By Courtney Hooton '16
This weekend Harvard Women's Golf participated in the Golfweek Conference Challenge. The conference leaders from 18 leagues were invited to play the challenging Red Sky golf course 25 minutes west of Vail, Colorado. The tournament was contested over a tough Tom Fazio layout characterized by hilly terrain and heavily sloped large greens. The swirling winds, and an elevation of approximately 8,000 feet kept the team on its toes. The weather conditions ranged from calm but frigid morning temperatures to mid-60's with high wind speeds.
The first day, the team got a taste of how challenging this course could be. With temperatures starting in the low 40's, the team had to work hard to get anything going. Scoring for every team except defending champion Pepperdine proved to be challenging. The Waves returned all five starters to a course that requires lots of local knowledge. The experience showed as Pepperdine shot 1-over 289 while no other team broke 300. The Crimson shot their highest round of the year, yet sat in 7th place. Freshman Anne Cheng '17 led with an impressive 75. Cheng felt confident in her game, despite that a few errant shots let to a couple double-bogeys. Junior Tiffany Lim followed closely behind Cheng with a 76. Lim felt good about her round on the perilous Red Sky and had three birdies to show for it. Bonnie Hu '14 came in with an 80 and sophomores Courtney Hooton and Christine Lin '16 carded 81 and 88 respectively. Lin battled mightily in spite of illness.
On day 2, the team was greeted by a little sunshine in the Vail Mountains. All were excited to put their course knowledge to the test and take on Red Sky once more. Little did they know that the pin positions would be even more severe than Day 1. Multiple players in the field experienced 4-putt greens, and one player needed seven putts to negotiate a green. Cheng and Hu impressed with matching 74s. Cheng continued her excellent ball-striking, though she felt the challenge of the pin placements with five three putts. Hu felt she was able to maintain consistently good play with a few birdies, not letting the deceptive breaks get the best of her. Hooton also saw improvement from her first roun d in being able to predict the greens a little easier and had a steady long game. Lin was unfortunately still fighting illness and ran into a couple bad holes ending with an 83. Lin felt optimistic that her game was at place where she could still find improvement. Lim rounded off the group with an 84. Lim missed a few greens but focused on process by keeping her head in the game going into the final day.
On the third and final day, temperatures were in the high 40's when the field began play. The Crimson teed off in a shotgun format and eagerly took on the course. Heavy winds picked up towards the second half of the round but Harvard handled themselves well as each player focused on "feel" with putting and what they had been working on with their respective swings. Cheng, Lim, Lin, and Hooton all finished the tournament well and each scored 76. Their ability to avoid high scores on the final holes in spite of wind was impressive. Hu had four birdies, and unfortunately three doubles, but still managed to shoot an impressive 78.
The Crimson shot 304, and finished in sixth place which was the best finish for the team in three showings in this tournament to date. While this wasn't a low score for the team, each member was proud of how she handled the difficult layout and conditions, and Harvard placed in the top third of a strong out-of-region field.
The Golfweek Conference Challenge was a great opportunity for the Crimson. It provided a forum for Harvard Women's Golf to showcase the program while competing with some of the best programs in the nation, in one of the most beautiful locations in the country. While the golf was incredible, it was also an absolute pleasure to experience Vail (which included daily smore creations over the fireplace). The team will have lasting memories of the Vail trip - playing partners from schools all over the country, to treacherous pin locations, to breathtaking views. All of this would not have been possible without the generosity of the Friends of Harvard Golf. From all the women of Harvard Golf, we express our extreme gratitude.