Yale’s women golfers posted a 650 as a team last year at the Yale Women’s Fall Intercollegiate Tournament and won a dramatic playoff with Richmond to take the title. After a season and summer of fine tuning, the Elis showed clear improvement this weekend, posting a 614 — 36 strokes better than the 2004 edition.

With almost the same field, this tournament should not have been close, and it was not, as Yale finished a distant second by 21 strokes to Rollins College of Florida.

Rollins finished with four golfers in the top five individually, including low-scorer Charlotte Campbell (69 and 74), to steal the title from the Bulldogs. Ellie Brophy ’08 paced the Bulldogs, tying for second overall with scores of 74 and 75. Lindsay Hong ’08 (76 and 77) and Cindy Shin ’07 (81 and 74) also finished in the top 10, at sixth and ninth respectively. Columbia, Georgetown and Harvard finished tied for third, 23 shots back of Yale.

Although a drop out of the top spot is significant for the Bulldogs, the results of the Yale Women’s Fall Intercollegiate are more indicative of the game of golf itself and the many unpredictable factors that determine how each golfer scores, not to mention an entire team of golfers. Veteran Lauren Ressler ’06, who tied for 12th place after rounds of 80 and 77, cited rough winds and challenging pin-placements to account for the discrepancy in scores from last year to this year. But even Ressler found it hard to explain.

“Golf doesn’t make any sense sometimes,” she said.

Ressler stressed that what matters is how you play against yourself and against the course. In that vein, although the team ended up with its second red ribbon in two weeks, the 303 the team posted on Sunday was its best round of the year, and the best round any Yale women’s team had ever put together on the Yale course. It was also good enough to tie Rollins’ Sunday score. After an opening round of 311, compared to 290 for Rollins, the Bulldogs had played themselves largely out of contention on Saturday, but Sunday’s scores proved that the small Ivy team could play with the Florida powerhouse.

Rollins is the three-time defending Division II Champion and came to New Haven expecting to win each of the last three years. Last year, the Tars struggled, finishing four shots back and having difficulties figuring out how to play the course, players said. But this year, their experience helped them to nab the win.

In a game in which players have no impact on how the other team plays, it can be frustrating and even distracting to think about the standing relative to other teams. Still, Ressler said that a win would be better for the psyche.

“If you win, great,” Ressler said. “[But] you can’t control the other girl. You can’t block her shot.”

On the heels of their strongest score of the year, irrespective of how Rollins or any other team scored, the Elis should emerge from this weekend with deserved confidence. The team has struggled to produce four successful individual performances, but Brophy was pleased by her team’s performance this week.

“It was really exciting for us to put together a good team score,” she said.

On the other side of the coin, the team preserved their record of finishing better than Ivy League teams. Brophy said that in the history of women’s Ivy League golf, no Ivy League team has ever beaten Yale or Princeton except for themselves. After Saturday’s round, when Columbia stood in second place, four strokes in front of Yale, this record was in doubt. But a second round 330 from Columbia kept the trend secure.

The team will travel to Penn State in two weeks and hopes to copy Sunday’s performance. Although the team knows it can only compete against itself, finishing ahead of Princeton would give its members even more confidence.