Pictured: Mia Kabasakalis
By Coach Kevin Rhoads
In their final tournament prior to the Ivy Championship, Harvard played in the Brown Bear Invitational hosted by Brown University. The site of the tournament was historic Rhode Island Country Club in Barrington, Rhode Island. Only one hour and 15 minutes from campus, the team was able to stay on campus each night and make the trip back and forth.
Rhode Island Country Club is a beautiful Donald Ross design that opened in 1911. It has a strong history tied with championship golf, and specifically women's championship golf. It has been home to the PGA Tour's CVS Charity Classic and has hosted four US Women's Amateurs. It will host its fifth US Women's Amateur this summer, so the ladies in the field that might play in the 2011 US Am got a wonderful sneak preview.
The first 14 holes are of a parkland / woodland nature, with challenging and undulating Donald Ross greens. As the season is just getting underway, the greens were not as fast and treacherous as usual, but they were still challenging not only due to their undulation, but also because they need time to mature in some warm weather, which New England has yet to see this spring. Those opening 14 holes are to the north of a small hill on which the clubhouse sits. On the other side of the hill, the last four holes sit dramatically against a backdrop of Narragansett Bay, with stunning views and even more exposure to wind.
Being the last tournament before Ivy's, the Crimson were still trying to find the form that can allow them to contend at the Ivy Championship, but which has proved elusive all year. Rhode Island Country Club's layout has a traditional feel with a proximity to water, and thus evokes comparisons to Atlantic City Country Club, to which the Ivy Championship returns on Easter weekend. The fact that Yale and Princeton were also competing helped give it a bit of an Ivy Championship preview feel.
On day one Harvard had a good pairing in playing with Yale and Boston College. However, their tee times turned out to be a disadvantage, given that the winds picked up quite a bit as the day went on. Princeton, teeing off almost 2 ½ hours ahead of Harvard, had a distinct advantage, and to their credit, they made the most of it. Princeton shot a scorching 1-under-par team total of 287 in the first round, taking a 19 shot lead after day one. We believe this to be their team historic best round. Yale was in second place with 305.
Harvard played a solid round in the same conditions as Yale, shooting 306 and sitting in third place out of thirteen teams. Bonnie Hu continued to lead the Crimson on the course this year. She hit two balls in hazards and still shot 74 in round one. Julie MacDonell also continued her fine spring season play, posting her own 74 playing as an individual. Captain Mia Kabasakalis, Christine Cho, and Jane Lee all posted 77. Chloe Altcheck, and Fritzi Reuter, shot 78 and 80! respectively. Given the wind and conditions of the greens, for all Harvard players to shoot 80 or lower was pretty good. They were probably too many shots behind Princeton to catch them for the overall title, but played quite well compared to all of the other teams.
Given that day one was one of the better scores from this year's team, day two would be a good test of the their resolve and the level of their game. Harvard got the pairing they wanted on day two, playing alongside Yale and Princeton, as well as reasonable playing conditions. The temperature was in the high 50's, but it was windy enough to make shots a little tougher and the temperature feel a bit cooler.
Harvard responded with their best score of the year and one of their best scores in program history. The Crimson shot 291, led by Kabasakalis' 2-under par 70 – a round that included an eagle, three birdies, and a lip-out on the last hole,. Reuter had her low round of the year, shooting 73. Cho and Hu each had 74 in rounding out the top four. MacDonell and Altchek shot 76's, and Lee had 77. Impressively, all 7 Harvard players finished in the top 21 of the 77 players in the field.
The second round score was only three shots from the team's lowest-ever team total of even-par 288 in the 2008 Ivy Championship. It vaulted Harvard to 2nd place overall, only 8 shots behind Princeton. They beat St. John's by one shot, Yale by four, and fifth place Fairleigh Dickinson by 20 shots. It was the kind of round that momentum can be built upon, and the timing couldn't be better with the Ivy Championships starting a week from Friday in New Jersey.
Coach Rhoads now has to sort through who will be selected to play in the top five and represent Harvard at Ivy's. The last couple of weeks have seen everyone qualify for the top five, and everyone has contributed. Thus, it will be a very difficult decision. No matter what, every member of the team has worked extremely hard to help Harvard get close to the level they need to be going into Ivy's. We'll give the next two weeks our best.