Harvard golf had a busy weekend, with the men heading to Princeton, NJ to compete in the Princeton Invitational, and the women heading to Rockville, Md. to compete in the Hoya Invitational.
The men’s team struggled to get in on the action, placing 13th out of 15 competitors at 31 over par. Princeton held the top two spots on the podium, with their A team claiming first place with a score of -7 to edge out their B team. Seton Hall came in third, even scoring par.
For head coach Kevin Rhoades’ team, it marked a setback after a strong performance at its previous competition, Battle at Rum Pointe in Ocean City, Md., where the team placed second out of 22 schools.
“It has been a very positive year [with] a really talented team that continues to work very hard,” said Rhoades. “The result was certainly a big surprise and something that the guys were quite disappointed and quite surprised about.”
There were some bright spots, with junior Brian Isztwan’s four-under-par performance on the Par 4 tied for best of the tournament, but inconsistency in iron play and on the greens ultimately set back the team.
“Conduct [and] the throws were actually really good,” Rhoads said, highlighting areas where the team performed well. “But, approaching and putting was difficult.
Despite struggling in New Jersey, the Crimson men are hoping to build on the solid momentum they gained in the fall, when a third-place finish at the McDonald Cup was the team’s worst overall finish.
“I think they expected to be competitive,” Rhoads said. “When the expectation is in a certain place and when we thought we would have a certain result, then when it was in a different place than they expected, it was difficult.”
Harvard hopes to learn from that setback as the final event of the season approaches, the Ivy Championships, which will be held at the Century Country Club in Purchase, NY, from April 22-24.
“It might be the best thing that ever happened to us,” Rhoads noted. “[We need to] keep the good stuff in the right place, good, and keep the few things that need cleaning in the best place possible.
Meanwhile, the women’s team performed well at the Hoya Invitational, placing second overall with a final score of +55. The Crimson were narrowly edged out by Boston University, who finished four strokes ahead by three rounds.
It was a strong performance for Harvard, especially given the treacherous scoring conditions presented by the weather at Woodmont Country Club.
“It was really cold and very windy,” said senior captain Anina Ku. “But one thing that I think our team is really good at is being extremely resilient, and so because of that we were able to persevere and eventually retire second as the best Ivy team.”
After opening its spring campaign with a 3-2 loss in its first-ever game of February against Charleston Southern University on February 19, the team saw the benefits of its early start to the season.
“It definitely helped us compare what we were doing while practicing indoors with reality, with what was happening outdoors,” Ku said. “That trip, and then our spring break trip, definitely allowed us to arrive as ready as we could for our first tournament and I think that made a big difference down the line.”
Last weekend’s strong result continues a trend for the Crimson, which has seen rapid improvements over the season. Just two weeks ago, the team finished last out of 16 teams at the PING/ASU Invitational in Tempe, Arizona.
“We’re a hugely motivated team this year and as captain it’s definitely an incredibly easy group to work with just because everyone thinks so much about what they need to improve on,” Ku said.
Harvard will be hoping to build on their momentum in the Ivy Championships, when they look to defend their 2019 title and claim their ninth-place finish overall. Both the veteran head coach and his captain expressed confidence that the Crimson will be ready for the tournament.
“As long as we keep doing what we keep doing…to be as good as we can be in two weeks from now, we’ll have a really good chance,” Ku said.
“Do the controllable things and feel good about it and try to let the confidence grow and the skills grow,” Rhoades added. “And we’ll be in our best place if we just take care of the little controllable things that we can do and let our confidence in those things take care of the outcome.”
–Writer Erignacio Fermin Perez can be reached at [email protected]