Pictured: Tiffany Lim
by Kevin Rhoads, Women's Golf Coach
The Harvard Women's Golf team's 2010-2011 season was one of "almost." They had three second-place finishes, including at the Ivy Championships, but didn't win a tournament for the first time in ten years. They had lost three of their five players from their traveling-squad in the previous season – a season in which they had set their team single-season scoring record. Meanwhile, the Ivy League got much stronger, with an influx of the strongest talent to ever play in the League. The team worked very hard to rebuild last year, with the hopes that their work would pay dividends this year. Which brings us to the present.
The Crimson opened their 2011-2012 campaign September 17th and 18th at the Yale Intercollegiate. Contested a week or two earlier than its traditional place on the calendar, the 15-team field enjoyed cool but fantastic weather over the two-day competition.
Playing in the Yale Intercollegiate is always a great pleasure and challenge. On one hand, it is pleasing because the Yale golf course is one of the finest University courses in the land. The C.B. MacDonald and Seth Raynor-designed course is an aesthetic and strategic beauty – a classic American course. The vistas, the layout, the scale of the course, and the setting all contribute to feeling like you are somewhere special.
On the other hand, it is one of the most difficult courses the team plays every year. In recent years past, any round in which the players broke 80 was considered a pretty solid round. From a strategic standpoint, the elevation changes, the greens, and the wind provide more than enough challenge for all players – especially those players that don't hit the ball high or carry the ball great distances. There are plenty of elevated (and sometimes blind) approach shots. For example the approach shot into #10 where the approach is a 60-foot wall-like rise from the fairway to the green. Then there are the greens: massive, undulating beauties of irregular shape that are hallmarks of MacDonald / Raynor courses. Finally, swirling winds within the tree-lined fairways make club selection difficult. It takes physical skill, patience, and mental and emotional control to play well.
The Crimson's lineup this week was a mixture of experience and new talent, featuring two seniors, one sophomore, and two freshmen.The seniors were the much-decorated Captain Christine Cho (La Crescenta, Calif.), and the always-solid Jane Lee (Alamo, Calif.). Representing the sophomores was Bonnie Hu (Freemont, Calif.), who is coming off a great freshman year in which she became the first Harvard player to earn an Individual bid to NCAA Regionals. Rounding out the lineup were the year's freshmen: talented and accomplished Brenna Nelsen (Monte Sereno, Calif.), and Tiffany Lim (San Jose, Calif.), our most decorated re! cruit ever. It was a lineup that looked good on paper, but until the teams get onto the course together, one never knows where each will stack up against the field.
Saturday was a grueling 36-hole day. Luckily the field enjoyed fantastic weather – starting cool in the high 50's, and then settling into the low 60's throughout the day. Balanced against the good weather were swirling winds, the challenge of walking the Yale course twice in one day, and the slow march of playing in fourballs. However, Harvard was up to the challenge and got off to a great start in round one.
The talent and exuberance of youth led the way in the first round. Itching to play in her first college tournament, Tiffany Lim shot two-under par 70, which left her only a shot off of the lead. Brenna Nelsen was close behind, shooting an impressive even-par 72. Bonnie Hu had a very solid 74, Christine Cho shot 76, and Jane Lee had 79. The team's first-round total of 292 gave them a five-shot lead over the field. The score of 292 is the Crimson's third lowest team total ever for a single round, and it was shot on a course where a very good score is usually in the low 300's. It was a fantastic start, but it was only the first round.
Round two occurred directly after round one, with no break in between. Continuous play requires the players to eat on the go every few holes, hydrate continuously, and keep a good mental outlook. Harvard continued their great play, shooting 296 in the second round. Cho played fantastically, shooting 70 to tie her lowest round at Harvard. Lim and Hu shot very good 74's that easily could have been a couple of shots better. Nelsen, battling through a cold all day, valiantly backed up her 72 with a 77, and Lee shot 79. Harvard's 292-296 total of 588 gave them a 13-stroke lead over the field after the second round. Longwood University and Nova Southeastern were tied for second place, with reigning Ivy-League champions and host team Yale sitting 20 shots back. Brown was 23 shots behind.
Due to the long rounds on Day 1, some teams had to come back early to finish their second round before round 3 on Sunday. Luckily Harvard was able to finish both of their rounds Saturday, and thus didn't have to be out extra-early. The field had a shotgun-start Sunday morning, and Harvard was paired with Yale, Longwood, and IUPUI. Scores were higher for everyone on Sunday – due in part to even more swirling winds, but I think more due to fatigue. Lim and Hu again came through with 74's. Lee found her stride a bit more, shooting a 77 that was on the verge of being much better. Nelsen hung in to shoot 81, and Cho shot 82. Their 306 total would have been considered a great round in prior years, and was still the low round of the day by any team.
The team's 894 total was their best at Yale by far, and their second-lowest 54-hole total in the team's history. To do that at Yale was a fantastic performance. They finished 16 strokes ahead of Longwood, 19 strokes ahead of Nova, and 31 strokes ahead of Yale. It was sweet to taste victory again after more than a year of not being in the top spot.
Such a team victory also meant that each player stacked up well against the field. Individually, Lim's 2-over par total of 218 tied for first with Yale's Seo Hee Moon. This is a pretty heady start, given that the sophomore Moon was the Ivy Leagues' first-ever Honorable Mention All-American last year – an amazing accomplishment from an impressive player. Lim had a 12-foot putt on the last hole to win, but her putt rolled over the edge, and had to settle for a tie. Hu also continued her strong play, finishing 5th overall, Cho 10th, Nelsen 11th in her debut, and Lee 25th.
To have all Harvard players in the top 25 is a strong start indeed. Now the challenge turns to maintaining and building on the success of the first tournament. School demands will get progressively tougher, and the team will have to balance those demands against traveling three of the next four weekends. The fall season goes by quickly, and the team will work hard to stay organized, studied, sharp and (relatively) rested.
Next weekend's tournament is hosted by Princeton at Springdale Golf Club – a course that has played quite tricky for the Harvard team in the past. Hopefully having one tournament already under our belts will get us sharp for the challenging green-complexes.
Big congratulations to the Harvard Women for their good start.