by head coach Kevin Rhoads
As the 2008-09 Harvard Women's Golf Team heads into the offseason, it is a time to reflect on the all that occurred this year. This season provided a great deal of opportunity for the team. Coming off a historic season in 2007-08, the team was looking to do two things: affirm the successes of the previous year and build upon that foundation. Winning another Ivy Championship would have accomplished both of those things, because repeating at anything is always an enormous challenge. The temptation is to just think of the end result, and overlook all of the time, dedication, focus, and sacrifice necessary to earn such a distinction. The Lady Crimson were fantastically successful at avoiding temptation and embodying each of the above qualities, and the end result was a season that produced results that will be challenging to ever exceed.
The fall season was....perfect! The Lady Crimson played in four tournaments at mostly traditional sites: Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, and Lehigh. In each tournament, Harvard came away victories - a perfect four-for-four. Dartmouth has been a great place to start each year, and this year was no exception, with Harvard heading a field of 17 teams, winning by nine, while Christine Cho ('12, La Crescenta, Calif) tied for first individually. Princeton always provides a challenge, but Harvard came through and beat the other 15 teams including the second-place Tigers by two on their own turf - a first for the Harvard Women. At Yale heavy rains forced the cancellation of the first round, in which Harvard had played brilliantly. Undeterred, the Lady Crimson came back very strong on day two, and beat 18 other teams to win again, this time by four strokes. And last, at Lehigh, Harvard won by 35.
In the spring, the team continued their very steady play. For the second weekend in March, the team traveled to Florida for a head-start practicing for the season and a dual-match with Lynn University, a strong Division II school that plays all-year around. Although the weekend was designed as a way to ‘get back into the process,' the team continued its winning ways, winning the match by 16 shots.
For Spring Trip this year, thanks to the continued considerable generosity of the Friends of Harvard Golf, the men's and women's teams had the great fortune to travel to Southern California. They practiced long and hard in the La Quinta / Palm Springs area, and also got to play an informal match with UCLA, Stanford, U.C. Berkeley, and U.C. Davis. Harvard fared very well in this match, placing four girls in the top 12 (there were no team totals as it was played only as an Individual event,) though it was not necessarily a foreshadowing for their post season. Another highlight of the trip was playing Riviera Country Club and Los Angeles Country Club, and enjoying the opportunity to play and practice in fantastic weather and in great conditions. The team worked very hard and was prepared to make a run at defending their Ivy League Crown.
The last two tournaments of the spring before the Ivy Championships were the Brown Invitational, and Columbia's tournament. At the Brown Invitational, Harvard placed six girls in the top eight spots individually. Emily Balmert shot 70 in the second round to win by eight shots individually, and Harvard finished 34 shots ahead of second-place Boston College. Unfortunately, their undefeated season came to an end at Columbia, where Princeton beat a field of ten teams and second-place Harvard by 6 six shots, handing the Lady Crimson their only non-win during their regular season.
On April 24-26, the Ivy Championship was again contested at Atlantic City Country Club in New Jersey. The site of last year's first-ever Ivy League Championship Title in the Harvard Women's Program history, the team had put all of their energies into defending their crown. After a furious battle over three rounds, Harvard emerged victorious by two shots over surging Yale, and four shots over Princeton. Those three teams finished 36 shots ahead of any of the other teams. The Lady Crimson placed three of its five players in the top four places, with Claire Sheldon, Emily Balmert, and Christine Cho earning All-Ivy Status. Cho was also named Ivy League Rookie of the year in the inaugural year of the award. The victory earned Harvard a second-straight berth to NCAA Regionals, and gave the team an astounding 55-1 record in head-to-head competition for the regular season. Although NCAA Regionals produced the same results as last year, a 19th place finish, the year overall was such a powerful display of consistently high performances, it will be difficult to approach such heights in years to come. The team looks forward to that challenge.
Right now, the team members are immersed in Final Exams. They then head into their summer plans including jobs and internships, travel, ROTC obligations, and some competitive golf. Both the team and coaches are looking forward to next fall. The team will welcome two new members: Chloe Altcheck from Connecticut, and heralded recruit Katie Sylvan from California. We are very excited for their arrival, and the chance to start a new chapter in Harvard Women's Golf history. The team is looking forward to some variation in schedule in an attempt to improve upon their strength of schedule and level of competition. One example is the Golfweek Conference Championship, which will be in Nevada in September. Composed mostly of winners of major Conference Championships, it will be a good measuring stick, and motivator for the team. We look forward to it.
Best wishes and enormous gratitude goes toward all of the Friends of Harvard golf, all of the parents of players past and present, the wives of coaches, Fred Schernecker, and especially the players for all of their enormous work and dedication. Ali and Emily will be missed, and we wish them all the best of luck in their endeavors. Thank you.