The Yale men’s golf team has not won the Ivy League title since 2011, but if the fall season and the first match of the spring are of any indication, the 2018 Bulldogs are poised to make some noise at the Ivy League Championship in less than a month.
The Elis began the sprint to the season’s finish line at the Furman Intercollegiate this past weekend. A three-day, 54-hole affair, the Intercollegiate marked the end of a five-month hiatus from the fall season. The team left the Furman University Course placing sixth out of the 21 competing teams and finishing above the two other Ivy opponents in the field.
“This was a really good start to the season, and we fared incredibly well given that we haven’t played in a while,” Bernstein said. “Our guys have been practicing and getting stronger, and we are much more prepared this year than in previous years. There has been a mindset on the team in trying to prepare for the spring before spring came around, and it has paid off so far.”
Three Bulldogs — Will Bernstein ’18, James Nicholas ’19 and Eoin Leonard ’19 — finished the first day of play under par. Henry Cassriel ’18 and Sean Yi ’21 rounded out Yale’s score for the day with respective 3-over and 6-over turnouts to position Yale in third heading into day two.
Yale’s Saturday play yielded a 2-over score of 290, situating them in fourth for day three. Bernstein exhibited consistency from day one in maintaining a 1-under score of 71, followed by impressive performances by Leonard and Nicholas, who yielded a par and 1-over, respectively. Yi improved his score by four from day one to card a 2-over, and Cassriel rounded out the top five scorers with a 7-over.
On the last leg of the tournament, Yale dropped two positions to finish sixth out of the 21 competing teams while enduring brutal conditions. Braving 40 degree weather with 15 mph winds, Nicholas wowed the course and led Yale’s top five with a 2-under, bringing his individual score to 214, seven strokes away from tournament leader Philip Knowles of North Florida. He ultimately finished ninth overall.
Bernstein followed with a 3-over to yield a composite 217, enough to tie for 16th overall. Yale finished the day with a 301 to contribute to the team’s cumulative score of 879, 15-over for the 54-hole course.
Yale’s performance was especially promising given that the Bulldogs crushed the two other Ivy foes competing in the tournament. Harvard and Dartmouth finished 23 and 24 strokes behind the Elis in 13th and 15th place, respectively.
“We were definitely pleased with the result at Furman,” head coach Colin Sheehan said. “We would have liked to have held our position on the last day, but all in all, for a spring break tournament, we definitely feel like it was a very good start to the season.”
Yale’s building momentum heading into the final month stems from more than just the Furman Intercollegiate.
The two-month fall season yielded fantastic results for the team, which thrived off of two dual-match wins, two individual championships and one team championship. The Elis took home dual wins against Brown and Richmond along with a team home-win at the MacDonald Cup. Leonard held his own against 78 competitors at Doc Gimmler to claim the individual title, while Nicholas following suit with his own individual win at the Cornell Invitational.
“The mindset is to maintain our momentum,” Leonard said. “We still have not lost to another Ivy team this season, so the plan is to keep playing well in order to maintain that record.”
The Bulldogs now have two weeks to prepare for the Princeton Invitational. In the 2016–17 season, the Elis finished fifth of 14 teams in the Tigers’ tournament, with both Harvard and Princeton placing above the squad in second and third, respectively. As Yale entered the spring season ranked first in the Ivy League according to the Golfweek Team rankings, the team said it is preparing to defend its status going onto the Springsdale Golf Club.
After the Princeton Invitational, Yale will return to New Haven to defend its win from last year at the Yale Spring Invitational the following week. Last season, Bernstein won the individual title at The Course at Yale with a strong 1-under 139. Along with Bernstein, Nicholas held his own to secure third overall, contributing to Yale’s overall 9-over 569.
“We had a great start to the Furman event this past weekend and need to build off of that going into the Princeton event in two weeks,” Nicholas said. “Our seniors Will Bernstein and Henry Cassriel have done an incredible job leading our team and getting each of us ready for the spring.”
But the Princeton and Yale Invitationals ultimately serve as preparation for the Ivy League Championship in late April.
The Elis have a lot to prove coming off last season’s fourth-place finish. Last year, Yale posted a 33-over 897, after struggling in the first and second legs of the contest with a 10-over and 17-over, respectively. Harvard went on to win its second consecutive Ivy title with Leonard and Bernstein leading returning Bulldogs with 14th- and 21st-place finishes.
Seven Bulldogs of the current 11-member squad have competed in the Ivy League Championships in the past.
Lauren Cueto | firstname.lastname@example.org
Correction, March 30: A previous version of the articles incorrectly stated that William Bernstein won the Doc Gimmler event and that Eoin Leonard won the Cornell Invitational. In fact, Leonard won the Doc Gimmler and James Nicholas won the Cornell Invitational.