125 years after the first college golf match, rematch

On a fall day in 1896, a group of Yale students caught up in a new sporting craze called golf traveled from their campus in New Haven, Conn., By train and stagecoach to a course north of New York City – one of the few clubs in the country. at the time – to take over some of the Columbia boys.

In the country’s first inter-college game, Yale defeated Columbia, with all six golfers winning their matches.

Earlier this month, after 125 years, Columbia finally got a rematch.

“This is a remarkable day for our game – the collegiate game was born 125 years ago,” said current Columbia coach Rich Mueller, both teams gathered at the practice of Saint Andrew’s Golf Club in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY

Yes, the first golf game was played between two Ivy League teams that have rarely made it into the top 100 of Division I over the decades.

Of course, these were different times in university sports. Decades after Princeton and Rutgers played their first interuniversity football game in 1869, Ivy League football teams remained the athletic powerhouses that were on the headlines of the national news.

Similarly, in university golf, the 1896 match signaled the beginning of Ivy’s dominance. The following year, the first state championships were held at the college, and almost all team and individual titles were won by Ivy League by 1930 – especially Yale, whose 21 state titles are still the most of all colleges.

Credit …The New York Times

This was long before major state schools in warm weather such as Houston (16 state titles) and Oklahoma (11) enjoyed a dominant era after the NCAA took over state championships in 1939 and became a savings bank for the PGA Tour.

Yale’s male golf coach, Colin Sheehan, who adores his golf history, recently came across two New York Times articles from 1896 covering the Yale-Columbia game, which he immediately mentioned to Mueller.

The coaches organized a commemorative replay of this match, which became a pot of intercollegiate golf, to acquaint their players with the history and tradition of university golf and to prepare some lively competition.

The original match was played on November 6, 1896 at Ardsley Casino, which opened last year as one of the first 18-hole courses in the country and whose members were prominent financiers such as Jay Gould, Cornelius Vanderbilt and J. Pierpont Morgan.

The club, now called the Ardsley Country Club, on the nearby Dobbs Ferry ferry, was not available to host the game in the fall. And due to logistical problems with the original date, coaches have scheduled the game for Oct. 22 at Saint Andrew’s, which is Columbia’s home course and has its place in golf history.

The club, founded in 1888, claims to be the oldest permanent golf club in the country (although several clubs assert themselves on different versions of this title) and is one of five clubs that founded the United States Golf Association in 1894.

In fact, Columbia and Yale have had a lot of rematch over the years, with Yale winning the majority, but both teams now mostly play only on a tournament schedule instead of head-to-head matches.

So they agreed to play this as an unofficial showdown. Nevertheless, the importance of this important challenging match seemed to mark the players as they arrived at the club not in stagecoaches but in sleek passenger vans.

They came out dressed in bright golf shirts, baseball caps, and khakis or shorts – which is a far cry from their 1896 counterparts, who wore shorts, monogrammed blazers, tweed hats, shirts, and bow ties.

The 1896 teams played their top six players in a hole-winning format, with the team with the most holes of all players winning. The coaches decided to keep this now obscure form for the replay and play their full starting lineups with seven players.

The official on the first tee – Mueller’s son Kurt, 9 – posted each pair along with the names of the 1896 golfers who played in each group.

In one group, William Sung, 18, a Columbia freshman, was paired against Yale Darren Lin, 21 years old, senior.

Their colleague 125 years ago was Yale’s Roderick Terry Jr. in Columbia GC Pier. Terry beat his opponent 7-0 to show 88, the lowest score of the day. It was also an impressive feat, given that Terry and his teammates were punching gutta-percha rubber balls with hand-crafted wooden-beam sticks that bore names like brassie, niblick, spoon, and cleek instead of numbers.

As for Lina and Sung, they both grew up in California and competed in youth golf tournaments and perfected their swings with the help of top teachers, video aids and a variety of learning tools. They use rangefinders on the track, which give an accurate meter to the target.

“It’s cool to see how far golf has come. It’s really surreal how important technology has become, ”said Sung, whose driver had a titanium-plated head.

In 1896, golf had only just begun to take root in the United States and had only recently “found its way among schools,” as preview matches were recorded by The Times.

Another time Article, who summed up the match, described in detail how Yale beat the newly formed Columbia team 35-0. The winning Yale players received the “First Intercollegiate Golf Meet” medal.

The defeat of Columbia was not a shock. Columbia, located in Manhattan, had no home track and only gathered the team weeks before the game. His star actor mentioned in the 1896 Columbia Spectator Article like L. Tappin, he was “excluded from the game” and lost by four holes as his team was “defeated with a big score, but still not embarrassed.”

“They basically brought a knife into the gun,” Mueller said. “You can imagine how quiet this stagecoach ride was back to Columbia.”

So this time the Columbia men played “with the weight of history on their shoulders,” he said.

“It’s the first time we’ve been hit so hard in the butt,” he said. “Some of my guys said they were never as nervous as on that first run.”

Yale’s top team grew out of the explosion of golf popularity in New Haven along with the opening of the New Haven Golf Club near the campus in 1895.

Yale had dozens of golfers on his team, and the starting six were equipped with skilled players from prominent golf families, including John Reid Jr. and FC Havemeyer, whose fathers helped found the USGA

Reid Jr. won his game against Columbia with 10 holes and would have won Yale’s first individual state title in 1898. He was the son of John Reid, a Scottish immigrant who in 1888 helped find Saint Andrew’s as a three-hole trail in a cow. pasture in Yonkers.

Older Reid’s old golf clubs are on display in John Reid’s room at Saint Andrew’s in the original club house, where members like Andrew Carnegie and Stanford White have relaxed, said Rick Powers, a member of the club’s history committee.

The Ivy League’s athletic dominance, including golf, has faded over time as large public schools outside the Northeast grew and the Ivies gave academics an advantage over athletics.

“I’m joking that everyone on the team is here because Conrad Ray didn’t give them an offer,” Sheehan said of the men’s golf coach at Stanford, the golf powerhouse where Tiger Woods played.

Yale is still the dominant force in Ivies and despite not knowing Saint Andrew’s he had his moments in a recent match. There was a complicated climb by Ben Carpenter from right next to the green to win the 16th hole, and Lin’s comeback nine returns, which included a chip to 18 to beat Sung 1-0.

But in the end, the day belonged to Columbia, whose 15-2 win put the balm on that 125-year-old spanking.

Seeing his team rise to a historic moment, Mueller later said, “is by far the proudest moment in my 22 years of coaching.”

That night, he sent messages to his players that the 1896 Columbia members would be proud.

“Despite the fact that they are dead now,” he wrote, “I am sure they will smile on all of you who enjoy salvation tonight.”

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