Cheng Leads Women's Golf to 13th-Place Finish at NCAA Central Regional

Cheng Leads Women's Golf to 13th-Place Finish at NCAA Central Regional

Anne Cheng finished tied for 10th among individuals at the NCAA Central Regional (Bruce Waterfield).

STILLWATER, Okla. -- The Harvard women's golf team posted its best finish in program history, as the Crimson finished 13th at the NCAA Central Regional, hosted by Oklahoma State at the Karsten Creek Golf Club.

Harvard, which shot a collective 306 Saturday, finished with a three-day score of 911. UCLA won the regional by shooting 875. The Crimson finished ahead of such notable programs as North Carolina (916), Miami (930), Texas (931) and LSU (936).

Freshman Anne Cheng placed tied for 10th among the individuals, shooting 219 for the week and finishing even. 

Sophomore Christine Lin was tied for 32nd (226), followed by senior Brenna Nelsen (235), junior Tiffany Lim (236) and senior captain Bonnie Hu (238).

By Bonnie Hu '14

With their Ivy Championship victory at Baltusrol two weeks ago, Harvard Women's Golf became the first 'three-peat' Ivy League Champions in the history of Ivy League women's golf.  The Ivy Championship earned the Crimson a trip to the NCAA Central Regional in Stillwater, Oklahoma at Karsten Creek Golf Club -- OSU's home course.  The NCAA regional tournaments consist of 24 teams.  The top 8 teams earn a ticket to the NCAA National Championship.  

As one of three regionals, the tournament field was comprised of one-third of the strongest 72 teams in the country.  The team leader board (below) includes the national ranking of each team competing.  

Karsten Creek is one of the most difficult college courses in the country, with tight fairways lined with unimaginable challenges and undulating greens. The course requires accuracy from tee to green, with little room on either side of the narrow fairways before the hazard and "junk" take over.  In spite of the numerous volunteers to forecaddie, there were numerous lost balls and resulting double bogeys throughout the tournament field.

In a great testament to their process focus, the Crimson held up well while contending with the high temperatures, ball-swallowing junk, stiff competition and the rigors of final exams.  It was noteworthy that every team member took at least one exam on the road.  In spite of the challenges, Harvard earned the second best NCAA regional finish ever by an Ivy League team.

The Crimson began Day 1 with a team total of 308, enough to put the Crimson in 15th place. Freshman standout and 2014 Ivy League Champion Anne Cheng '17 led the way with a solid consistent round of even par 72. In her own words, her "iron shots were accurate and beautiful." Following Cheng was sophomore Christine Lin '16 with a good ball-striking day that resulted in a 77 and junior Brenna Nelsen '15 with many par-saving putts that resulted in a 78. Junior Tiffany Lim '15 and senior captain Bonnie Hu '14 hovered around their "ideal performance state" (IPS) throughout the day and shot 81 and 83 respectively to round out the rest of the lineup.   Following the round, studies became the priority to prep for the following day's exams.  

On Day 2, everyone on the team rallied to improve on their previous team total by 11 strokes, finishing with a score of 297 and moving up to 14th place. Fortunately, the forecasted thunderstorms didn't materialize an d the temperature remained at a comfortable low-80 degrees. Again leading the way with her consistent play, Cheng shot 1-over 73 and even managed to squeeze in some studying during her free time waiting between holes. Thanks to her greatly improved short game and putting, Hu turned out a 2-over-par 74, accomplishing her goal of keeping the ball in play the entire day. Lim and Lin followed closely with a pair of 75's that resulted from solid ball striking, a winning strategy for Karsten Creek. Nelsen plugged through a difficult start to her round to salvage a 79 by the end. According to her, a weed-wacker would have been immensely helpful during the round. After the round, the team returned to the hotel to clean up before taking their exams that afternoon.

Day 3 featured many tough pin positions and significant afternoon wind. The Crimson continued to improve on its placement, ultimately finishing in 13th place with a score of 306. Both Cheng and Lin contributed scores of 74 . Cheng struggled with her chipping but still managed to finish her final 8 holes 2-under par. In typical Anne Cheng fashion, it was a "fun and happy day." Cheng posted an impressive 10th place finish in the field of 126 of the best players in the country.  Lin gave herself many good looks at birdie throughout her round and dropped quite a few for both par and birdie.  Lin finished the tournament in 32nd place individually.  Though her score did not reflect it, Nelsen had her best day of all-around play, sticking many of her approach shots. Unfortunately putts were not rolling in for her, but she still finished with a very solid 78. Lim and Hu also struggled to make putts on the final day, and the two finished with scores of 80 and 81 respectively. After the round ended, the team rushed to grab a quick 10-minute dinner at Chipotle before their second round of exams.

With its 3-day total of 911 and 13th place, the team had its best finish ever at NCAA Regionals. The Crimson was 7 strokes short of finishing in the top 50% of the field and 9 strokes short of advancing to NCAA Nationals.  In the process, Harvard outplayed seven teams ranked in the top 52 in the country including #15 LSU and #22 UNC.  This finish was only one position shy of the 12th place finish posted by Princeton in 2005 -- the best finish by an Ivy League women's golf team in NCAA regionals.  

Thank you to all the family members who made the trek to Oklahoma to support the team. Having you all there made the experience that much more meaningful for everyone on the team and served as an amazing ending to our 2013-2014 season. Special thanks to the OSU staff who proctored the 7 exams during the trip and the many Karsten Creek volunteers who made the smooth running of the tournament possible. And finally, the team's achievements from this year would not have been possible without the support of the many Friends of Harvard Golf.  Thank you everyone.