Yale’s men’s and women’s golf teams recently kicked off their respective spring seasons with the men opening at The Goodwin, hosted by Stanford, this past weekend and the women teeing off two weeks ago at BYU’s Entrada Classic.
In a 26-school field consisting of seven ranked schools, including No. 1 Southern California, the men finished in last with a three-round score of 896, which was 56 over par. The women, meanwhile, finished 12th in a field of 14 schools shooting a 965, or 101 over par.
“We were obviously expecting to play better than we did,” Jake Leffew ’19 said. “At the same time, this was our first event after the offseason and we needed to knock off the rust.”
Despite the men’s final result, the Bulldogs did demonstrate improvement over the course of the tournament. After shooting a 305 on Thursday, Yale followed up with scores of 297 and 294 on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
The women also lowered their score between the first and second rounds, shedding 13 strokes between the two, though the Elis backtracked in the final round for scores of 328–315–322.
Captain Joe Willis ’16 led the men, finishing the tournament at +12. The senior opened the tournament with a 78, hampered by a triple bogey on the fourth hole. Friday was a different story, however, as he recorded Yale’s lowest score of the entire tournament with a 71, consisting of two birdies and only three bogeys. Through 15 holes, Willis was one under par, though he bogied the 16th and 18th; still, the three bogies were the fewest in a round of any Yale competitor on the weekend.
Eoin Leonard ’19, looking to build on a strong fall campaign, led Yale through the first day of competition with a 74, and would ultimately finish three strokes behind Willis for second best on the squad. Trailing Leonard by one shot was Li Wang ’17, who finished the weekend at +16. Wang recovered well from a difficult +11 first round, which included a quadruple bogey on the first hole, to record a 73 and 72 the following two days on the par-70 course, including Yale’s only eagle of the tournament, on the seventh hole in the second round.
Leffew and Wang tied for the most birdies in the tournament as each tallied eight total. Leffew doubled his birdie total in the third round alone, racking up four en route to an impressive 72 after rounds of 79 and 77. In each of the three rounds, Leffew finished three strokes better on the front nine compared to the back nine.
“I struggled with my putting and chipping the first two days,” said Leffew, who shot four under-pars on par-5s in the tournament. “After the second round, I worked on both and found something that clicked.”
Rounding out the men’s team, Jonathan Lai ’17 had a particularly strong back nine on Thursday, tallying three birdies in a four-hole span. He finished at +22, two strokes behind teammate James Nicholas ’19.
All four of Nicholas’ birdies on the weekend came on the back nine, with three coming on par-5s.
“This was freshman James Nicholas’ first time in the starting five since he divides his time between the football team in the fall and the golf team in the spring,” head coach Colin Sheehan said. “It was good to see him join the other two freshmen, Jake Leffew and Eoin Leonard, as players capable of making a contribution to the starting five.”
On the women’s side, Elisabeth Bernabe ’17 paced Yale with a 240, which was 24 over par. The junior lowered her score each day of the tournament, shooting 83–79–78 on the way to finishing tied for 39th overall. She birdied the first hole of the course, a par-5, in all three rounds.
Finishing close behind her were Sandy Wongwaiwate ’17 and Deanna Song ’16, who shot +26 and +27, respectively. Wongwaiwate struggled in a first round that included four double bogeys and a triple bogey, but she quickly recovered to tally a 78 and 79 the latter two rounds. On the other hand, Song was the Bulldogs’ leader through two days, having shot a 77 in both rounds, but slipped in the third and final round, shooting an 89.
The other three Yale competitors were Jayshree Sarathy ’18, Sydney Babiak ’19 and Sara Garmezy ’17, who would finish within four strokes of each other. Sarathy wound up at +31, shooting consistently in the low 80s, while her freshman teammate Babiak finished one stroke behind. Babiak had a very strong first round finishing with a +6, including Yale’s lone eagle, but followed that up with an 84 and 86 the next two rounds. Garmezy, whose final round included both of her birdies for the tournament, shot 84–84–83, putting her at +35 for the weekend.
As a team, the Yale men performed very well on par-3 holes, placing them in the top half of teams in those holes with a 3.24 average, finishing 18 strokes over par. However, the Bulldogs ranked dead last on par-4s and fourth to last on par-5s.
On the women’s side, practically all of the Bulldogs performed significantly better on the front nine than they did on the back nine throughout all three rounds.
The men’s tournament winner was UC Davis, whose -13 was 10 strokes better than the nearest school, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. BYU, ranked No. 36, won the women’s tournament, shooting +24 as a team.
“While players didn’t play their best — in particular putting on the greens — we realize it was in the context of a very strong field during a very early stage of spring season,” Sheehan said.
The Yale men now have two weeks to prepare for the Princeton Invitational on April 9, while the women return to action April 1 for the Ole Miss Rebel Intercollegiate.