“Anything you can do, I can do better” seemed to be the mantra of the women’s golf team this weekend.
The Bulldogs won the LPGA Xavier Invitational Sunday, a day after the men’s team won their tournament this weekend. Like their counterparts, the women also won by only one stroke, this time over Florida Atlantic, finishing at 38-over-par over three rounds. No Bulldog was among the top seven in the individual standings, which added to the surprise of the victory.
The Elis came into the tournament off a disappointing result at the Yale Invitational, where the team failed to capitalize on home course advantage, finishing in sixth place. The tournament was limited to one round due to rainstorms that weekend, and the Bulldogs felt that they could have done better.
“We came off the Yale Invite obviously a little disappointed,” captain Natasha Spackey ’09 said. “Every tournament is a new tournament though, and we were very optimistic [for this weekend].”
In the two weeks since the Yale Invitational, the team focused on their games around the greens, a place which cost them many strokes at home in the soggy conditions.
“We did a lot of short game work, including chipping drills to specific spots on the green,” Cassie Boles ’11 said. “We cut down on 3-putts on the green.”
Upon arriving in Daytona, Fla., the Elis were greeted by lightning, wiping away half of the practice round on Friday. Thus, all competitors went into the tournament partially blind about how the holes would play.
With the trip down south came new conditions, including a new type of grass on the greens. In the northeast, golf courses use Bentgrass, but in the south, golf courses use Bermuda grass. To the layman this may not seem to be significant, but golfers know that such subtleties in grain difference can throw off entire putts, a fact which some Bulldogs struggled with.
“I was putting pretty well the first couple of days,” Boles said. “I’m from Florida, so I knew the Bermuda grass pretty well; it is different because there is grain to factor into where the ball breaks.”
The Elis came out in the first round and shot a 305, good for third place at that point. But the second round was Yale’s time to shine, as they tied a team record with a score of 296 on the par-72 course. The record-tying round put the Bulldogs in the lead heading into the final round Sunday.
“The last day we went in three shots up; it was a matter of staying focused,” Spackey said. “I was focused on staying in my game and on playing one shot at a time.”
But not all Elis could withhold the nerves for the final round as the team went for their first victory since last fall’s Yale Intercollegiate.
“I was pretty nervous, but it helped me stay focused on every shot knowing that every shot would make a difference,” Alyssa Roland ’11 said.
Coach Chawwadee Rompothong had prepared the team for these types of pressure-filled situations over the past few weeks, as several players explained. This lessened the team’s nerves and helped give the mental strength necessary to win.
“[Coach Rompothong] does a lot of drills that have pressure,” Roland said. “[For example], we can’t leave practice until we make eight putts in a row.”
Overall, the victory was a culmination of practice paying off during the real tournament. Still, several players noted that there was still room for additional improvement and lower scores, given the team’s putting struggles.
“I think everyone’s mental game was good this weekend,” Spackey said. “Our short games were much improved, but we still have room for improvement in putting, as seen in some difficulty with the new grass.”
The Bulldogs will get to test their putting prowess again at the Ross Resort Invitational in two weeks in Southern Pines, N.C. Looking beyond that, several players expressed excitement over the upward trajectory of the team.
“Some teams have peaked, but we are still getting better,” Boles said. “We still have a lot of room for improvement and have until April to get there.”