Harvard Women's Golf Opens Spring at Ole Miss Rebel Intercollegiate

Harvard Women's Golf Opens Spring at Ole Miss Rebel Intercollegiate

Christine Lin and the Crimson will compete at the Rhode Island Country Club April 14-15 (Harvard Athletic Communications).

By Claire Sheldon, Assistant Coach, and Kevin Rhoads, Head Coach

The Harvard women played their first full-field, multi-round event of the spring season April 5-7.  Continuing with the trend of playing in stronger events, the team traveled to the University of Mississippi to play in the Ole Miss Rebel Intercollegiate for the second year in a row.  Though the travel time is significant, the opportunity to play against top ranked teams in a three-day event in a warmer climate is well worth it. 
Being invited back to Ole Miss was a real treat.  Not only is the Course at Ole Miss a beauty, but the entire event is a display of Southern Hospitality – the coaches and staff are incredibly organized and welcoming.  The 6,313 yard course played longer than usual this year, as the long winter and recent rain saturated what is traditionally a dry, firm course.  In fact, the course was so wet that tournament officials elected to play "lift-clean-and-place" through the green all three days of the event.  Longer courses put additional pressure on every part of the game, especially the elements that most directly influence scoring: the short game. Hitting longer clubs on approach shots makes hitting greens more challeng ing and often leads to longer first putts.  Ole Miss is particularly tough if you miss greens, especially this year given that the dormant grass was tight but the ground was very wet, so any contact mistakes hitting to sloped greens got magnified.  However, all of these factors were out of our control.
The tournament field featured a number of top ranked teams, including #21 Tulane, #24 Baylor, and #28 LSU, making it one of the stronger fields the Crimson has faced in recent years.  Harvard, playing alongside Troy University and the University of Memphis, started off strong on Friday. 
Paced by a pair of 74s and solid ball striking from sophomore Brenna Nelsen ('15 Monte Sereno, CA) and freshman Courtney Hooton ('16, Del Mar, CA), Harvard came in with a first round score of 299, good enough to finish the day in 8th place.  Junior Captain Bonnie Hu ('14, Fremont, CA) and freshman Christine Lin ('16, Austin, TX) followed with scores of 75 and 76, respectively.  Sophomore Tiffany Lim ('15, San Jose, CA) shot 83.
Uncharacteristically, Harvard's score increased each of the following days.  Gusting winds on the second day helped dry the course somewhat but added a new challenge and Harvard slipped from 8th to 11th. Hu, who shot 74, and Lim, who shot 82, did well to shave a stroke off their previous day's score.  Hooton came in with 76, followed closely by Lin with 77 and Nelsen with 80.  Despite the difference between their cumulative scores the first two days, each Crimson golfer continued to make significant progress on her game.  Each player's round featured a number of "great," "good," and "good enough" shots (a system of categorization we picked up from Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott during our sessions over spring break) and a few funny shots.  As we play more and get more reps, the number of "great" and "good" shots will increase, the quality of our "good enough" shots will improve, and we will be able to play more good holes during a given round and tournament.  Keeping this in mind, Saturday's round was an important step in the right direction.   The team practiced hard after the round, taking advantage of the good weather and the opportunity to get the reps necessary to continue to sharpen their game.  
The team faced similar challenges on Sunday, and even though their overall results did not improve, each player continued to make progress on her game.  Lin led the way, finishing with a 75.  Hooton, who made a total of 11 birdies during her three rounds, finished with 76, while Hu shot 78 and Nelsen shot 79.  Lim was able to knock another shot from her score to finish with 81.  A final round score of 308 meant that Harvard would finish the tournament tied for 11th place. 

In comparing the team's results this weekend to their scores from the fall, it would be easy to come to the conclusion that this was an unproductive or disappointing weekend.  That would be a HUGE mistake.  Of course, it is always fun to score and perform well, especially in bigger events.  However, this was a great event for us.  The team was able to take advantage of 3 days of great weather on a demanding golf course to help them continue on a trajectory that will allow their game to peak just before the Ivy Championship.

Furthermore, the team did an outstanding job of focusing on the controllable factors and staying patient.  Having the correct outlook and mental approach is easy when things are going well; it's a lot harder when things aren't going as well as you might like.  Moving forward, it will be important to continue to stay patient and manage expectations, and to continue to put in the necessary effort.
The ladies will be back in action next weekend at Rhode Island Country Club, in Barrington, RI for the Brown Invitational.  Both Lim and Hooton played in the 2011 US Women's Amateur at RICC.