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The Dartmouth
June 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Women’s golf overcomes rocky start to take third at Ivy Championships

Rain and a poor first round were no hurdle for the Big Green, who took home third with four top-ten finishes.

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It took waiting out a rainstorm and getting through a tough first round, but the women’s golf team climbed the podium steps to take third place at last weekend’s Ivy League Championship.

Coming off a program-high three tournament victories this season, five Big Green players and head coach Alex Kirk traveled to the Century Club in Purchase, New York, for a three-round tournament that lasted from Friday, April 21 through Sunday, April 23. 

“This is probably the best team I’ve ever had on and off the golf course,” Kirk said before the contest began. “Not just because we’re shooting low scores, but the cohesiveness of the team and the personalities — it’s fun to be around.”

The weekend’s squad consisted of freshmen Sophie Thai ’26 and Kimberly Shen ’26, as well as Claire Xu ’25 and co-captains Katherine Sung ’24 and Samantha Yao ’23. The team’s relative youth, Sung said, was an advantage, because younger team members are more likely to have consistent playing time coming from high school schedules.

“Usually the freshmen come in with their game the most experienced and coming off of a lot of tournaments and just being really honed in on their skills,” Sung said. “We have a young team because a lot of our depth is more on the younger side, but that’s not a bad thing.”

The action started off at 9 a.m. Friday morning on the 6,086 yard, par-72 course. The Big Green had a disappointing start, finding itself in fifth when the first round concluded.

Led by a pair of 3-over par performances from Yao and Thai, the Big Green hit 17-over 307. The University of Pennsylvania led by the end of day one at 8-over par, with a one-stroke lead over Princeton University.

From the first round alone, Kirk could tell how close the tournament would be.

“This is a very tight, competitive field,” he said on Friday. “Anyone can beat anyone in the league on any given day.”

The Big Green improved from its frustrating first round with the second-lowest score of Saturday: an 18-over 306. Dartmouth was, in fact, the only one of the six teams to shoot better in the second round than the first.

The strong performance bumped the Big Green to fourth place, just ten strokes behind Penn, still in the lead. Harvard University lay one-stroke behind Penn, and Princeton five strokes behind the Crimson to enter the final round at second and third.

Sung played particularly well Saturday, recovering from bogeying the third hole and double bogeying the sixth to finish 1-over 73 —the second-best score out of all competition, on Saturday. Entering Sunday, Sung and Yao stood tied for sixth in the 30-player field.

“We played in tough conditions with strong winds and cool temperatures all day,” Kirk explained Saturday evening. “I feel like we are positioned well to make a run tomorrow.”

Sunday brought rain, but none that Kirk and the team had not anticipated. The scheduled tee off at 8 a.m. was moved to 10 a.m.

It was still drizzling in Purchase when play resumed, but the Big Green played competitively, continuing their upward trend by finishing with its best round of the tournament, a 15-over 303.

Sunday’s round moved Dartmouth ahead of Princeton to take third. Penn continued their dominance to take first, and Harvard came second.

“When the rain falls, the ball gets a lot shorter and doesn’t roll out as much, and on the green they just go a little slower,” Sung said. “So it was kind of taking the first few holes to adjust to that… I don’t think it affected us a ton mentally.”

Yao tied for the lowest round with three others in the field at one-over 73. She ended the tournament 9-over par, tying for fourth. Thai finished ninth and Sung and Xu tied for 10th, placing four of the five Big Green players in the top 10.

“I am really proud of this team,” Kirk said after the tournament was over. “None of the five ever quit out there, fighting through some rain early and battling all the way through the final hole.”

The team played well despite having never played on the course before, Thai explained.

“Playing on such fast greens and narrow fairways was definitely a change,” Thai said. “I think we built up a lot of momentum coming here, too, because we had won a couple events this season.”

The Big Green sees the third place finish as a stepping stone to their end goal: Dartmouth women’s golf’s first Ivy League Championship.

“Having that in the back of our head — that the Ivy League Championship is in range and that we actually have a really good chance for it next year — will be a nice, overarching goal to work towards during the year,” Sung explained. “I think we made a lot of improvement from last year, and I think this is just putting us one step closer to the championship in the future.”

The Big Green will continue to prepare their younger members to move toward that goal. 

“We are within striking distance of that goal in the coming years,” Kirk said.