March 8, 2009

Bulldogs Ready for 2009 Season

March 8, 2009

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The 2009 Yale women's golf season promises to be one of the team's strongest. The Bulldogs return six players, including senior captain Natasha Spackey, and add two freshmen to the mix. Not only that, but the Bulldogs had one of their best falls in recent memory with both a team and an individual win.

This year's team is made up of two seniors, one junior, three sophomores and two freshmen. Spackey leads the Bulldogs and is joined by senior Erica Im, junior Taylor Lee, sophomores Cassie Boles, Harriet Owers-Bradley and Alyssa Roland, as well as freshmen newcomers Lily Boettcher and Callie Kemmer.

"This is one of the best teams we have had in recent memory," said Spackey. "If you look at the scores, everyone is shooting lower than the past couple of years. That was the great thing about the fall, it was not just one or two people vying for the top spots every week, everyone was always competing to be in the top five."

The Bulldogs are coming off a strong fall, which saw the team win the Xavier Invitational, and Kemmer win her first collegiate tournament at the Nittany Lion Invitational. The Bulldogs opened the fall at the Nittany Lion Invitational, and it was already evident that it was going to be a good fall for Yale. Even though Yale finished in seventh as a team, every player's score over three rounds was at or below 80, an important goal for the team. More importantly, the potential of Kemmer was realized, as she blew away the field, winning the individual championship by four shots. Her scores of 73 (+1), 73 (+1) and 74 (+2) were good enough for a tournament score of 220, only four shots over par.

The Bulldogs struggled at their home invitational, when play was suspended during the first day due to rain, limiting the tournament to just one round of golf. The Bulldogs' strong first round was wiped away with the rain cancellation, and they were forced to play a stressful 18 holes where every shot seemed to matter just a little more. The Bulldogs ended up finishing sixth with at team score of 311, ten shots behind the winner Harvard.

Any pain from a loss at home to their perennial rivals was immediately wiped away as the Bulldogs went to Florida and won the Xavier Invitational. Perhaps most impressive was that none of the Yale players finished in the top five individually. It was a full team effort that led the Bulldogs to their first team win since the Yale Intercollegiate in 2007. It was not a walk in the park for Yale, though, as the Bulldogs fought back from fourth place on the first day, and had to hold off a charging Florida Atlantic in the final round. In the end, Yale only needed one stroke to beat Florida Atlantic and take the title.

The Bulldogs' final tournament of the fall, the Ross Resorts Invitational, turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. After being only two shots behind after two rounds, the Bulldogs faltered in the third round and ended up finishing fifth. Boles had been leading the tournament after two rounds, but ended up finishing in fourth.

Fast forward four months, and the Bulldogs are gearing up to open their season at the Eagle Landing Invite. Four months of lifting, training and mental preparation has the Bulldogs poised to have a big spring.

"We had a lot of good rounds in the fall," said Spackey. "Our last tournament wasn't our best, but it showed us what we needed to work on in the offseason. We did a lot of short game work in the Dave Paterson Center and really tried to get back to the fundamentals of golf."

This year's spring schedule is made up of three invitationals, the Ivy League Championships and if all goes according to plan, the NCAA Regionals. The first of the three invitationals is the Eagle Landing Invite in Jacksonville, Fla., hosted by James Madison. Following the Eagle Landing Invite, the team will head to Rock Hill, S.C., for the Shamrock Invitational, which is being hosted by Winthrop University at the Rock Hill Country Club. From there, the Bulldogs take the next weekend off before heading to Harrison, N.Y., to take on the ROAR-EE Invitational hosted by Columbia. After that it is off to the Ivy League Championship for the Bulldogs, which will be hosted at the Atlantic City Country Club in Northfield, N.J.

"I think we have a great chance this spring at an Ivy League Championship," said Spackey. "We have our work cut out for us definitely, but I think we have the strength and endurance as well as the necessary training to have a really good shot at the championship."

At least year's Ivy League Championship the Bulldogs finished in fourth place behind Harvard, Columbia and Penn. The Bulldogs came into the tournament with a sixth-place finish in the Dr. Donnis Thompson Invite, a third-place finish at the Hoya Invitational and a third-place finish at the ROAR-EE Invitational. Yale had a disappointing first two rounds at the Ivy Championship, shooting 48-over-par, placing the team in fifth. Yale played much better on the final day, tying for the best team score of the day, but it was not enough to overcome the deficit the Bulldogs had created in the first two rounds. They were able to pass Penn, however, and finish in fourth place overall.

"Our goal obviously is to win Ivies," said Spackey. "But along the way, I'd like to see us continue the trend from the fall and win another one of our tournaments. I think we have the potential to keep that winning streak-up. I also want to see our girls making the top five and top 10 individually in tournaments."

Winning Ivies seems to be well within reach, as the Bulldogs just missed out on beating Columbia and Princeton at the Nittany Lion Invitational, and then defeated Brown, Dartmouth and Penn at the Yale Intercollegiate, though Harvard won that tournament. But with four months of hard training since then, it should be a very exciting spring.

The Bulldogs will get their first chance to prove themselves on Mar. 9 when they open at the Eagle Landing Invite. It is being hosted by the Dukes of James Madison at the Eagle Landing Golf Club. The 7,037 yard Clyde Johnston course combines classic hole design into a par-72 layout. The tournament will feature 15 universities from all over the country including Barry, East Carolina, Elon, High Point, Jacksonville, James Madison, Kennesaw State, Penn State, South Florida, Southern Mississippi, UNC Greensboro, Illinois, Iowa, Tennessee Chattanooga and Yale. The teams will play 36 holes of golf on Monday followed by 18 on Tuesday.

The tournament will tee off with a shotgun start at 8:30 a.m. Monday morning.

Report filed by Charles Moore '10, Yale Sports Publicity

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