Though the two tournaments took place almost 100 miles apart, the Ivy League men’s and women’s golf championships yielded surprisingly similar results as Yale’s two teams both finished third in fields of eight to finish their spring seasons.
Harvard took both the men’s and women’s title, each ending with a team score of 43-over. However, Yale still came away with some hardware when Jennifer Peng ’18, the reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year, became the first Eli to win the women’s individual title since 2011. Peng built a three-stroke lead over the nearest golfer with scores of 72 and 74 in her first two rounds, and she managed to hang onto that advantage in the final day with a 79 and finish the tournament with a 225 (+6).
“Going into this tournament, I wasn’t really expecting too much,” Peng, now Yale’s top finisher at three consecutive tournaments, said. “I think what gave me a lot of confidence throughout the tournament was my putting. The greens were hard and I was worried when we played the practice round that I would have a hard time. However, I honestly just took the tournament shot by shot and it ended up working out in the end.”
The women’s tournament at The Stanwich Club in Greenwich saw very little movement, as the first day’s standings were ultimately the same as the final results.
Behind a strong opening performance from Peng — the only individual who finished the first day under par — the Bulldogs ended the first day of competition at 21-over, 11 strokes behind Harvard.
The following day, Peng stretched her lead in the individual scoreboard while teammate Elisabeth Bernabe ’17 made a three-stroke improvement between the first and second day. But the team overall finished 25-over on Saturday and finished the second day 16 shots behind Harvard.
Bernabe pointed out the challenge posed by the course’s greens, which are guarded by thick rough. Sandy Wongwaiwate ’17, who finished tied with Bernabe at 24-over, added that the three-day tournament allowed the Bulldogs ample time to learn the intricacies of the course.
“After playing two rounds, I had a better understanding of the spots to avoid on the course and where it was safe to play to,” Wongwaiwate said. “I also tried to keep a positive mindset during the round and that helped me while playing the course.”
Last season, the Yale women’s team lost the Ivy League title to Harvard in heartbreaking fashion, putting together the tournament’s best round on the final day but falling one stroke short.
Though Wongwaiwate and Bernabe expressed disappointment with the final results, they both said they were hopeful for the following year. With just one senior — captain Deanna Song ’16 — on the roster, the Yale women’s golf team has a strong core returning next year.
“I think our team has a lot of potential, and if we train hard over summer and approach next year with a competitive spirit, I can see us having a successful season next fall,” Bernabe said.
The men’s team echoed that sentiment, expressing disappointment at the tournament’s results but highlighting the team’s depth and youth.
After opening the tournament in fourth place with an 18-over score, the Bulldogs came storming back on the second day behind a strong performance from Li Wang ’17, who finished with Saturday’s second-best score, an even par. While Harvard ran away with the title, Dartmouth shot a 301 on the third day, the second-best score of the tournament, to narrowly edge Yale for the second-place position.
“I think we know, as a team, that if we played our best we could’ve won,” Will Bernstein ’18 said. “We had good runs individually here and there but collectively we didn’t play to our full potential. We’re for sure disappointed but we’re looking forward to next year and the year after.”
Bernstein, Yale’s top finisher, ended the tournament third in the individual standings after carding a 70 (-2) in the final round, tied for the best 18-hole score in the whole tournament.
Teammates Jonathan Lai ’17 and Wang finished tied for 10th and 14th, respectively. After tying Eoin Leonard ’19 with a team-best 76 (+4) on the first day, Lai recorded the same score on Saturday and a 78 (+6) on Sunday. Though Lai finished second on the team with a 230 (+14), he noted that there were strokes he wished he could have gotten back.
“I was fairly disappointed with the way I played, especially I had myself off to a good start all three rounds but just could not find a way to finish out my rounds,” Lai said. “I realize that I finished in the top 10 for the tournament, but that wasn’t the goal for the weekend. The goal for the weekend was to win the Ivy League Championship and my struggles coming down the stretch did not help the cause.”
Leonard said he was also disappointed with his individual — as well as the team’s — performance, but praised the team’s camaraderie, adding that his freshman season was “very enjoyable.” Pointing out that this season’s Ivy League Championship provides great experience, Leonard said he hopes the team will build on this season next year.
This season’s performance marks an improvement from last season’s fifth-place finish at the Ivy League championship. Similar to the women, the men’s team features a core of experienced underclassmen returning for the 2016–17 season.
“The best part about our team is it’s incredibly deep,” Bernstein said. “It’s not even a bench. It’s more like starters who aren’t starting … Having so much internal competition will lead us to play better against other teams in future tournaments.”
The Harvard women’s golf team has now won the last five Ivy League championships. The Harvard men, meanwhile, won their first title since 1975 this weekend.
Daniela Brighenti contributed reporting.