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While winning is a fantastic achievement, the ability to win again and again is what separates the good from the great. This weekend, Harvard men’s golf team made an argument for belonging in that upper echelon.
“Oh man, oh man, oh man—not again.” This sentiment, as repeated in Drake’s popular “Back to Back,” must have characterized the mindset of the Crimson’s Ivy League rivals, because for the first time ever, Harvard defended the Ancient Eight title, winning just its second championship in 42 years.
The Crimson made history this weekend. For a 380 year-old institution, this feat is quite special.
After a week of practice and intra-squad qualifiers, Harvard traveled down to The Stanwich Club in Greenwich, Conn., on Wednesday night, leaving the busy campus behind and thinking about the goal ahead—to defend the title. The program got off to a hot start on Friday and never looked back, shooting a team-wide best in the first and last rounds of the tournament
Ultimately, the team ending its season how it started—on top.
The course was in great condition, though the players did have to battle through slower greens on Friday and Saturday given the rain that had accrued earlier in the week. Blue skies and a warm sun greeted the teams on Sunday, and the greens played more favorably than they had earlier in the weekend.
The championship-winning side brought five golfers to the Constitution State: captain Daniel de la Garza, seniors Robert Deng and Kendrick Vinar, junior Greg Royston, and sophomore Aurian Capart. Of the five who won last year’s championship for the Crimson, four travelled to Greenwich in this year’s edition, with the experience of Capart, de la Garza, Royston, and Deng paying dividends.
According to players, though, It was the team’s mentality that proved decisive.
“We were the most prepared team with the right mindset,” Capart said. “The course is a difficult one, but given our strategy, I think we were best setup to succeed by our coaches. We played smart, always setting ourselves up to miss to the right if it came to that. If you miss left in the wrong spots you are dead. We weren’t necessarily playing our ‘A’ game, but given our strategy, we were still able to get the win”.
A few players stood above the rest. De la Garza shot a 72, 72, and 73, which gave him the second-best score of the weekend at one-over-par, three shots behind Cornell’s Mike Graboyes.
“Daniel played unbelievable, staying in there and finish[ing] really strong” Capart said. “As a captain and senior, he led the team so well, and had a great mindset. It has been a pleasure to call him a teammate”.
Royston finished fourth overall with a score of +2 and saved his best for last, raking in a course-wide best two-under on Sunday, the final day of competition. Royston and de la Garza both received all-Ivy honors.
Deng and Vinar achieved top-10 finishes at sixth and tenth, respectively, and Capart, after an uncharacteristic blip in the second round, finished 21st with a strong score of +1 in the final round.
Winning the Ivies means that the Crimson must now prepare for regionals, but not without some time off for celebration. Repeating the feat from last year, with so many of the same players, was a massive achievement for a team that continues to grow.
De La Garza, Vinar and Deng all graduate next month, and the team will miss their leadership and mentorship. But for now, their Harvard golf careers are still alive, just like the fate of this team.
While the senior class still has some more golf to be played, it is already a historic bunch in the history of the program. The three seniors have won two Ivy League championships, have been selected to two All-Ivy teams and one PING All-Northeast Regional team.
“Given our performances throughout this spring season, we knew we had the tools to win the Ivy League,” de la Garza said. “But of course, it all hinged on this tournament, and you never know what will happen. It was great for us come through it all as winners. Repeating with this group of guys has been a truly special experience.”
The victory was the second for six of the eight members of Harvard’s team, but it was also number two for Harvard coach Kevin Rhoads. Winning Ivy championships is nothing new for the fifth-year head coach, but winning them on the men’s side is. Rhoads has coached the Harvard women’s team for the last 13 seasons, leading the squad to seven Ivy championships in the process. While the men’s team played in Greenwich, the women teed off in Orlando, Fla., where they placed second.
—Staff writer Max McEvoy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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