Courtesy of Darren Carroll/USGA

Riding high after strong starts in the fall of 2019, Yale men’s and women’s golf teams entered the 2020 spring season with a hunger for more. 

Unfortunately, as the situation of the COVID-19 pandemic worsened in the United States, events were canceled and the spring seasons of the Bulldogs were abruptly brought to an end. This hiatus continued into the 2020-2021 school year after the Ivy League and other organizations announced that no intercollegiate athletic competitions would be allowed in the fall, and that a limited number of events might take place during the spring. 

The last tournament for the women’s team was the Dr. Donnis Thompson Invitational in March 2020, where they placed ninth. For the men’s team, it was the Hamptons Intercollegiate in October 2019, where they placed fifth ahead of teams like Princeton, Cornell, Brown and Penn. 

Prior to the premature finishes to their seasons, the Bulldogs had shown solid team results, as well as strong individual performances from star players. Not to mention, though six Ivy Leagues were named to the Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA) Division I PING-All Northeast Region Team, only Yale boasted an All-Northeast Region duo in men’s golf team captain Teddy Zinsner ’21 and Darren Lin ’22. 

The men placed fourth at the Alex Lagowitz Memorial Invitational, eleventh at the Old Town College Invitational and third at the MacDonald Cup, ahead of teams such as Harvard, Brown and Penn. The team was also the runner-up of The Doc Gimmler Invitational. These events saw outstanding performances from individual players such as Zinsner, who consistently placed in the top five at the Lagowitz Memorial, Doc Gimmler and Macdonald Cup. 

The women also fared well, taking third at the Dartmouth Invitational, fourth at the Princeton Invitational and third at the Yale Invitational. Among the team’s phenomenal athletes, sophomore sensation Ami Gianchandani ’23 continued to shine. In the 2018-2019 season, she became just the second player in Yale women’s golf history to win Ivy League Player and Rookie of the Year simultaneously. Since then, she has won multiple individual collegiate championships and medalist honors. This season, she was the only Ivy League player and one of 25 women on the Arnold Palmer Cup ranking. 

Despite the pandemic, this year has also been one of remarkable changes for the Yale golf program. Administratively, Peter Palacios Jr. replaced Peter Pulaski as Yale Golf’s director and general manager. Jeffrey Austin was also named the new golf course superintendent after his predecessor, Scott Ramsay, left after 17 years at Yale and accepted a position at the Farmington Country Club. 

The Yale Golf Course, a historic venue long praised as the best collegiate golf course in the United States, has been the home of Eli golfers for decades. During the pandemic, as Yale was forced to shut down its facilities and reduce course maintenance staff, the disrepair became even more evident. 

However, under director of athletics Victoria Chun and other leadership, investments have been made to the conditioning of the course. There is also currently a proposal in the works for a more comprehensive renovation of the facility. However, if approved and funded, the restoration would close the course for 22 to 24 months. 

Outside of the golf course, athletes have also demonstrated excellence and continued to make their impact on the Yale community. 

“I can’t say enough about the resiliency of our student-athletes over the last 14 months. They have used this time to create change, explore their passions, network, engage in internships, and compete/train individually,” Yale women’s golf head coach Lauren Harling told the News. “I am confident that the work we have done will only positively impact us and will set us up for success this upcoming season.”

This year, eight members of the Yale golf teams were named All-America Scholars for their exceptional dual commitments to both academics and the sport during the 2019-2020 season. The honorees from the men’s team were Zinsner, Lin, Paul Stankey ’21, Sean Yi ’21 and Sho Wai Wu ’22. The recognized athletes from the women’s team were senior captain Beryl Wang ’20, Coco Chai ’23 and Kaitlyn Lee ’24. 

Stankey, who will be pursuing a PhD at Harvard after graduation, was also honored this year with the Molly Meyer Humanitarian Award. This recognition is given annually to male and female senior student-athletes who exemplify selfless devotion and compassion for their team and the community at Yale and beyond. 

“Paul has been a reliable and selfless teammate throughout his time at Yale. Beyond golf, Paul is motivated to use his time, skills and education to contribute to fixing challenges the world faces,” men’s golf head coach Colin Sheehan ’97 said after the announcement. “I look forward to seeing all the ways Paul contributes to his field and community in the years to come.” 

Despite the departure of Stankey, Zinsner and other outstanding senior golfers, fans can rest assured that the futures of the teams are in good hands. Many skillful recruits are members of the incoming Class of 2025, and some have even started contributing to the program’s success before having even stepped foot on campus. 

Among the new recruits are Chinese Amateur champion Daphne Chao ’25, Maryland state champion Sophie Simon ’25 and AJGA Scholastic Junior All-American Alexis Kim ’25. Simon joined future teammates Gianchandani and Lee in qualifying for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship. Though all three were knocked out in the first round of match play, their performances provided a glimpse of an exciting season-to-come for the team. Gianchandani and Lee also won medalist honors for stroke play. 

“I’m counting down the days until we’re all back out on the golf course together,” Harling said. “I have a feeling it’s going to be a special year. I’m so excited to see our team back on campus and get back to doing what we love together.” 

With the return of talented veterans and the dynamism of the promising incoming cohort of recruits, Yale’s golf teams will not hesitate to make up for the past year’s lost time. Next season will see the Bulldogs back on track to becoming a dominant force in the competitive circuits, where it is clear that they will settle for nothing less than the best.  

Gianchandani will serve as captains of the women’s golf team for the 2021-2022 season. 

Wei-Ting Shih covers volleyball and women's basketball as a staff reporter. Originally from Taiwan and Nicaragua, she is a sophomore in Grace Hopper College double-majoring in Ethics, Politics & Economics and History.