April 17, 2007
One year later, the Yale women's golf team returns to the Great Gorge Country Club in McAfee, N.J. on April 21-22 to defend its Ivy League title.
A year ago, poor playing conditions canceled Sunday's round and the winner was determined by the 27 holes that were played on Saturday, making the Bulldogs the Ivy League Champion for 2006 by five strokes over Harvard.
"It feels great to be the defending titleholder," said Chawwadee Rompothong, the team's coach. "At the same time, everyone is gunning for us and would love to take the title away. In a way, this would add a tremendous amount of pressure, but I believe the team is ready for the challenge."
Since the women's championship began in 1997, only Yale and Princeton have won the title. The Bulldogs have won it six times to the Tigers' four. But this year, Princeton won't be the only team vying with the Bulldogs for the Ivy Crown.
"The competition has heated up," said Rompothong. "I believe that Harvard and Columbia will give us a run for our money as well. It will definitely be an exciting championship this year."
But Yale is ready, especially with Captain Cindy Shin at the helm.
During her Yale career, Shin has had some of her greatest success at the Ivy finale. She won the individual Ivy title in 2005 and finished as last year's runner-up.
"Ivies have always been about determination, perseverance and desire," said Shin. "I believe our team has all three qualities and we are ready to go out there and give it our all."
During this season, the captain has shown both endurance and consistency. The senior finished in the top 10 in six out of seven tournaments with an average round of 78. Her best finish has been second place, which she accomplished at the Georgetown Invitational at the beginning of April.
Brophy finished in the top 15 in five out of seven events with a round average of 79.33. She had her best finish at Penn State's Nittany Lion Invitational in the fall where she took third. Last year, she tied for 8th at the Ivy Championship.
"All of us our excited about Ivies," said Brophy. "All of the girls on the team have shown amazing potential so far in the few tournaments that we've played this spring."
Hong agreed. "We trained really intensely during spring break, which was incredibly beneficial for all of us," she said. "Everyone's swings look good, and I think everyone is pretty comfortable with their games, but the key is having it all come together so that we can start scoring well."
Hong has had three top ten finishes this year, and when she has played well, she has really shined. She took second place in two events, first at the Nittany Lion Invitational in the fall and more recently at the Columbia Invitational on April 6-7. Last year, she took 15th at Ivies.
Yale has also seen consistent play from Natasha Spackey, Taylor Lee and Erica Im. Spackey has played in five tournaments and was the Bulldogs' top finisher at the Yale Intercollegiate in the fall where she tied for fourth place. Lee has been a consistent golfer all year with an average finish of 27th place. Im took 17th at the Yale Intercollegiate.
As a team, Yale's resume is an impressive one.
The Bulldogs have finished in sixth place or better at every event this year. Their schedule includes three second place finishes, two of which came in the last two tournaments.
Indeed, the Bulldogs' play at their last event, the Columbia Invitational, has helped them gain some confidence entering the title run.
"The recent tournament helped us see where we can improve even further," said Rompothong. "During spring break, we worked on new techniques and the team is just starting to get used to using the new skills under competition. The tournament just added more fuel for us to work harder to bring home the title."
But nothing will come easy.
Despite their impressive finishes this year, the Bulldogs have not placed above Harvard or Princeton all season.
"We know that repeating at Ivies will not be easy," said Brophy. "Anything could happen in 54 holes of golf, so we plan on staying patient and focused."
Indeed, counting out the Bulldogs would be foolish.
Last weekend at the Columbia Invitational it was a story of seconds.
It was the second tournament in a row that the Bulldogs placed second as a team and also had an individual take the number two spot. It was also the second time Hong finished as runner-up this season.
Perhaps next weekend will bring first place and a second title in a row.
Report filed by Alex Kleiner '08, Yale Sports Publicity