Ever since its inception at Bethpage Golf Club in 1997, the Ivy League Women’s Golf Championship has been dominated by two teams: Yale and Princeton. Unlike in football, in the world of Ivy League women’s golf, Princeton does matter — just not as much as Yale. Out of nine possible titles, Yale has taken five to Princeton’s four.
The Princeton Invitational, which will be played at the Springdale Golf course Sept. 24 and Sept. 25, has traditionally been a good measure of who is the dominant team in the Ivy League. As it is the first meeting of the two teams, this year’s tournament takes on added importance, Yale interim head coach Chawadee Rompothong ’00 said.
“This tournament will set the pace for the year,” Rompothong said.
And after two years of being the metaphorical Mickelsons to the Tigers, placing second at both the Princeton Invitational and the Ivy Championships, the Bulldogs would love to send a message early in the season. Although the teams will face each other several times later in the season on other courses, Rompothong says that a win on Princeton’s home course would be sweet indeed.
It would certainly help to ease the pain of last year’s Ivy League Championship, in which Princeton bettered Yale by a wide 35-stroke margin. Having lost no seniors from last year’s team and bolstered by two solid freshman recruits, the Elis feel as if the balance has shifted in their direction. Captain January Romero ’06 leads a team of talented upperclassmen including defending Ivy League champion Cindy Shin ’07, former captain Lauren Ressler ’06, and NGCA all-American scholar athlete Marion Stanley ’07. After very productive freshman campaigns, Ellie Brophy ’08 and Lindsey Wong ’08 both figure to play key roles on this year’s squad. Brophy’s powerful long game and Wong’s precise work around the greens are likely to be crucial to any title run.
Princeton, on the other hand, lost its three seniors who finished in the top 10 of last year’s Ivy League Championship. The Tigers are counting on freshman recruits, most notably 2005 Women’s U.S. Open qualifier Marlowe Boukis.
Although golf is definitely a team sport, Shin said that team matchups often cease to matter on the course where each player must make the shots.
“I try to compete only against myself and focus on my game,” Shin said. “As a team, we can only worry about our team and our games; you can’t really focus on the other team.”
Regardless of what happens next weekend, the rivalry has already taken on a different complexion with Rompothong substituting for Mary Moan as head coach of the Bulldogs. Both have strong connections to the rivalry, but in different ways. Rompothong and Moan both played in the inaugural Ivy League Women’s Championship in 1997, but at the time, Rompothong was just beginning her distinguished career as a freshman at Yale and Moan was ending hers at Princeton. Moan won that first championship as a Tiger and stayed close to Princeton coach Eric Stein.
Needless to say, Rompothong feels no such love for the orange and black. As a former Yale student and professional golfer, Rompothong is especially well-suited to coaching her team in golf and academic matters, and the girls have responded. With a new workout regime and new practice techniques, players feel that as a team they are improving under Rompothong’s guidance.
“The girls have been very supportive,” said Rompothong. “I’m very excited for this year. [The girls] have been able to gel really well, and all have excellent golf swings.”
Although Golf Digest Magazine recently ranked Princeton ahead of Yale as the best academic-first college for golf, this year’s Bulldogs seem primed to prove the pundits wrong. After a promising first tournament last weekend at Notre Dame and two full weeks of preparation, the girls are course-tested and well rested. Jessica Shapiro ’06 is very confident going into next weekend about what she calls the best team she has been a part of in four years.
“We’ve got our act together and we’re ready to dominate,” Shapiro said.
The Princeton Invitational will be the Bulldogs’ chance to lay their claim to Ivy League dominance and set the tone for rest of the season.