Steve Musco

Almost five months after a three-stroke defeat at the Ivy League Championship, Yale men’s golf tees off its season in the Alex Lagowitz Memorial Invitational at Colgate.

The Bulldogs put together an undefeated record against Ivy competition in the regular season. But the Elis’ luck ran out at the 2019 championship, when Yale came in third despite former captain James Nicholas ’19 earning medalist honors with a first-place individual finish.

Nicholas and Teddy Zinsner ’21 were two of the five players named to the first team All-Ivy lineup last spring. Eoin Leonard ’19, Paul Stankey ’21 and Darren Lin ’22 rounded out Yale’s regular five-man rotation. With three of their top five players returning this fall, the Bulldogs are poised to make another run at a championship with Zinsner as captain.

“You can always take positives from a loss,” Stankey said. “The main one for me from the Ivy championships last year was that we had a lot of returning players play well under less than ideal circumstances. Eoin got hurt, and so every one of our scores mattered. Getting experience in situations like that poises us to be successful in other tournaments. We always have the same overarching goal for the season – and that’s to win the Ivy title. Personally, my goal is to do my part to put us in that position.”

Yale must account for the loss of four seniors from last year’s squad. Alongside Nicholas and Leonard, Jake Leffew ’19 and Matt Smith ’19 have left behind their bright college years. The quartet of departures may make the first invitational of the new season a tad more uncertain than the Elis are accustomed to facing. Yale last won the Ivy League Championship in 2018 and has won 10 titles since 1975, the second most behind Princeton.

The only senior returning to this year’s squad is Jordan Weitz ’20, a member of last year’s victorious Yale Spring Invitational team. Also returning are Eric Hall ’21, Perry Xin ’21, Sean Yi ’21 and Kevin Wu ’22. First year Gabe Ruiz ’23 will make his Yale debut at Alex Lagowitz Memorial.

“I think all the returning players on the team probably realized how hard it is that the season really comes down to that final event,” Zinsner said. “But I also think it’s important we don’t let falling just short define us since it was such a dominant season. I think the team has the same expectations as last year, which would be to just try and play our best every week and to win Ivies. Losing two players like James and Eoin is hard but I don’t really think our team has any less talent or potential this year.”

Hall last played in the 2017–18 season, when he tied for 20th in the MacDonald Cup and played in two dual-match victories over Brown and Richmond. Xin tied with Hall for 20th at Yale’s annual fall invitational in 2017, and also played in both the Yale Spring Invitational and the Elis’ tri-match victory over Princeton and Harvard during the 2018–19 campaign.

Yi played in the Spring Invitational and the tri-match victory in addition to five other tournaments. Meanwhile, Ruiz, the newest member of the team, hails from Monterrey, Mexico. He is currently ranked 1,637 overall in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, the second-highest ranking on Yale’s team behind only Zinsner. Ruiz comes to New Haven as a strong contender for Ivy Rookie of the Year accolades.

“Both Eric and Gabe are really strong players,” Stankey said. “It’s great to have them both in the lineup this season. Gabe played really well at qualifying last weekend, and I’m confident both of them can get it rolling and help us win some tournaments.”

The Alex Lagowitz Memorial Invitational, which takes place at Seven Oaks Golf Club in Hamilton, New York, on Sept. 7 and 8, features 16 different schools. The meet is in honor of the late Colgate golfer Alex Lagowitz ’15, who passed away less than a year after his graduation.

Bentley Long | bentley.long@yale.edu