls accounted themselves very well,” Harvard coach Kevin Rhoads said. “It was a good challenge and gave us a chance to see where we are against stronger competition.”
The quality of the golfers from Furman, Clemson, and Vanderbilt certainly showed, as these Golfweek Top-40 teams finished 1st, 2nd, and 4th, respectively. Lauren Stephenson of Clemson and Emily White of Michigan, were the only two players to finish under par for the tournament and shared the individual honors at 2-under 211.
Harvard’s golfers were not far behind however, as freshmen Michelle Xie finished 10-over for the tournament with a 223. Her best performance came on Friday, when she made four birdies en route to a one-under 70. That score put her in a tie for fourth heading into the final two days, and she stayed near the top of the leaderboard to finish in a tie for 13th.
Fellow newcomer Anna Zhou was only two strokes back with a 12-over 225. She was the only Crimson golfer to hole in an eagle during the tournament, and accomplished the feat on just the fourth hole of day 1. After a tougher day 2, Zhou finished as strongly as she started, carding an even-par 70 on Sunday.
Other golfers on the team found the course more challenging however, with junior Anne Cheng and seniors Courtney Hooton and Christine Lin never shooting below a 3-under 74 on any of the three days.
“The conditions were pretty windy all weekend, and the greens were really fast,” Lin said. “The course required us to think more strategically about our shots, and pushed us more so than the past few tournaments we went to. But I think the team did a really good job of adjusting to the conditions and staying in it.”
In the end, Lin finished with a 17-over 230, placing 36th overall. Cheng, shooting a 15-over 228, and Hooton, at 16-over 229, were right above her on the leaderboard. They finished 32nd and 33rd, respectively.
While Harvard battled over the course of the weekend, the group was not able to see improvement on their scorecards like its rivals from Princeton did. After edging the Tigers by one stroke to capture the Princeton Invitational team title last weekend, the Crimson finished sixth to the Tigers’ fifth in New Haven.
Harvard came out strong, leading Princeton by six strokes after shooting a 16-over 300 to the Tigers’ 306 on Friday. While the Crimson followed up with scores of 302 on day 2 and 299 on day 3, however, Princeton continually made improvements to drop to 297 and then 291.
Going into the final day, the Crimson still held a one-stroke lead over Princeton as the two teams battled for the number five spot behind the four top-40 squads. The Tigers saw their own underclassmen finish strong on the final day, though, with sophomore Tenley Shield and freshmen Amber Wang both shooting even-par 71’s to pull Princeton well in front of Harvard.
“Princeton played really well this week,” Rhoads said. “We would have liked to finish ahead of them, so there’s a little disappointment with that, but with the group of girls we have and their work ethic, we’ll bounce back.”
Bouncing back is exactly what the team has a chance to do as it closes out its fall schedule with one more tournament in Delaware later this month.