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The Harvard men’s golf team closed their fall season on Saturday, October 29th with a strong showing at the Grandover Intercollegiate Invitational, finishing fourth at the event hosted by UNC Greensboro.
The Crimson scored a team total of three over par in the 54-hole tournament, shooting rounds of 292-291-284. UNC Greensboro won the tournament, shooting a whopping 38 under par on its home turf.
“It was a good result against some pretty good teams in the South,” Coach Kevin Rhoades said.“We can handle it pretty well and our last round was solid, shooting four-under as a team. We were good, but we couldn't get way under par and it turned out that that was a tournament that you had to be way under par to win”.
This was the first time Harvard played in the tournament, or in any tournament this late in the fall in recent years, as past fall seasons have not typically stretched so deep into October.
“It was kind of uncharted territory for the team, but I think we handled it well,” sophomore Brian Ma said.
The Crimson sat at seventh through the first two rounds, but strung together a strong third round to bounce back into the top five.
“We started off the tournament a little bit slow,” said senior captain Brian Isztwan. “Then everybody got it back together in the first round. The second round, we did alright then too but then the third round we really put on a charge.”
Ma led the way for the Crimson, continuing a season-long tear of under-par performances with a one-under par score. Matching Ma at one-under par was sophomore Diego Saavedra-Davila. Both players finished tied for 15th overall in the field. Isztwan and sophomore Jeff Fang stayed close behind the top pair, placing 30th at one over par. Junior Adam Xiao filled out the Harvard score sheet shooting seven over par and tied for 48th. Freshman Darren Choi finished at ten over.
This tournament ended one of Harvard’s strongest fall seasons in program history, where the Crimson rewrote almost every record in the Harvard history book. The Crimson set new one, two, and three-round records during the Doc Glimmer Tournament, hosted by St. John’s University, to open the season on September 10.
The team also recorded their lowest ever team stroke-per-round average, clocking in at 281.43, eight strokes better than the 2021 season average, where they also eclipsed the previous record.
“I'm proud of them again,” Rhodes said. “On a competitive level they are performing on a very high level. We’ve had some super strong teams and won some Ivy League championships in the past and this team is performing on that level or even a little bit better right now, but I also really like what the team chemistry has going, and kind of how the guys are coming together and working in the right direction on all the given things.”
The Crimson garnered top-five finishes in its three tournaments preceding Grandover. After the Doc Glimmer, the team finished second at the MacDonald Cup in New Haven, CT hosted by Yale on September 24. Harvard then traveled to the University of California Berkeley on October 10 for the Alister Mackenzie Invitational, placing fifth as a team.
Harvard enjoyed a number of memorable individual performances this season as well. Ma set fall season program records for lowest 54-hole scoring average at 69.33, never shooting above par in a single round.
Isztwan followed right on Ma’s tail all season with a 70.33 scoring average in his final fall season wearing the Crimson uniform. The pair embodied consistency all fall.
As a whole, the Crimson recorded a team average of 2.5 strokes under par in the four tournaments they played.
“One of our goals for the season was to start off strong,”Ma said. “That was just kind of our motto: start strong and stay strong.”
Perhaps the most electrifying highlight of the fall came from Fang. The sophomore set program records for both two and three-round scores at the St. John’s invitational, shooting ten-under through 36 holes and nine-under through 54.
The rest of the team also contributed in posting low scoring rounds across the season. Every member of the team scored below at least 68 strokes, or three under par, in at least one round this season.
A common denominator for these results is the adoption of a stat-tracking system called Decade, which the team has used in practice and tournaments throughout this season.
“Basically it keeps track of your stats in different categories of your game,” said Ma. “It really made us more efficient just in terms of how we needed to practice. It told us areas of improvement and told us what we were doing well. It was a confidence booster and taught us how to be more efficient in practice.”
Efficiency is key for a team like the Crimson, who practice in a Northeast climate that proves especially difficult throughout the winter, placing it at a disadvantage compared to teams that have easier access to practice all year round. However, the improved performance of this fall signals optimism that the new practice strategies will continue to produce strong results in the spring.
“The fall always informs the spring because we learn in our individual games which parts are the weakest that we need to work on,” Isztwan said. “Last year we felt like we had all the talent in the world, like we were the best team to tee the green at ivy Leagues. We just felt like the putting was coming up short. We made that a goal this year to become the best putting team in the Ivy League and it's shown already.”
As this season closes, all eyes turn towards championship season in the spring and a return to glory atop the Ivy League.
“If we can keep the putting together,” Isztwan said, “I think we have a great shot at winning the Ivy League and making a splash at regionals.”
The Crimson will likely announce the spring schedule in February and compete in their first tournament in March.
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