Bryan LaFountaine

With just four tournaments, the fall season allows the women’s golf team to build momentum and improve ahead of the spring championship season, with the fall results considered less important. No one appears to have told that to Ami Gianchandani ’22, however.

In her first collegiate action, the Eli rookie placed atop the field at the Dartmouth Invitational, a two-round tournament that featured 86 golfers from 15 teams. Although the team as a whole placed ninth overall with a 616 (+40), two Bulldog first years stood out from the crowd: In addition to Gianchandani’s victory, teammate Coco Chai ’22 tied for sixth overall.

“I was thrilled to have won my first college tournament and couldn’t ask to be surrounded by better teammates and coaches,” Gianchandani said. “I played some of my best golf this weekend which I attribute to the team atmosphere. … The tournament was a great learning experience for the whole team. We are motivated to get back to practice this week to get better.”

The Eli rookie shot a 71 in her first round, placing her fifth in the field. Yet her second-round 66 was tied for the second-lowest round score of the tournament and propelled her to a first-place finish. She edged Madison Walker of Albany by two strokes, garnering a final score of 137 (–7).

Not far behind, Coco Chai shot a 73 and 71 over two rounds, good for 144 (E). Chai noted “several crucial puts” that kept her afloat atop the leaderboards, though she sees much room for improvement in the coming weeks. Both of the prolific first years drew praise from their captain, Julie Luo ’19, as well as their coach, Chawwadee Rompothong ’00.

“[Gianchandani] played awesome with rounds of 71–66,” Luo said. “She absolutely killed it out there. The other first year, Coco [Chai], also played awesome, shooting 73–71. We’re so excited to see how the rest of the season goes with this great start.”

Apart from the first years, Gabrielle DeSombre ’21 finished third for the Bulldogs with an 82 and 80 over two rounds. Felicia Chang ’20 — competing as an individual, and thus not contributing to the team score — finished a stroke behind with a 163 (+19).

Yale’s scorecard was rounded out by Luo and Lucy Liu ’21, who both finished with 180s (+36). Luo, the Bulldog captain, was not phased by an underwhelming first weekend.

“Personally I did not play well,” Luo said. “But again, every tournament and every shot is a learning experience, and this [fall] season is a warm-up for the spring. Right now I’m struggling through some swing changes, so I’ll work on that this week and hopefully will be able to apply it at the next tournament.”

As a team, Yale shot a 315 and 301 over the two rounds, improving 14 strokes over the course of the weekend and finishing within four strokes of seventh-place Brown. The weekend was reminiscent of the 2018 Ivy Championships, in which Yale’s 13-stroke improvement in the last round was not enough to overcome an early-weekend deficit.

Albany won the tournament with a 580 (+4), six strokes better than second-place Harvard. The Crimson joined Yale, Brown and hosts Dartmouth as the four Ivies in attendance for the invite.

“As a team, we improved from day one, and we know what to work on moving forward,” coach Rompothong said. “We did not finish where we wanted to but will use this as a learning opportunity. Every tournament from now to Ivy [season] is a chance for us to improve and learn about our strengths and weaknesses so we can bring home the Ivy Championship in April. Our short game still needs lots of improvements and we are getting there.”

Even after the first tournament of the year, the ever-important Ivy Championships remain Yale’s primary focus, which will take place in late April. Yale finished sixth at Ivies last spring, with former captain and Ivy Player of the Year Jennifer Peng ’18 placing third overall.

For the Bulldogs, the fall season culminates in the Yale Invitational — the team’s sole home tournament at the Yale Golf Course — which takes place the first weekend of October. Until then, the Elis have three more away weekends.

“It was a very fun experience playing in my first collegiate event at Dartmouth,” Chai said. “The highlight was definitely traveling with the team for the first time. We have great energy and a lot of fun on the road.”

Next up is the Penn State Invitational next weekend, a two-day tournament taking place on Saturday and Sunday at University Park, Pennsylvania.