After one step forward in their last tournament, it was one step back for the women’s golf team this weekend.
The Bulldogs finished fifth at the Ross Resorts Invitational on Monday and Tuesday, falling from the second place position they held after Monday’s two rounds. The Elis shot 948 for the weekend, 19 shots behind first place Nova Southeastern University and three shots behind third place Rollins College. Cassie Boles ’11 led the Bulldogs, finishing in fourth place individually, five shots behind first-place winner Stacey Miller of Illinois State.
The Elis came into the tournament riding high after winning the LPGA Xavier Invitational almost two weeks earlier. That tournament saw the Bulldogs avenge their earlier sixth place disappointment at the Yale Invitational, as the team showed improvements in their mental game as they held onto their three-shot lead heading into the final round. This resilience under pressure would not hold in North Carolina, though, which became the frustration of the tournament for the Bulldogs.
Much like at the Xavier Invitational, the Elis came out swinging, figuratively and literally. The team was one shot behind leader Nova Southeastern after the first round, and continued to stalk the Sharks through the second round, finishing the day two strokes behind the leaders in second place.
“We all played pretty solid [on Monday]; Cassie did really well, which helped,” Harriet Owers-Bradley ’11 said. “I don’t think any of us thought we played well but it was good enough to put us up there.”
Tuesday’s final round seemed to be set up for the Bulldogs to make a triumphant surge to the top, much like they did in their strong performance in Daytona, Fla., two weeks before. Unfortunately, any hope of triumph soon turned to tragedy on the golf course. Out of the four players’ scores, three were in the 80s, with only captain Natasha Spackey ’09 breaking 80 with a round of 79.
“I have no idea what happened today,” Owers-Bradley said. “I don’t know how my round added to that high of a number; I didn’t think I played that badly.”
Spackey started her round with five bogeys and one double bogey, which exemplified the Bulldogs’ tumultuous rounds. Spackey was able to come back with four birdies to salvage her scorecard, but other Eli players were not so lucky. Overall, Spackey said the greens gave the team difficulty.
“The greens were very quick and had a lot of subtle undulations,” Spackey said. “The ball could easily roll away from you with the slightest touch.”
The final round was a particular change in fortune for Boles, who went into the third round leading the tournament by two shots and a tournament title well within grasp.
“I had a lot of putts that were falling [on Monday],” Boles said. “I had 17 pars and one bogey during the second round.”
On Tuesday, though, Boles said that the putts simply wouldn’t fall. Her lead quickly slipped away as she shot a final round 82.
“The course did not beat me,” Boles said. “I started doubting my play a little bit after initial struggles; yesterday if I got a bad swing, I would hit a good putt and get back on track.”
Overall, several players expressed their disappointment in the team’s mental game at the tournament. The team cited their mental game as a strength at the Xavier Invitational, but now considered it a general weakness as they faltered under the pressure of the final round.
“We were over-focused today and trying too hard,” Boles said. “It has to come naturally. We were too determined and too set on it.”
Looking ahead, the Bulldogs enter the winter offseason, where they will try to improve on the mistakes of the fall season and prepare for the Ivy League Championship in the spring. While improving short games and tightening swings look to be on the agenda according to players, the elusive mental game improvement looms as a goal.
“Mental game is hard to work on; it is nothing tangible,” Boles said. “That will be our one big mission this offseason.”
While the fifth place finish at the Ross Resorts Invitational for now may frustrate the Eli players, at least Boles thinks that the final round disappointment can be turned into a positive.
“This tournament will give us extra motivation,” Boles said. “We want to make sure this won’t happen again.”