Pictured: Katie Sylvan
By Kevin Rhoads
April 23-25 saw Harvard traveling to Springfield, New Jersey for the Ivy Championship at historic Baltusrol Golf Club. Site of 16 major amateur and professional Majors, Baltusrol boasts two championship courses designed by famed architect A.W. Tillinghast– both of which have been used to host majors. For this week, both the Ivy Women’s and Men’s Championships were held at Baltusrol, with the women playing the Upper Course and the men playing on the Lower Course. The Upper Course is characterized by very fast, sloping greens, deep bunkers, and gorgeous vistas. Set on the side of a hill, the primary slope is very influential in challenging the players to keep their drives in the fairway and their balls below the pins on the greens.
The women were really looking forward to punctuating the success of their regular season with a record third-straight Ivy Championship. Though they knew this was a possibility, they prepared with the same level of intensity while trying not to overdo things. Unfortunately, from round 1 it was evident that the Harvard women were in for an uncharacteristic week. In the first round, Harvard got off to a rough start, with the exception of Katie Sylvan (’13, San Diego, Calif.). Sylvan almost single-handedly kept Harvard in the tournament in round 1. She fired an even-par 72 to lead the field, and to help Harvard to a 319 total – 5 shots behind Penn. She had five birdies on her card on the very challenging course – the most of any player in the field in any round. Christine Cho (’12, La Crescenta, Calif.) also hung in well, shooting 79. Claire Sheldon (’10, Milton, Mass.), and Sarah Harvey (’10, Forest, Va.) shot 84’s while Mia Kabasakalis (’11, Alameda, Calif.) shot 85. This left them at 5 shots behind Penn. The severe greens had sped up between the practice round and the first round, and the Crimson didn’t do a good enough job adjusting to the speeds. Due to the large size of the greens, when greens were missed, they either left long bunker shots, or difficult short-sided bunker shots or pitches. The team struggled to get the ball close to the hole, and 2-putting long putts was no easy task. Harvard had a challenge on their hands
Round two saw Harvard optimistic about catching and passing Penn to overtake first place. Harvard adjusted to the difficulty of the golf course, and improved to 311 for their second-day team total. Sheldon came back nicely with a solidly-played round of 75. Cho hit the ball better and continued her steady play, shooting 76, while Kabasakalis improved to 77. Sylvan couldn’t quite continue her first round magic, with a tough finish giving her an 82, while Harvey shot 83. Unfortunately, Penn kept up their fearless play, and improved t! o 308, leaving Harvard 8 shots behind entering day 3. This was by no means an insurmountable margin, but it was going to require a strong final day from the Crimson – which is a normal characteristic of the team.
Day 3 saw the brilliant weather of the first two days give way to temperatures between 45-50 and raining. The variable conditions were not great to play in, but are the kind of conditions in which shots can sometimes be made up. Unfortunately, early momentum gave way to struggles. Through 9 holes Harvard had only made up 1 shot, and they needed to make a push if they were going to have a chance of catching Penn. Unfortunately, the course didn’t want to get pushed around, and the ladies were not sharp enough to mount a charge. Sylvan shot 77 to lead the Crimson. Cho shot 80, and Sheldon 82. Kabasakalis and Harvey finished with 85 and 87 respectively. In the end, pushing for a few extra birdies probably made everyone’s score go up more than it should have, which aided in Yale passing Harvard to go into second place by three shots. Harvard shot 324, while Yale shot 309 and Penn 307.
Penn’s total was 929 to Harvard’s 954. They played beautifully all week, and deserved to be champions. Never having finished higher than fifth in an Ivy Championship, and with only one tournament win in their regular season, this was a huge example of playing without expectations and peaking at the correct time. In the end, the awards ceremony summed up the tournament well. Penn was crowned Ivy League Champion – an award they deserved given their great performance at Baltusrol. But Christine Cho was named Ivy League Player of the Year, and Katie Sylvan was named Ivy League Rookie of the Year, based on the strength of the entire season. Sylvan earned First Team All Ivy while Cho and Sheldon earned Second Team All Ivy. It was nice recognition for them, though it only slightly lessened the sting of not achieving their team goal of winning another Ivy Championship. Harvard had won every tournament but two that they played all year, but had an off-week at an important juncture. The Crimson are bitterly disappointed with their result at a Championship that they badly wanted to win. However, as time sinks in they will look at the season as a whole, and be extremely proud of their body of work.
Now the team can only wait as the NCAA selection committee convenes today to decide on the field for NCAA Regionals. There is an outside chance that the Crimson will receive an at-large bid to NCAA Regionals, based on the strength of their regular season and their accompanying national ranking. An at-large bid would be necessary this year, due to the fact that they did not earn the automatic bid extended to the winner of the League Championship tournament. The announcement will be made at 4pm EST today, so fingers will be crossed until then.
Team Leader Board
Course:Baltusrol Golf Club: Upper Course - Ivy
Championship Par 72 - 6101 yards
Pennsylvania, Univ +65F 314 308 307 929
Yale University +87 328 314 309 951
Harvard University +90 319 311 324 954
Princeton University +113 325 325 327 977
Brown University +132 332 325 339 996
Columbia University +134 325 342 331 998
Dartmouth University +157 337 339 345 1021
T4 Katie Sylvan (4) 72 82 77 231
8 Christine Cho (1) 79 76 80 235
10 Claire Sheldon (2) 84 75 82 241
T17 Mia Kabasakalis (3) 85 78 85 248
24 Sarah Harvey (5) 84 83 87 254