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This past weekend the Harvard men’s golf team opened up its campaign in spectacular fashion at the Ryan T. Lee Memorial in Simsbury, Conn. Even though it was the group’s inaugural appearance at the event, it dominated the field en route to its first tournament win since the 2017 Ivy League Championship.
“It feels really great,” junior Grant Fairbairn said. “I’m super proud of how everyone on the team played. I think it’s a really exciting way to start our season.”
The Crimson carded a tournament-low first round score of 281, and then followed it up with a 288 on Sunday to finish seven-under par (569). Columbia and Navy, who both finished 21 shots back at 14-over par, were the closest competitors. A slew of other schools including Pennsylvania and Holy Cross rounded out the 17-team field.
The strong Harvard showing was mirrored on the individual leaderboard as well. All five Crimson students placed seventh or better in the field of 90 athletes. This is especially impressive given that it was the collegiate debut for two members of the quintet.
“We had four first-years come in and two of them ended up traveling,” Fairbairn said. “It’s really exciting to have young players playing really well and the older guys as well.”
Brain Ma, the Milpitas, Calif. native, was one of these first-years. He shot one-under par for the tournament, including a first round score of 71, to finish tied for second overall. Ma poured in 10 birdies over the course of the weekend to accomplish this feat.
Fairbairn was the other Harvard athlete to finish in second place. Four birdies each day led him to shoot a 71 and 72 in the first and second rounds respectively.
“My ball striking was really good,” Fairbairn said. “It was a course where you needed to hit it straight off the tee and plan your way around the golf course. That was a strength to my game. It was the first tournament of the season and I didn’t get to play a lot over the summer so it was good to knock off some of the rust and see some things I can work on.”
That being said, the other first-year student in the group was the star of the show. Adam Xiao put on a clinic in his first collegiate tournament to propel himself to the top of the individual leaderboard. This marks the first individual tournament win for a Crimson golfer since 2014.
A tournament-best single round score of 68 set the tone on Saturday. He finished the day strong with an eagle on 17 and a birdie on 18. Xiao then shot a 71 on day two, wrapping things up at five-under par for the event.
If this showing is a sign of things to come, then Harvard will surely be in for an exciting season. However, there is still a long journey before the Ivy League Championship in the spring. This tournament win is sweet, but a victory at Ivies is definitely the main goal that everyone has in mind.
“We’re pushing pretty hard,” Fairbairn said. “We’re pushing ourselves in practice, treating everyday as an opportunity to get better because we all know we have the talent to have a really great season. We know we just have to keep working hard at it and good things will come.”
The Crimson will hit the links three more times this fall. In a little over a week, the team heads up to New Hampshire for the Dartmouth Invitational at Hanover Country Club. It will look to continue its momentum from a very impressive season opener.
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