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Harvard Men's Golf Closes Fall Season with Second-Place Finish at Ivy Match Play

Senior captain Theo Lederhausen went 2-0-1 at the two-day event (Harvard Athletic Communications).

Written by Robert Deng '17

On a blustery Friday morning, the Harvard men's golf team rolled into Bedminster, NJ for the Ivy League Match Play tournament.  The match play format is a welcome change of pace as the majority of college tournaments are stroke play.  In addition to being a competitive event, the Match Play was conceived as a way to strengthen the ties between the Ivy League golfers in a fun format. 
 
Harvard was eager to test their skills against a full Ivy League field for the first time this fall.  Yale was the top seed, with Harvard earning the second seed based on their national rankings thus far in the fall.  Arriving just before noon at Trump National, the team marveled at the spectacular conditions and course quality. The New Course at Trump National was the venue for the Women's Ivy League Championship six months earlier and would host the Match Play.  The layout features numerous bunkers, lightning quick greens, and edgy pin placements. 
 
After playing a focused practice round with Head Coach Kevin Rhoads and Assistant Coach Daniel Joseph, the Crimson felt well equipped both physically and strategically to face their first opponent, Cornell. 
 
On Saturday, the team woke to 40-degree temperatures which warmed nicely through the spectacular autumn day. 
 
Each team traveled with seven players.  Each singles match was worth a point and 4 points were needed to win a match. 
 
In the first match, senior Kevin McCarthy led the team off and came home with a 2&1 victory which included an eagle on the drivable 3rd hole.  Captain Theo Lederhausen  teed off second, but was the first one to finish, due to a great performance that ended the match after the 13th hole – a strong 6&5 win for Harvard.  Third to play was junior Akash Mirchandani, who played well, but was defeated by Cornell's player who rode a putting hot streak.  Freshman Robert Deng came home with a 5&4 victory, after closing his competitor off with a par on the island green par-3 14th.  Freshman Daniel De la Garza fought hard but lost 1 down in the end. Sophomore Rohan Ramnath wrestled against Luke Graboyes in a birdie-filled match but was bested 2&1. 

Harvard and Cornell had each secured three victories.  The match came down to the first seed, freshman, Kendrick Vinar. Vinar's match against the Big Red's number one was a birdie-filled slugfest where nobody led by more than 1. Vinar's match was all square on 17,when his opponent failed to save par from a greenside bunker. Vinar curled a 6-footer in for par and teed off on the 18th 1 up. Both competitors found the fairway and Vinar landed his shot on the 18th green 40 feet from a tucked left pin.  The Cornell player missed the green in the left bunker and then played to 20 feet from the hole.  Vinar lagged his putt to 5 feet above the hole. Advantage Vinar.  Cornell's pla yer proved that an advantage means little until the end, draining his putt in a feat of determination. Calmly as usual, Vinar stepped up to his slick 5 footer and poured it in, winning his match 1 up and earning Harvard a win over Cornell 4 to 3.

Harvard faced Columbia next after Columbia dispatched a strong Dartmouth team. When play was called due to darkness, only three matches were completed. Ramnath and Mirchandani won their respective matches while Vinar was unable to defeat Brandon Jowers from Columbia.   In the unfinished matches, Lederhausen finished the day 1 down with 4 to play, McCarthy finished even with 4 to play, De La Garza (with 6 birdies in his first 9 holes) finished 3 up with 3 to play, while Deng finished 2 up with three to play. They would have to come back to the course early in the morning to finish play.

Harvard's four players needing to complete the second round arrived at Trump National before the sun did.  Deng was the first to finish, birdieing his first hole to secure his match 3&2.  De La Garza was next to deal the finishing blow, finishing after two holes, 2&1. Because Harvard already secured 4 victories in the match already, Lederhausen and McCarthy were stopped from finishing their matches.

The finals of the Ivy Match Play featured a fitting duel between Harvard and Yale.  Yale has had a breakout fall season, reaching a ranking of #51 in the country prior to the Ivy Match Play.  It was a match that Harvard wanted given that they've been excited about their own level of play. Lederhausen finished a strong event and secured a 1 up victory over Jonathan Lai from Yale.  McCarthy, three up through ten holes, suffered a wrist injury and lost to a 3&2. Vinar played Yale's No. 1 -- Sam Bernstein – who scorched the course, winning 2&1. Mirchandani defeated Yale's James Park 1 up and Deng bested Sean Gaudette 2 up. Ramnath played tough against Joe Willis who won the match with a chip-in on the 18th hole.  De La Garza lost his match to a hot Wi ll Davenport -- 5&3. In the end, the Crimson lost to the Bulldogs 3 to 4.

Though it was a tough loss for the Crimson, it was a well-fought battle to the end, and it could have gone either way.  Harvard played well and earned a strong second place finish, a nice indication of their level of play this fall and within the League.

The Crimson ended their 4-tournament fall season with 3 top-5 finishes while breaking a previous scoring record by 20 shots. With their fall tournament schedule complete, the team now transitions into having a bit less focus on golf and a bit more focus on just being students. They will take the lessons available from the tournaments to formulate a practice plan in the off-season.  The goal is to build off of this strong foundation in order to attain new heights.

The program would like to thank all of the parents and Friends for all their support so far this season.  We are grateful for everything you do.

Championship Match:  Yale 4  Harvard 3
Third Place Match:  Columbia 4  Princeton 3
Fifth Place Match:  Dartmouth 4.5  Penn 2
Seventh Place Match:  Brown 4  Cornell 3 

Player:  Wins – Losses – Ties
Robert Deng:  3 - 0 – 0
Theo Lederhausen:  2 – 0 – 1
Akash Mirchandani:  2 – 1 – 0
Kevin McCarthy:  1 – 1 – 1
Kendrick Vinar:  1 – 2 – 0
Daniel De La Garza 1 – 2 – 0
Rohan Ramnath:  1 – 2 – 0