With Kushner gone, golf team aims for strong season

The men’s golf team had been on a roll entering the Ivy League Championship tournament last April. The Bulldogs had not lost in three weeks, taking victories at the Princeton Invitational and Century Intercollegiate, and looked to be the favorites at the conference championship meet behind the leadership of Ivy League player of the year Sam Bernstein ’14 and captain Bradley Kushner ’13.

Though the Elis led by three strokes heading into the final day of the championship, they faltered in the final round, finishing in second to Princeton. But with a new team built around core veterans and a promising freshman class, Yale appears poised to compete down to the final day of competition again this year.

“I think we have another great team,” head coach Colin Sheehan ’97 said. “The team that feels like everytime we tee it up, we’re capable of winning.”

Sheehan noted the talent of the entering freshmen as well as the improvement of the upperclassmen, stressing that the team features a combination of both youth and experience. He also emphasized the leadership capabilities of the senior class helmed by Bernstein, who assumed the captaincy after Kushner’s graduation last year.

With the honor of conference player of the year already in his back pocket, Bernstein will be the player to watch this year not only on the Yale team, but perhaps in all of the Ivy League. Last year he took the individual title at the season-opening Adams Cup last September and is capable of another strong start to this season.

Beyond Bernstein, a number of other Bulldog veterans appear ready to shoulder the load of long spring and fall seasons after improving during the offseason.

Asked about players to watch for this season, Sheehan said, “I could go up and down the lineup listing talent and abilities of the players.”

He did, however, note that Joe Willis ’16 was able to compete in several tournaments this summer, capped by a four-under par performance on Tuesday in an event at the Oak Lane Country Club in Woodbridge, Conn.

The team also welcomes four new additions this year: Johnathan Lai ’17, Nick McNiff ’17, James Park ’17 and Li Wang ’17, hailing from Hong Kong; Plymouth, Pa.; Seoul; and Sammamish, Wash., respectively.

“Jon Lai, Li Wang, Jimmy Park and Nick McNiff comprise a powerful four-man addition to the team, which is already stacked with four or five starters from the Ivy League championship last year,” Will Davenport ’15 said. “We have all had extremely successful summer campaigns, and we are carrying a lot of that confidence into our first match against Texas A&M this Saturday.”

The men’s golf team will kick of its season on Saturday against Texas A&M at the Bridge in Southhampton, N.Y — the first test for the team since the disappointing defeat at Ivies. They will play a fall season culminating in the Ivy League Matchplay tournament in October, and will return to the course for the spring season in March.

As always, expectations remain high for the Elis.

“The goal is to win an Ivy League Championship,” Sean Gaudette ’14 said.

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