While the Yale men’s golf team is off to a strong start this year, the women’s team, which debuted this past weekend, has not fared as well.
In tournaments over the past week, while the Yale women’s golf team finished last at the Mason Rudolph Women’s Championship, men’s captain Joe Willis ’16 shot a +3 to lead the men to a fourth-place finish at the Inverness Intercollegiate Tournament in Toledo, Ohio. On Tuesday, the final day of the Inverness, Willis found himself competing near the top of the field after shooting 75 and 70 in the first two rounds, the latter score tying for the best in the round. He finished strongly with an even-par 71, earning him fifth-place individual honors at the tournament.
“I had a real outside chance of winning the tournament if I could post a really low score in the final round,” Willis said. “After I got off to a slow start, I knew that was not really going to happen … I tried to focus on each shot individually and on shooting a score that was going to help our team. I did not play a great final round but was able to grind and then made a surprise eagle on the last hole to get into the top five, which I was proud of in that field.”
Jonathan Lai ’17 shot +7 and Li Wang ’17 shot +9, good for 10th and 13th overall, respectively. James Park ’17 and Eoin Leonard ’19 also contributed toward Yale’s final team score of +35, with Leonard shooting +18 and Park finishing at +27. Though it was only Leonard’s second collegiate tournament, he has a wealth of experience overseas, competing for his native Ireland in U16 and U18 competitions.
“I have drawn a lot of experience from playing international golf,” Leonard said. “It is very similar. It has helped me handle the pressure of competing for a great school like Yale. Playing for Yale makes me want to be better.”
California and East Tennessee State, a pair of national powerhouses, battled for first place, with the Golden Bears (+25) finishing just three strokes ahead of the Buccaneers (+28). The No. 1 overall medalist at the tournament was Michigan State’s Mitch Rutledge, who recorded the only total score below par of the tournament at -2. The Inverness is a challenging course overall due to its length and fast greens, but Willis believes that it was a great experience for the team.
The women’s team was unable to mirror the success of the men’s team.
Five players from the women’s golf team competed over the past week, traveling to Nashville, Tennessee for an invitational hosted at Vanderbilt University. Amid tough competition that included six top-25 teams, the Bulldogs finished the three-day tournament at the bottom of the standings after shooting round scores of 310, 313 and 327.
The Elis were not competing with a full arsenal of players, however, as only Elisabeth Bernabe ’17, Jennifer Peng ’18, Sabrina Long ’19, Sara Garmezy ’17 and Julie Luo ’19 made the trek to Tennessee.
Peng had the lowest combined score for the Bulldogs, shooting a 77, 75 and 81. She was tied for 76th in the individual rankings. Bernabe cruised for her first two rounds, turning in a pair of 76 rounds, before shooting an 86 on the final day. She finished 83rd in the individual standings, one spot ahead of Long. Overall, the Bulldogs had five of the bottom 11 finishers that completed all three rounds.
“The tournament was not our best showing,” Bernabe said. “When you are competing against these [Southeastern Conference] schools, it’s challenging. The course was also playing very difficult. It was longer than most courses that we are used to and the greens were really fast, which affected the speed of our putts. But the fact that we were able to play in the tournament and compete against great competition was a good start to the fall season.”
Alabama and Northwestern duked it out for first, and Alabama was led by the top individual golfer, Lakareber Abe, who shot an extremely impressive -12 over the three days, with all three rounds under 70. Both Alabama and Northwestern finished over 100 strokes above than the Bulldogs.
One bright spot for the team, according to Bernabe, was the team bonding that occurred. Garmezy, who is originally from the Nashville area, was able to give the Bulldogs a tour of “the home of country music,” including backstage passes to the Grand Ole Opry.
“It was definitely a great homecoming,” Garmezy said. “It was kind of like a homecoming [at] The Masters because I grew up watching the Mason Rudolph, and being able to play in it now was exhilarating.”
Although the women do not compete again until Oct. 3, the men tee up on Monday at the Primland Collegiate Invitational