Both a younger and a smaller team than it was last spring, the Yale women’s golf team is off to a hot start in its quest for an Ivy League Championship.

The Bulldogs kicked off their season this weekend when they traveled to Bucknell for a two-day, six-team invitational and proceeded to dismantle the competition, both as a team and as individuals. They posted a 909 over three rounds, which was 46 strokes better than the second-place host. The Bulldogs also claimed the top four individual scores, while also placing two other golfers in the top 11.

“This is exactly how we were hoping to start our season,” Jayshree Sarathy ’18 said. “It is great going into our back-to-backs to have this kind of momentum.”

The upperclassmen led Yale to victory, as Sarathy posted the best overall score at the tournament, with a 224 (+14) for her first collegiate win. Captain and reigning Ivy League Player of the Year Jennifer Peng ’18 finished two strokes behind after leading for two rounds. A pair of Eli golfers, Julie Luo ’19 and Beryl Wang ’20, finished tied for third in the field.

Sarathy was consistent en route to her best performance of her Bulldog career, as the Palo Alto, California, native shot a 72, 78 and 74 over three rounds. Fellow senior Peng had the moment of the weekend on Saturday when she converted a hole in one on the 13th hole. Her first-round 71 was the lowest score all weekend.

Peng didn’t see the ball go in because a hill obstructed her view of the hole, but she said she knew she had hit a good shot. Saturday’s ace was not her first hole in one, which she said came when she was about 12 years old, but was her first in tournament play.

“Jay is an incredibly hard worker, and she’s been finding time to put in a lot of work in her game while also having an extremely busy last couple of weeks,” Luo said. “She also has a really strong mental game. She knows her strengths and weaknesses and plays to that rather than getting upset over things she cannot control. She’s really inspiring to our entire team, and I think we can all learn a lot from her resilience and work ethic.”

Luo was neck and neck with Peng after two rounds, but fell back to third place after an 83 on Sunday. Wang finished alongside her after solid play all weekend, though she did not contribute to the team’s overall scorecard since she competed as an individual.

Rounding out Yale’s scorers were Gabrielle Desombre ’21 and Felicia Chang ’20, who posted a 234 and 241 and finished eighth and 11th, respectively. Also competing for the Elis as individuals were Sabrina Long ’19 and Lucy Liu ’21, who finished 24th and 33rd, respectively.

The Bulldogs had never previously competed at the Bucknell Invitational, but Peng said she thought it played to the strengths of several members of the team.

This promising debut to 2017–18 comes after a season in which the Elis appeared to be title contenders for much of the year, but then underwhelmed at the Ivy Championship with a seventh-place finish.

In efforts to improve upon that placing, the Elis will make do with a smaller roster than last year, as they shrunk from 11 to eight after graduating four seniors — Elisabeth Bernabe ’17, Sara Garmezy ’17, Julia Yao ’17 and former captain Sandy Wongwaiwate ’17 — while only adding two first years in Desombre and Liu. Both first-year golfers took part in international junior golf competition for the Hong Kong National Ladies Team and Team Canada, respectively.

Considering the changed team composition, the senior captainship — in addition to the guidance of head coach Chawwadee Rompothong ’00 — is more important than ever. Yet in many ways, Peng has already led by example for the past three seasons.

She finished 2014 as the Ivy League Rookie of the Year and carried that title into her sophomore season, where she was the fourth lowest-scoring golfer in the Ivy League. Yet the highlight was her finish atop the individual leaderboards at the Ivy League Championship at season’s end. Peng brought that momentum into this past season, as she was the lowest-scoring golfer in the conference and was named Ivy League Player of the Year.

To improve upon last year’s finish, it will take more than Peng, but the Bucknell tournament was a promising sign. Wang finished in the top-12 at last year’s Ivies. Similarly, Luo finished 18th at the conference finals, and the season prior, she finished in the top-10 and was named second-team All-Ivy as a first-year player.

“It’s a nice way to kick off my senior year and our first tournament,” Peng said.

If performances like Sarathy, Luo and Wang had this weekend prove to be commonplace, in addition to Peng’s dependable excellence, then Yale will be in a prime position to contend for a conference title in the spring.

The Bulldogs only have three more tournaments this fall before they go on hiatus until mid-March, at which point they will only have a month until the Ivy League Championship. The team is now off for a weekend before they compete at the Penn State Nittany Lion Invitational.

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