After a tough ending to its 2014–15 season, the Yale women’s golf team will hit the links again today for the opening round of the Mason Rudolph Championship at Vanderbilt University.
The Bulldogs came within one stroke of winning the 2015 Ivy League Championship in April. Yale (+60) finished behind rival Harvard (+59), narrowly missing an automatic berth to the NCAA Regional Tournament. Since then, though, the Bulldogs have lost some of their most talented players.
During the competition, the Bulldogs were led by then-captain Marika Liu ’15, who was named the 2015 Ivy League Player of the Year. She tied for the lowest score (+11) at the tournament and she also won the Princeton Invitational in fall 2014, competing against 11 other teams, including five Ivy schools. Liu was a first-team All-Ivy selection for her final three years on the team.
In addition to Liu, the Elis will also be without fellow graduates Shreya Ghei ’15 and Carolina Rouse ’15.
“All of last year’s seniors were crucial players in creating a great team atmosphere and in keeping morale high, which are very important to the success of a team,” captain Deanna Song ’16 said. “They were also some of my closest mentors so I definitely miss their presence.”
Although it will be difficult to replace the trio of Liu, Ghei and Rouse, the Bulldogs are returning a solid, experienced core from last season of Elisabeth Bernabe ’17, Sandy Wongwaiwate ’17 and Jennifer Peng ’18. Over the course of her freshman and sophomore campaigns, Bernabe played her best golf in high-pressure situations, finishing eighth (+15) at the Ivy League Tournament last season and third (+10) the previous year. Fellow junior Wongwaiwate has notched seven top-10 tournament finishes over the last two seasons, while Peng was the 2015 Ivy League Rookie of the Year.
“I have confidence. I am not really scared going into tournaments anymore because I have been there before,” Bernabe said. “When you see some familiar faces out there and you know that you have beaten them, that gives me confidence. My teammates [and I] have to remember that we are just as good as any other golfer. We can win and we can do well.”
Song is the lone senior on the roster, and returnees Sara Garmezy ’17, Jayshree Sarathy ’18 and Julia Yao ’17, a staff reporter for the News, will also look to contribute to the Elis’ success. For Garamezy, a Nashville native, the tournament is a homecoming of sorts.
The remaining spots on the roster belong to three newcomers: Julie Luo ’19, Sabrina Long ’19 and Sydney Babiak ’19. Babiak is a highly touted golfer from California, where she made it to the semifinals of the state’s Women’s Amateur Championship. She also served as the captain of her high school boys’ golf team during her junior and senior years. Luo is a four-time all-state selection from Virginia, and Long competed in the 2014 United States Girl’s Junior Tournament and won two state championships in Georgia.
Bernabe, Peng, Garmezy, Luo and Long are representing Yale today in Nashville. The 17-team tournament field features such perennial powers as Baylor, Alabama, Louisiana State, Northwestern, South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Virginia, each of which is ranked in the top-25 in the country. The Bulldogs enter the tournament ranked No. 64 in the nation, but could improve with a good showing against the tougher competition.
“The team and I cannot express how excited we are to be playing at Vanderbilt,” head coach Chawwadee Rompothong ’00 said. “It is one of the premier events in college golf. This will be great for our team to be able to compete side-by-side with the best players in college golf. Hopefully, we will be able to show them that we can play too and at worst, the team will know what to work towards as we try to climb up the rankings.”
Rompothong added that she would like to see her team shoot below 300 each time they tee up this season.
The three-day Vanderbilt Invitational will conclude on Sunday.