March 22, 2009
ROCK HILL, S.C. - It took all 54 holes and then one extra for the Yale women's golf team to emerge victorious at the Winthrop Intercollegiate, but after one of the most exciting finishes in recent memory, the Bulldogs' name was atop the leaderboard. Yale outshot Winthrop in a one-hole playoff to cap off a two-round comeback by the Bulldogs.
"It was the most exciting moment in my entire golf career," said senior captain Natasha Spackey. "It was a completely different feel having three of us and two of them playing one hole together. It was almost like a match-play event. We played the 18th hole which is right in front of the clubhouse, so there were tons of people lining the fairway, watching and filming. It was really cool."
After checking the scoreboard and learning that there was a tie for first place with the host school Winthrop, the team consulted the tournament rules, only to find that the event would be decided in a one-hole, sudden-death playoff. Each team would have all five of their golfers play one hole, and the top four scores from each team would be added together.
"No one ever ties for first place in a tournament," said sophomore Alyssa Roland. "There are just too many shots that go into an entire team score that it rarely happens. We did not even know what the rule was in the event of a tie, because the chances of it happening are so slim."
The tournament director decided that the 18th hole would be used for the playoff due to its visibility and proximity to the clubhouse. Unfortunately for the teams, the 18th is one of the most difficult holes on the golf course. An uphill par-4 with a three-tiered elevated green, the hole would require maximum accuracy.
"The pin on Sunday was in the middle of the three tiers," said Roland. "Essentially, if you did not hit the middle tier, you were in big trouble. If you hit the ball on the upper tier, you were guaranteed to putt the ball off the green. If you land the ball on the lower tier, your ball would spin right off the green. You had to hit the ball pin-high."
The groupings were made and Spackey, Roland and sophomore Harriet Owers-Bradley were paired with two Winthrop players in the first group. Owers-Bradley pulled her tee-shot, but was able to chip it close and make par. Roland, on the other hand, hit a nice drive, but her second shot landed on the top tier of the green. After just barely tapping her ball, she watched her putt roll all the way off the bottom of the green. Luckily, she was able to get up and down for a bogey. Spackey hit a beautiful second shot, pin-high and two-putted her way to the Bulldogs second par. So with the Bulldogs at +1, it was up to junior Taylor Lee and sophomore Cassie Boles to close out the tournament.
Things did not look good for the second group of Yale golfers as Lee hooked her drive into the woods. Then to make matters worse, on her second shot, Lee hit another branch and the ball kicked way left of the green. With only five yards of green to work would, Lee would need to come up with a miraculous shot.
Boles, on the other hand, played a solid hole with a drive up the middle and second shot that stuck the ball within three feet of the hole on the middle tier. She would two-putt her way to the Bulldogs third par of the playoff.
The Bulldogs desperately wanted to avoid counting a bogey on their playoff scorecard, and Lee delivered, hitting a flop shot that barely landed on the green and stayed just two feet away from the hole.
"That was probably the best shot of Taylor's life," said Roland. "It was just spectacular."
Lee would go on to sink her putt, giving the Bulldogs four pars and the tournament championships.
A large part of the Bulldogs success on Sunday was due to Owers-Bradley's stellar third round. After two average rounds of 81 (+9) and 78 (+6), Owers-Bradley came storming back on Sunday to shoot 73 (+1) and the lowest round of the tournament. Her final score of 232 (+16) was good enough to finish in a tie for third-place.
Roland, who had led the Bulldogs for most of the tournament, struggled with the final three holes of her round, shooting double-bogey, double-bogey and bogey. Before her final three holes Roland had been just three-over-par. Her final round of 80 (+8) was good enough, however, to retain her position of solo fifth-place. Roland shot a tournament total of 234 (+18).
Boles had a consistent tournament with all three of her rounds coming within three strokes of one another. Boles shot rounds of 81 (+9), 78 (+6), and 79 (+7) for a three-round total of 238 (+22). She finished alone in eleventh-place.
Spackey struggled in her first two rounds of the tournament, shooting 81 (+9) and 84 (+12), but she came flying back on Sunday to shoot a round of 77 (+5) and help propel the Bulldogs into first. In the end, Spackey finished in a tie for 14th with her tournament score of 242 (+26).
Lee had an up and down tournament for the Bulldogs, opening with an 84 (+12) and then having the biggest turn-around of any player, shooting 77 (+5) on Saturday. Lee would again struggle on Sunday, shooting a round of 85 (+13). But when the Bulldogs needed her most, Lee came up with her incredible flop shot in the sudden-death playoff. Lee finished in a tie for 22nd with a tournament score of 246 (+30).
The Bulldogs individuals turned in solid performances. Senior Erica Im stayed consistent shooting her second round of 84 (+12) this tournament. She would finish in a tie for 32nd with a three-round score of 251 (+35). Also in that tie for 32nd was freshman Callie Kemmer. After shooting a good round of 79 (+7) on Saturday, Kemmer came back on Sunday to post a score of 87 (+15). She too would finish with a tournament total of 251 (+35). Freshman Lily Boettcher finished just a few shots behind Im and Kemmer in a tie for 42nd. She managed to shoot her best round of the tournament on Sunday, carding a score of 82 (+10). She finished with a total of 257 (+41).
Yale defeated two top-100 teams this weekend, No. 65 Oral Roberts and No. 79 Minnesota. The Bulldogs should improve in the national rankings before they hit the course again on April 10 at the ROAR-EE Invitational.
Report filed by Charles Moore '10, Yale Sports Publicity