The Yale golf teams wrapped up their 2016–17 seasons this weekend, as their fall and spring campaigns culminated in the Ivy League Championships. Both the men’s and women’s squads carried a great deal of momentum into the tournament but finished fourth and seventh, respectively.
The two championships were held as three-day, three-round events, with the top four of five players contributing to the scorecard. The women’s team finished with a 952 (+88) at the Orange Tree Golf Club in Orlando, Florida. The group played increasingly well each round, but were not able to dig themselves out of a +46 first round. Princeton ultimately walked away with the championship, carding a 891 (+27) and breaking Harvard’s five-year winning streak. At the Stanwich Club in Greenwich, the men’s team shot an 897 (+33) — including a 298 in the first round and a 294 in the third — but Harvard ultimately repeated its victory from last season. Jonathan Lai ’17 was the top performing male Bulldog, finishing two over par and fourth overall on the leaderboard, while Beryl Wang ’20 was the lowest-scoring female Eli whose +16 finish put her in 12th.
“Obviously our goal was to win Ivies, so it was quite disappointing to walk away empty handed,” captain Li Wang ’17 said. “Our team was more than capable of pulling it off, but unfortunately not all of us brought our A-games, myself included. With that being said, there were definitely positives to take away from the weekend, such as Jon [Lai]’s top-five finish and Eoin [Leonard ’19]’s consistent play. Will [Bernstein ’18] also had a terrific final round. I’m proud of everyone for playing our hearts out and never giving up.”
The men entered as the second-ranked team in the Ivy League, narrowly trailing defending-champion Harvard. The squad was also coming off a strong performance at the Yale Spring Invitational in which they finished atop 12 other teams.
Lai’s weekend was representative of the Elis’ performance as a whole: a good start and strong finish, with a down round sandwiched in between. The senior shot a 70 in the first and third rounds, which was tied for the second-best individual round all weekend. Lai said his play was consistent all weekend aside from some Saturday struggles on the green.
The senior, who came into the tournament as the fifth lowest-scoring golfer in the Ancient Eight, had a great stretch at the end of the first round in which he birdied four of the last five holes. Both Lai and Yale as a team finished as the top performer on par-3 holes.
“Our team hasn’t won the Ivy League Championship since 2011, and that was the main goal for us this weekend,” Lai said. “Unfortunately we didn’t win, but I was still pleased by the way I played this week. I’m a little disappointed because I felt that I could have contended for the individual championship, but I’m still proud of how I finished off my career as a Yale golfer.”
Like his fellow senior teammate, Wang entered his final collegiate tournament as one of the Ivy’s best golfers this season, ranking as the second lowest-scoring player in 2016–17. Ultimately, Wang did not fare as well as usual, finishing +19 overall, though he performed much better on the back nine than the front nine.
The captain can still hang his hat on his consistently strong play all year, as he was the top individual performer for much of the season. In addition, Wang’s NCAA record-tying performance — shooting a 60 at the MacDonald Cup on Oct. 1 — remains one of the highlights of Yale athletics in 2016–17.
“Overall, we had a very good season and our finish at Ivies shouldn’t detract from that,” Wang said. “I have been consistently impressed with the talent and work ethic of the entire team throughout the year, and I like the direction that the team is headed in. I think the golf team will only continue to get better in the years to come.”
Leonard finished 14th after coming into Greenwich as the 14th-ranked golfer. The sophomore posted a pair of 75s with a 74 in between, ending with a +8 that included birdies on holes five and six in both the first and third rounds. Fellow sophomore James Nicholas ’19, the seventh lowest-scoring Ivy player this season, finished with +17.
Ending just a stroke behind Leonard was Bernstein, last week’s top overall performer at the Yale Spring Invitational. The junior shot a 75 and 82 before shooting up the leaderboards with a 71 in the third round. At last year’s Ivies, Bernstein finished in third place overall after shooting a 70 in the third round, tied for the best single-round all weekend.
A thousand miles down the East Coast, the women’s team played like one of the better teams on Saturday and Sunday, but were unable to dig themselves out of their first-round hole, in which they shot a 334 (+46). Their final round 303 was the fifth-best round posted at Orlando, and brought the team within three strokes of fifth place.
“This weekend’s results were hard to swallow, but it will only make us stronger,” women’s head coach Chawwadee Rompothong ’00 said. “We are a very talented team and this past weekend’s results do not reflect our golf program at all. Golf is a uniquely challenging sport since there can be many unpredictable ups and downs despite playing your hardest and hitting good shots. Our third and final day of this weekend was a testament to these efforts.”
Beryl Wang’s score of +16 came after particularly strong second and third rounds, in which she shot a 74 and 76, respectively. Wang had perhaps her best round on the back nine on Sunday, in which she did not bogey once and also tallied a birdie.
Teammate Julie Luo ’19 finished 18th with a 237 (+21), including a 76 and 77 in the final pair of rounds. Luo, who finished in the top-10 at Ivies last season as a freshman, birdied three of her first five holes to start off Saturday this time around.
Jennifer Peng ’18 entered this season’s finale as the lowest-scoring golfer in the Ancient Eight in 2016–17, and recorded the best individual scorecard at Ivies last season, thanks to a first-round 70. Ultimately, Peng finished a few strokes behind Luo; her third-round 73, in which she birdied four of her last seven, allowed her to gain some ground after a slow start.
Rounding out Yale’s scorecard was its pair of seniors, Elisabeth Bernabe ’17 and captain Sandy Wongwaiwate ’17, who were ranked 14th and 16th in the Ivy League this season. Bernabe was another who had a strong final round, finishing five over par on Sunday. Wongwaiwate finished 11 strokes behind her senior teammate at +39, and was the only Bulldog who did not have her worst round on Friday.
“It’s tough to end a season, especially my last season, in a very dissatisfying place,” Wongwaiwate said. “It’s even tougher when I know that our team is very capable of coming out on top of the field and had a good chance at winning. But what I am extremely proud of is the teamwork and morale that my team carries. Looking forward, I am confident they can bounce back and help each other become better players each year.”
The women entered the tournament as the third-ranked team in the Ancient Eight, behind Princeton and Columbia. At least year’s Ivy championships played at Greenwich, the women finished third behind Harvard and Princeton, but managed a victory in the form of Peng’s individual title.
Overall, Yale’s final championship finishes do not reflect how well both the men’s and women’s teams performed this season, as they both entered the tournament as serious contenders for their respective Ivy titles. The men will see two players graduate this May, Wang and Lai, while the women will lose four of their own: Sara Garmezy ’17, Julia Yao ’17, Bernabe and Wongwaiwate.