The Yale men’s golf team has started this season strong, finishing second overall at the Cornell Invitational on Sept. 16, a week after a fourth overall finish at the Doc Glimmer tournament.
But these successes also marked individual triumphs for some team members. Eoin Leonard ’19 and James Nicholas ’19 finished first individually at the Doc Glimmer and Cornell Invitational, respectively. The wins marked each golfer’s first collegiate tournament win. At Doc Glimmer, Leonard finished an impressive seven under, while Nicholas paced all competitors in Ithaca at four under.
The victories should not come as a surprise for those who were following the team during the summer. The two golfers were hard at work looking to build on last year’s fourth-place Ivy League finish.
“There are many contributing factors to our success thus far, but I would say one of the major reasons we have played well this semester would be the success we had playing throughout the summer,” Leonard said. “We both played a lot and had some great results during the summer, so we both came into this season high in confidence.”
One of Leonard’s best performances occurred at the 2017 Boyd Quaich Memorial Golf Tournament at St. Andrews. The Irishman finished 21 under, shattering the all-time Boyd Quaich record by more than 13 strokes.
Nicholas had similar success this summer. He placed in the top 64 at the U.S. Amateur Golf Championship, which was held from Aug. 14 to 20. Captain Will Bernstein ’18 said he felt that these strides over the summer played a big part in explaining Nicholas’ stellar performance so far.
“He’s been playing great all summer and it’s something he really deserves,” Bernstein said.
The fruits of each golfer’s hard work were on display Sept. 5 when Nicholas and Leonard finished first and second, respectively, at the Borsodi Student Championship, the annual student competition held at the Course at Yale. Nicholas finished five under par, while Leonard finished one under.
The win at the Cornell Invitational, however, is far more significant for Nicholas, and not just because it was his first major tournament win in college. The Scarsdale, New York, native had already enjoyed significant success on that same course.
“I love the course at Cornell,” Nicholas said. “I won the state championship there my senior year of high school, so to win my first college event on that same course is pretty special.”
Leonard’s win at the Doc Glimmer tournament occurred much farther away from his hometown. Nearly 3,500 miles of land and sea separate his native Ascot, England, from Farmingdale, New York.
Although the distance has never presented any major difficulty for Leonard, his transition from the United Kingdom to the United States still came with difficulties.
“One of the biggest challenges I have faced was adjusting to the American academic structure,” Leonard said. “The U.K. system is very different, so trying to get used to things like midterms whilst also traveling and competing was certainly a tough task, especially during my very first semester here.”
If his success at Doc Glimmer is any indication, there will be high expectations for the junior this season. He hopes that the win simply represents a stepping stone towards the team’s ultimate goal: an Ivy League Championship.
For the team to win the conference title, Nicholas and Leonard will need to continue playing at a high level. According to head coach Colin Sheehan ’97, both tournaments provided an opportunity for the two golfers to improve their games.
“You can’t get enough experience,” Sheehan said. “Ivies in the spring may be a long way off, but these are opportunities to compete on behalf of each other, to depend on each other, to create these experiences were teammates were able to come through under pressure for each other. That can only serve us well.”
Nicholas, Leonard and the rest of the Eli squad compete next at the Macdonald Cup at the Course at Yale. The tournament takes place on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.
Sebastian Kupchaunis contributed reporting.
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