By Kevin Rhoads, Women's Golf Coach
The Harvard Women's Golf team's second tournament of the 2011-2012 season brought them to Princeton, N.J. The Tigers hosted their annual Princeton Invitational at its normal venue: Springdale Golf Club, which borders the Princeton campus.
Springdale is a William Flynn-designed course, and it continues to challenge the players every year. Flynn had involvement in the design and building of such iconic courses as Shinnecock Hills, Merion, Cherry Hills, Huntington Valley, Philadelphia Country Club, and The Country Club. Every year the greens tend to confound the players – both with their raised edges and their challenging undulations.
This year the weather also played a big factor. Although the teams escaped from the forecasted rain during the tournament, heavy rains in the days before, the morning of the practice round, and overnight each night made the course play the longest in recent memory. The tees were set at a healthy 6133 yards, but the rain made it play at the outer limits of normal distances.
Coming off a very strong win at Yale, the Crimson were looking to continue their good play. They had a challenging week logistically in which their academic workload increased, they hosted recruits, upperclassmen had job interviews, and they had to have normal internal qualifying and skill-building practice. They were balancing a lot.
Similar to last weekend at Yale, Saturday was a 36-hole day. In round one Harvard got off to a good start relative to the conditions. They shot 302 – their second lowest round ever as a team at Springdale – to lead the field by 1 stroke. Freshman Tiffany Lim '15 (San Jose, Calif.) continued her fantastic start to her young Harvard career, shooting even-par 72 to hold the individual lead. Bonnie Hu '14 (Freemont, Calif.), and Brenna Nelsen '15 (Monte Sereno, Calif.) both shot solid 76's. Senior Captain Christine Cho '12 (La Crescenta, Calif.) rounded out the counting scores with a 78, and Julie MacDonell '14 (Sayville, N.Y.) shot 89 in her first tournament of the season.
Harvard again played well in the second round, shooting 301, but they were only able to extend their lead to 5 shots. Lim shot a scorching 2-under par 70 to again set the pace individually. Hu improved by two as well in the afternoon, shooting 74. Nelsen shot 77, and MacDonell improved to 80, while Cho shot 82. At this point the team was 4 strokes better than its 36-hole record at Princeton, but only 5 shots ahead of the competition. Coming off a 6th place finish at Yale in which they put up some good numbers, Brown University was in 2nd place and was full of confidence. They were in a group of 4 teams that were within 10 shots of the lead going into day 2, and Harvard was going to have to play well in round three in order to secure the victory.
On day three, the field dodged the rain again, but the greens didn't get any easier. Holed putts of longer than three feet were very hard to come by, and lip-outs abounded. Unless one hit a high number of greens, scoring was very difficult indeed. Lim, Hu, and Nelsen again played very well for the Crimson, shooting 71, 74, and 75 respectively. MacDonell and Cho hung in despite struggling at times, shooting 82 and 83 respectively. Harvard shot 303 for the day, and hung on to secure the victory by 4 strokes over upstart Brown.
Individually, Lim shot 213 (-1) to run away with the individual title. Like the rest of the field, she hit many good putts that didn't go in, but her ball striking helped make things easier for her. She averaged 13.5 greens in regulation per round – very likely the best in the field. In winning by 6 shots over Michelle Piyapattra of Columbia, she has finished first or tied for first in each of her first two events for Harvard.
Harvard has now won their first two tournaments of the year for the first time since the '08-09 season. Their 906 total at Princeton was 14 shots lower than their team historic best at Springdale, and they set that mark in a year where the course played the toughest in recent years. However, the margin of victory was only four shots over a team that has never won an Ivy Championship. The competition in the Ivy League gets much stronger every year, and the team will have to keep working very hard to sustain some of the early season success.
This week the team again has an abbreviated week of practice before leaving for Penn State on Thursday. They play 18 holes a day on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. They'll be working hard to have another strong finish at Happy Valley.
Thank you for your continued support!
1 Tiffany Lim 72 70 71 213
T8 Bonnie Hu 76 74 74 224
T13 Brenna Nelsen 76 77 75 228
T40 Christine Cho 78 82 84 244
T48 Julie MacDonell 89 80 83 252
1 Harvard 302 301 303 906
2 Brown 303 305 302 910
3 Columbia 305 305 305 915
4 Rollins College 303 308 305 916
5 Pennsylvania 305 308 312 925
6 Princeton 310 316 300 926
7 Seton Hall 310 310 313 933
8 Dartmouth 313 314 309 936
9 Rutgers 316 308 316 940
10 Lehigh University 315 318 323 956
11 Siena College 313 320 331 964
12 Mount St. Mary's 347 342 355 1044