Senior Perspective: Women's Golf's Claire Sheldon

Senior Perspective: Women's Golf's Claire Sheldon

Senior captains and representatives of varsity teams at Harvard contributed viewpoints based on personal experience from both their senior seasons and full varsity careers at Harvard. Each year the Senior Perspectives are compiled into a book and handed out at the Senior Letterwinner’s Dinner.

Senior Perspectives thus forms a valuable portion of each team’s legacy to sport at Harvard and to the permanent record built here by our varsity athletes. Throughout the summer, these senior essays will be posted to for all to see.

When I arrived at Harvard in the fall of 2006, the women’s golf team was on the verge of attaining a goal that had been set years before: win an Ivy Championship by 2008. Like all Harvard golf goals, this one was “SMART”: shared, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-phased. With the Ivy tournament being held in the spring season, this meant that we had two more chances to accomplish our goal.

The 2006-2007 campaign was filled with success, triumph, and also disappointment. The personal letdown of failing to qualifying to represent the team at the Ivy Championship tournament, along with our fourth-place finish at the event, left me with a bittersweet feeling at the end of an historically ground-breaking season. During that year of competition, the team had set a number of records. We had won more tournaments than we had in any other season, recorded the lowest team scoring average in program history (a full nine shots lower than the previous record), and shot the lowest individual and team scores in a single round. Yet still we wondered: what more can we do to achieve our goal next year? How can we be better prepared?

The answer, for most players, had to do with off-season training. We spent more time in the simulator, refined our team workouts to better reflect our sport’s needs, and, thanks to our seniors’ initiative, started our spring season a week earlier. That winter, whenever I hesitated before going to the simulator I told myself, “remember how you felt last spring.” As a result, I made every effort to ensure I would never that way again by creating my own SMART goal: get the most out of every practice and training session, no socializing, no regrets.

That spring when I arrived at Atlantic City Country Club, host site of the Ivy Championship, I felt satisfied in knowing that I had achieved my goal, and that just as I had made every effort to prepare for the tournament, so too had each of my team mates. That weekend, which included an even-par second-round score of 288 on our way to winning the first ever Ivy League Women’s Golf Championship in Harvard’s history, was one of the most gratifying experiences of my life.

The game of golf is filled with valuable life lessons, but more than simply allowing me to play the game and hoping that I learn a few skills along the way, the Harvard golf team has helped me get the very most out of my experience in golf. Being a member of a team of eight women who compete in what is traditionally considered an individual sport has brought new meaning to the game. Working my hardest toward a goal I care about so deeply, and knowing that my teammates are doing the same, has pushed and encouraged me to be a better athlete and a better person.

Growing up playing golf at The Country Club, where the Harvard team also practices, was an incredible privilege. In my youth, I spent countless hours on the course, many completely alone, developing skill and character. But though alone, I was never lonely. I had few friends who played golf, and I loved that golf was, for the most part, completely mine. So when I made the decision to come to Harvard I had some reservations about sharing an experience that had been uniquely mine with so many other people. As my four years on the team are coming to an end, I find that of all the hours I have spent at The Country Club, the hours that stand apart are those spent with my teammates. Every day I come to practice knowing that I will be greeted by people who genuinely care for me and want to help me become the best I can be. I love that I have been able to share something so special to me with the friends and coaches who have had such a significant impact on my life.

Being a member of the women’s golf team has been, without question, the most meaningful experience of my four years at Harvard. I am forever grateful for the opportunities Harvard golf has given me and the people I have been so fortunate to know during my Harvard golf experience. Thank you all. I am so proud to have been able to contribute to the tradition of Harvard Athletics.