Harvard Women's Golf Places Third at Brown Bear Invitational

Courtney Hooton and the Crimson will next compete at the Ivy League Championships April 26-28 (Harvard Athletic Communications).

The Harvard women competed in the annual Brown Invitational, held this year at the Rhode Island Country Club (RICC), site of the 2011 US Women's Amateur Championship.  This was a unique event for two reasons.  First, the schedule of the event was somewhat different from most events that the team has become accustomed to playing.  Just 36 holes, the two-round event was played on Sunday and Monday. Second, given Harvard's close proximity to Barrington, the team elected to commute each day rather than staying in a hotel near the course.  Though a fairly significant change from the team's normal tournament routine, coaches and team members agreed that commuting each day would provide an opportunity to spend more time on campus and rest while also being more cost-effective.

RICC has hosted a number of USGA events, including the 2011 U.S. Women's Amateur, in which both Tiffany Lim ('15, San Jose, CA) and Courtney Hooton ('16, Del Mar, CA) competed.  The Donald Ross designed course, which overlooks the Narragansett Bay, provides a great test.  The course was in good shape given the severe winter and the fact that the course opened one week prior to the tournament.  During a time of year when most courses need to play "lift, clean, and place" due to wet, muddy fairways, RICC was fairly dry and all players played the ball down.
The women started their first round at 11am on Sunday alongside Brown and Columbia.  Though temperatures were fairly mild, gusting afternoon winds coming off the bay and cloudy skies made for cool and difficult scoring conditions.  Similar to playing a long course, wind can make it harder to hit greens and get the ball close to the hole.  This leads to added stress on the short game, particularly putting, which is also effected by the wind.  Given that the greens at RICC have a lot of break, especially around the hole, and were a little bumpy due to aerification, the entire field struggled with putting. 
The Crimson seemed to struggle with the greens a little more than most of the top teams.  Captain Bonnie Hu ('14, Fremont, CA) paced the team with her characteristic consistent ball-striking to shoot 75.  Christine Lin ('16, Austin, TX) played great all weekend – her game is trending in a fabulous direction – but she struggled on the greens and finished the first round with 78. Hooton and Brenna Nelsen ('15, Monte Sereno, CA) faced similar challenges and finished with 79 and 80, respectively.  Lim finished the day with 83.  Their first round score of 312 left Harvard in second place, just 3 strokes behind Yale.
Conditions were more conducive for scoring on Monday morning.  However the Crimson were at a competitive disadvantage due to the absence of one of their key players. Nelsen has been dealing with a chronic foot condition that has recently flared up, causing extreme pain.  Despite medical treatment, the pain continued to worsen this weekend.  Even though she wanted to play through the pain she was forced to withdraw after the first round.  There is no question that this was the best decision for both Nelsen and the team, especially as we look ahead to the Ivy Championship in two weeks.
So instead of playing five players and counting the low four scores like usual, Harvard played four and counted four.  While this in no way affected the outcome, it had some affect on team dynamics.  Hooton led the way for the Crimson on Monday, shooting a solid 76. Hu and Lin followed with a pair of 78s.  Hu played pretty well but didn't score great, and Lin said she had the best first 11 holes of the year before dropping a few shots on the back nine.  Lim made four birdies but carded 79.  Despite their efforts, their final round score of 311 wasn't enough to catch Yale, who recorded the low round of the day and their best round for the entire year.  Unfortunately, Harvard was also passed by Seton Hall. 
There's no way around it – this was a difficult tournament for the Crimson.  We did not score our best and we were outplayed on the second day.  Nelsen and Hu have been fighting injuries and are doing their best to take care of them.  But they are not yet healthy.  Many of our players are close to being really sharp and having their games come together, but we're not quite there yet.
It's easy to get frustrated when you feel that you're playing well but not scoring yet – especially with some uncharacteristic injuries are present.  The team is experiencing some adversity, and have the opportunity to work to overcome it.  This is a great opportunity for us to take a step back, refocus on our process, and make sure that we are doing all the things, big and small, that will allow us to be the best team we are capable of being going into the Ivy Championship.