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The Light Blue spent the decade between Ivy League title-winning seasons to hitting the bottom of the conference table.

Women's golf

Throughout the past decade, the women’s team has been stagnant, remaining in the middle of the pack for the past ten seasons. There was no year that the Light Blue achieved better than third or worse than fifth on the seven-team women’s golf Ivy table—Cornell does not have a women’s golf team.

Entering the decade, the women’s team was coming off an abysmal sixth-place performance at the 2010 Ivy League Championships. The team saw promise in the fall with repeated top five finishes. The spring season was a different story, however, as then-first-year Michelle Piyapattra proved to be a powerhouse, seizing title after title, which paid off at the 2011 Ivy League Championships.

Piyapattra produced a sizable six-stroke lead in the first two days of competition, and birdied five times on the final day of competition. Despite some shaky play that Sunday, Piyapattra clinched the individual title. She became the second member of the women’s golf team to achieve this honor after Sara Ovadia, CC ’09, took home the title during her sophomore season.

Piyapattra’s season did not end at Ivies, however, as she had an impressive run at the U.S. Amateur Golf Championship where she fell in the round of 32 to the reigning national champion.

That fall, she consistently led the Lions to top three finishes and claimed the title at the Harvard Invitational to close out the season. While Piyapattra would become the 2012 Ivy League Player of the Year, the Lions—and she—would finish the Ivy season at fourth in the league.

After the Light Blue won multiple titles in spring 2014, the Ivy League title looked to be in sight. When the Lions took to the course in New Jersey, they battled their way up from fifth place to finish in third while Piyapattra claimed fourth individually.

Later that year, Kari Williams, who had coached the Light Blue for eight years, left for Rutgers University; Amy Weeks, a volunteer assistant coach, took the helm.

The first tournament under Weeks proved to be a success as the Lions clinched the title at the Nittany Lion Invitational. Success after success followed the new team up until the Ivy League Championships. The Light Blue led the competition until day three, when it fell behind both Harvard and Yale.

Play continued at that high level throughout the 2015-16, 2016-17, and 2017-18 seasons. However, despite powerful efforts, the Light Blue remained shy of the Ancient Eight crown.

Then-first-year Jennifer Wang achieved a runner-up finish at the 2019 Ivy League Championships, just two strokes behind the winner from Harvard. Her impressive play signalled a bright future for women’s golf.

Whether the Light Blue will become a title-winning program for the first time since 2007 remains unknown; it is up to the current team to prove that they are up to the challenge.

Natalie Guerra

Men's golf

Entering the 2010s, the stakes were extremely high for the Light Blue, as it was coming off of three consecutive Ivy League titles. In fall 2010, the team delivered, tallying top three finishes in tournament after tournament. Coming into the third day of the 2011 Ivy League Championships, the Lions sat behind both Penn and Yale.

The Light Blue continued to put up a good fight in that final day of competition, tallying a better single-day score than all other Ivy competitors had in the previous two days of the tournament. However, Yale pushed to the lead, breaking so far away from the pack that the Lions could not catch up, costing Columbia its fourth back-to-back Ancient Eight crown and leaving the team with a second-place finish.

On the individual side, then-junior Brendan Doyle was a mere three strokes short of winning the individual title but could not make up the deficit, leaving him to finish in third place individually in the Ivy League. For most of the decade, this would be the story of men’s golf: close, but always falling short at the finish line. While the team has had some great triumphs—and some blowout losses—it was constantly trying to regain the glory it entered the decade with.

Although the team slipped to third place in Ivy standings in 2012 and to fourth place the next year, there was a resurgence of the previous decade’s Lions in 2014.

Led by then-junior Brandon Jowers—the highest-ranked player in the Ivy League—and then-sophomore Harrison Shih, the Light Blue was in prime position to take the Ancient Eight crown. The Lions had the smallest stroke average in program history, and though they trailed to the Bulldogs in the rankings, there was a yearning for the title that Yale could just not compete with.

After the first day of competition, the Lions were tied for fourth, just three strokes behind first place; but a stupendous second day of the tournament catapulted the Light Blue into the front-runner position, which it held until it officially clinched the crown. The team concluded its season with a 12th place finish at the NCAA Regional Tournament in Texas.

However, following the 2013-14 season, the Light Blue started to slip on the conference table yet again.

While the following seasons saw stupendous golfing from Jowers, Shih, and J. Christian FitzGerald, CC ’18, the Lions would not capture another Ivy League title for the remainder of the decade.

Despite finally finding a home at The Saint Andrew’s Golf Club, the Lions fell out of contention after two strong first days of competition, leaving them in a measly fourth place in 2015. After this season, Columbia went from finishing in the top five to the top 15. The next three years saw a dramatic shift in the team, as it went from being fifth in the league in 2016 to seventh in 2017 and dead last in 2018.

Rising stars such as senior Nick Brisebois, junior John Robertson, and Mert Selamet, SEAS ’17, consistently shined for the Lions but were often overshadowed by the team’s overall weak performance.

However, this all changed in fall 2018 as Robertson, Brisebois, junior Arjun Puri, and sophomore Daniel Core had incredibly strong showings. The team once again was capturing top five finishes throughout the fall and spring. Going into Ivies, no one knew how well the Lions would do: would they repeat the previous year’s abysmal eighth-place finish, or would the strength of individual players pull the Lions to the top?

In the end, the Light Blue would have an impressive second-place comeback led by Robertson and Core. However, going into the 2019-20 season, the team was hungry for success. In the fall season, the Lions placed first in two of their five meets. While Ivy League accolades are impressive, the team has larger feats in mind.

“Our goal is to make nationals next year and be the first Ivy League team to do so. Our team is in a position that we are very capable of doing it,” Core said in an interview with Spectator in December.

However, whether this squad could become national champions will remain unknown until 2021 as both the Ivy League Championship and the NCAA Golf Championship have been canceled due to COVID-19. But seen from the high quality of play and camaraderie, there might just be hope for the first Ivy national golf champions to be wearing light blue.

Sports Editor Lizzie Karpen can be contacted at elizabeth.karpen@columbiaspectator.com. Follow her on Twitter @LizzieKarpen.

A decade in athletics Golf Michelle Piyapattra Kari Williams Amy Weeks Jennifer Wang Brendan Doyle Brandon Jowers Harrison Shih J. Christian FitzGerald Daniel Core John Robertson Mert Selamet Nick Brisebois Arjun Puri
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