The competition deepens for Harvard, Ivy League
WOLCOTT, Colo. – When Sunday’s practice round was rained out Red Sky Golf Club, nearly 90 players roamed the colossal, lodge-style clubhouse or took shelter in the underground cart sheds. Harvard players, however, blended into the clothes racks. They used the time to sprawl out on the floor on one side of the pro shop and open their books.
It’s part of what sets the Crimson apart.
Harvard finished the Golfweek Women’s Conference Challenge with a final-round 14-over 304 as high winds gusted around Red Sky. It left the Crimson tied for sixth among the 18-team field. Harvard last played this event in 2010 and tied for 13th. It tied for seventh in 2009, when the tournament was played at Primm Valley (Nev.) Golf Club.
“That was kind of a strange year and not what I expected from us,” head coach Kevin Rhoads said of that 13th-place finish. “The first time we played I think we did kind of like this year, and this year was pretty good.”
In fact, a tie for sixth is the best finish for an Ivy League team in the five-year history of the Conference Challenge. Anne Cheng was the low Harvard player with a tie for eighth.
“It was tough for almost everyone here,” Rhoads said. “We held it together well even if we weren’t executing as well as we wanted. I liked our thought process and I liked how tough we were so we’ll try to build on that.”
In that same five-year period, Harvard hasn’t finished a season ranked inside the top 50 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. Its best finish was in 2009-10, when Harvard was ranked No. 68 at the end of the spring. As the Ivy League gains notoriety, Rhoads can see the effect on Harvard.
Rhoads’ team includes one senior, two juniors, two sophomores and two freshmen. It’s a young team but a talented one. Harvard beat Princeton by one shot at last year’s Ivy League Championship, and opened this season with a 12-shot victory at the Princeton Invitational. The Crimson generally can play only one tournament outside its region each fall and spring, so Rhoads likes to make those count. It’s how you build a ranking.
Harvard will close out the fall with its own Invitational beginning Oct. 13, then will play the Lehigh Invitational at Saucon Valley Country Club, which hosted the U.S. Women’s Open in 2009.
The outlook for the entire league continues to grow as Harvard and its competition continues to attract better players. It’s not just about school anymore.
“I think people now view it as a viable option whereas maybe they didn’t before,” Rhoads said. “... If you get someone who is an extremely serious student and they want to play serious golf then they know they can do that and come out with a serious degree as well.”
That doesn’t mean Harvard doesn’t continue to separate itself. Crimson tournament recaps, for instance, carry rotating bylines, but they’re all familiar. Rhoads assigns the job to a different player each tournament. That way, Harvard alumni and friends can follow the team through players’ eyes.
“For the players, they get to tell what happened at an event but also state it in a way that reflects our values and what we’re trying to be about,” Rhoads said.