Drue Nicholas

Egg Harbor Township resident and rising St. Augustine Prep sophomore Drue Nicholas, 15, poses with his trophy after winning the Optimist International Junior Golf Championship for the boys 14-15-year-old division Thursday in West Palm Gardens, Florida. He shot a 214 over three days.

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Golfer Drue Nicholas just turned 15 years old Tuesday but played like a veteran to win the Windham Mountain Resort Junior All-Star Tournament on Thursday in Windham, New York.

Nicholas, The Press Golfer of the Year and a rising sophomore at St. Augustine Prep, rallied from two strokes down on the back nine of the final round at Windham Country Club to win the tournament by four strokes. Nicholas, an Egg Harbor Township resident, had five birdies and four pars on the back nine of the third and final round to finish with a nine-under-par 207.

It was his first American Junior Golf Association tournament, and he topped an international field of 71 junior players.

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“At first it felt surreal to win,” said Nicholas. “I looked at the past champions, and some of them have gone on to the PGA Tour. I saw the scores from last year, and I knew it was possible to win. It was good to get the first (AJGA) win off my back.”

Nicholas had a good practice round Monday, and then shot rounds of 70, 70 and 67 on the par-72 course.

“I was in-between confident and nervous going into it, because I didn’t know what to expect,” Nicholas said. “The last day, I finally played the course right. If I had to describe the course, I’d say ‘quirky.’ The back nine was scoreable, and I used my driver a lot. There were a lot of ups and downs, and some of it was super-elevated. I used the 4-iron off the tee a lot.”

In the three rounds, Nicholas shot 36, 37 and 36 on the front nine, and 34, 33 and 31 on the back nine.

August Meekhof, a rising sophomore from Eastmanville, Michigan, was second at 211. Benjamin James, of Milford, Connecticut, and Junyi Tang, of Bejing, both rising juniors, finished tied for third place at 212 apiece.

Nichoas’ family, father Mark, mother Beth, brother David, 8, and sister Ashley, 12, made the trip, too.

“I think that Drue showed the ability to handle pressure,” Mark Nicholas said. “There was a lot of pressure, and he managed it well. It was a bigger tournament than he’s played in before. There was an outstanding field and a lot of college coaches there. Winning will boost his confidence level.”

The par-3, 160-yard 15th hole was a key to victory. Nicholas was tied for the lead going into it, and he hit a tee-shot that landed two feet from the pin. He made the putt for a birdie.

“That was my best shot of tournament, and it calmed me down,” Nicholas said. “The last nine was when it started to get fun.”

The Prep standout’s next tournament will be the AJGA Junior All-Star Golf Tournament from July 10-13 at Talbot Country Club in Easton, Maryland.

For St. Augustine this spring, Nicholas won the Galloway Invitational on April 19 with a 4-over-par 75. He also took the Carl Arena/Al Rifkin Memorial Tournament on May 4 with a 1-under-par 72. Nicholas was third in the South Jersey Non-Public A Tournament, and finished tied for eighth place in the Tournament of Champions with a 1-over-par 73.

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609-272-7210 GGargan@pressofac.com

I’ve been at The Press since January of 1983. I cover all sports in general, but mostly lifeguard racing, and high school field hockey, football, swimming, basketball, crew, baseball and softball.

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