While much of the golf world was focused on Augusta National and the Masters Championship this past weekend, the Yale men’s and women’s golf teams had their own business to attend to, with the men competing in the Princeton Invitational and the women contending for the River Landing Classic.
With all Ivies except for Dartmouth in attendance in New Jersey, the Yale men tied for third overall with host Princeton in a field of 15 schools, shooting 10 over par and just one stroke behind Harvard. Meanwhile, 13 women’s teams travelled to Wallace, North Carolina, including a trio of Ivy foes in Penn, Harvard and defending league champion Columbia. Yale ultimately took 12th place by shooting 84 strokes over par, 50 strokes behind tournament winner No. 30 East Carolina.
The highlight for the men, who had won this tournament five of the past six years, was the particularly strong performance of Li Wang ’17. Wang’s 138 (-4) over the two rounds of competition was good for fourth-best individually at the tournament, only four strokes behind the leader. He registered seven of Yale’s 25 birdies, which ranked third most of any school at the invitational.
“I think that the team played well overall,” Wang said. “I am proud of the way we handled the adverse conditions on [Saturday] when it was cold, windy and raining throughout the round. We dug in deep and managed to post a decent score that kept us in the tournament.”
Wang was very consistent in Saturday’s round, which was originally scheduled for 36 holes but cut to 18 due to weather, as he shot par on both halves of the course with a birdie and only one bogey in a consistent showing.
His second day was even stronger: He shot a 67 (-4), with six birdies — including four in a five-hole span on the back nine. His 67 on Sunday was two strokes off the best individual performance of the weekend, a first-round 65 completed by Duke’s Jake Shuman.
“I did a good job of eliminating unnecessary mistakes from my scorecard this weekend,” said Wang, who finished in a tie for ninth at last year’s Princeton Invitational. “I only made three bogeys the entire tournament so any birdies I made allowed me to go under par. The course wasn’t playing too difficult but you had to know which holes to attack and which to play for pars.”
Eoin Leonard ’19 had the second-best scorecard for the Bulldogs, shooting a 148, behind a 72 and 76. Five of his seven birdies over the weekend came on the front nine, including twice on the par-4 third hole. Joe Willis ’16 finished one stroke behind his freshman teammate at 149, shooting a low of 73 in the first round.
Jonathan Lai ’17 had a difficult start to his weekend, shooting an 81 on Saturday after opening the round at four over par through three holes. However, Lai rebounded dramatically on Sunday and shot a 70 (-1), including four birdies. Will Bernstein ’18, however, failed to improve upon his first-round effort, shooting a 73 on Saturday only to follow up with a 78 on Sunday. Two-sport athlete James Nicholas ’19, who spent the fall with the Yale football program, continued to impress in his first season with the golf team after shooting a 74 in both rounds, behind six birdies.
Yale finished as one of six schools within three strokes of each other, one being No. 42 Georgia Tech. The sole other ranked school in attendance was No. 20 Duke, which won with a 543 (-25).
“Our lineup is very deep, and if we all play to our potential, there is no reason why we can’t bring home the Ivy League title this year,” Wang said.
The women were led by Jennifer Peng ’18, who managed to shoot a team-low 229, which was 13 over par at the three-round event. Peng bookended her weekend with two very strong performances of 73 and 75, including back-to-back birdies on both days. After completing the first round tied for fourth individually, her second-round score of a 81 dropped her from the leaderboard, in large part due to a quadruple bogey on the ninth hole. Peng’s Sunday rally enabled her to salvage a tie for 18th.
“Overall, I felt my game was more stable and better than it was last week,” Peng said. “I was proud of the team for pulling through and playing through the tough conditions, especially with 36 holes on the first day. It was really windy out there so I think overall it made the course harder.”
Julie Luo ’19 shot an impressive second-round 74 (+2), which included three birdies. Luo’s three-round score was only a few strokes behind Peng’s, sitting at 234. Luo and Peng, who both eagled the par-5 13th hole in the first round, were two of the three total competitors to eagle at River Landing.
“[The 13th hole] was a pretty straightforward par-5, and played shorter that day because the wind was with us,” Luo said. “Jennifer is a straight, long hitter, and two good shots took her just short of the green, where she made an awesome 30-footer for eagle. I got a bit luckier in which I actually pitched in from about 30 yards out for eagle.”
Deanna Song ’16 shot a 241 (+25), with her strongest performance being a two-birdie performance during Saturday’s second round, ending in a 78. Sara Garmezy ’17 shot a 249, tallying scores of 84, 82 and 83 over the three rounds.
Also competing were freshmen Sabrina Long ’19 and Sydney Babiak ’19. Babiak finished only a few strokes behind Song with a 247, including a 77 in the first round. While Long tallied a 257 — which included three triple bogeys on the seventh hole — she shot significantly better on the back nine, where she birdied twice.
Yale finished behind all three fellow Ancient Eight schools, as Harvard finished third (+41), Penn finished fifth (+58) and Columbia finished seventh (+72).
While the men compete again next Saturday at home in the Yale Spring Invitational, the women will now focus their attention on the Ivy League Championships in two weeks.