Courtesy of Colin Sheehan

This Friday, the Yale men’s golf team will travel to Saint Andrew’s Golf Club to play against Columbia in commemoration of 125 years since the first intercollegiate golf match. 

The Bulldogs will take on the Lions in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York to recreate the first intercollegiate golf game that was played on Nov. 6, 1896. Harvard, Princeton and Penn were invited to play in this game, but only the New York and New Haven teams ended up competing in a holes-won match that Yale easily captured 35–0. Yale men’s golf head coach Colin Sheehan undertook much of the planning for this anniversary event and compiled a number of historical records to catalogue the development of golf in New Haven and at Yale. 

“We’re very fortunate to sit here with the oldest and most decorated team and the most well-known college golf course,” Sheehan told the News. “It’s a joy to bring the history out and to celebrate it. I was a senior in the fall of ’96 and we would have been celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of intercollegiate golf in the spring of ’97 when I graduated. It’s a chance to share the early history of the program and golf in New Haven.”

 The original match between Yale and Columbia, over a century ago, was played at Ardsley Country Club in Irvington, New York, but scheduling conflicts between the teams and Ardsley meant that the venue was changed to St. Andrews — the oldest private golf club in the country. 

Friday’s match will recreate the holes-won format — a rare sight nowadays according to Coach Sheehan  — of the original match and will count as a scrimmage for both teams as opposed to formal competition. The Bulldogs will be competing in this event before they meet Harvard and Princeton at Briarcliff Manor, New York this Sunday, Oct. 24.

“This week’s event with Columbia is going to be a really awesome experience,” Blake Brantley ’25 said. “I know that college golf has shaped a lot of our guys’ lives so getting to celebrate its birth with a match is really cool.” 

During the off-season, Sheehan studies the history of golf at Yale, including the history of the storied Yale Golf Course. Sheehan’s research ranges from historical accounts, archived stories from the New York Times and the News, and photographs of early teams. 

Before golf was popular among undergraduates at Yale, older Yale affiliates were enjoying the thrills of the sport. In 1895, Theodore Woolsley and Justus Hotchkiss began playing golf after advice from Hotchkiss’ Scottish cabinetmaker, Robert Pryde. Woolsley and Hotchkiss introduced the game to Yale affiliates, who created a New Haven Golf Club that year and a Yale-specific group the next year in 1896. 

By November of 1896, Yale would win its first match against Columbia and in the spring, Yale won the first intercollegiate championship. Sheehan hopes to celebrate this anniversary next spring. 

“[I’m] extremely excited and honored to play in the 125th anniversary of college golf,” Gabriel Ruiz ’24 said. “Playing collegiate golf was always a goal of mine so participating in this event will be incredible.” 

Seven coaches have served as heads of the men’s golf program at Yale since the team’s creation in 1896. Sheehan is the seventh person to serve in this role and is currently in his 13th year.

Hamera Shabbir covers golf and fencing for the Sports desk and the School of the Environment for the Science and Technology desk. Originally from California's Central Valley, she is a sophomore in Branford College majoring in Environmental Studies.