GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Conditions for the Garden State Cup at Blue Heron Pines Golf Club on Monday were different than they were a year ago.

The weather was great, which made playing conditions better despite the gusty winds throughout the course.

And St. Augustine Prep junior Drue Nicholas took advantage.

“(The weather) was so much better than last year,” said Nicholas, 16, of Egg Harbor Township. “I am in shorts and a polo right now. Last year, I had Under Armour on and three layers, so it definitely helped with my ball strike not being as stiff.”

Nicholas, the tournament runner-up in 2018, won the individual title by five shots Monday with a 4-under 68. He had seven birdies, including one on the 18th hole.

Christian Brothers Academy’s Brendan Hansen placed second and Jack Wall third after a match of cards. Both shot a 1-over 73.

CBA won the team title with a score of 302. Bergen Catholic, which won it the previous three seasons, finished second (319). Midland Park placed third (324).

Nicholas and teammate Jonathan Prussel, who placed sixth in individual scoring with a 77, led St. Augustine to a fourth-place finish in team scoring (324) after a match of cards.

Twenty-one teams participated.

“We could’ve played better,” Hermits coach Lenny Dolson said. “It was our first tournament of the year, so we will get out there and practice, and I expect us to do better in our next tournament.”

Despite his victory, Nicholas said his only focus is on improving.

“I hit my drive really well today,” Nicholas said. “It was really important to keep it in play because this course has so much OB (out of bounds), and I hate OB. I hit my irons OK. It started to get better toward the back nine, but my wedges were pretty poor today, and luckily I was able to get by with that.”

“My putting was also really good. I missed a few, but everyone is going to miss a few. But overall, I am very pleased.”

Nicholas finished the front nine with a 35. The Press Golfer of the Year as a freshman and sophomore, he is committed to North Carolina State University.

“I think the weather had a little bit of a factor and, also, him being another year older,” Dolson said of Nicholas’ performance. “I just expect that every tournament that he enters, he is going to compete to win it this year.”

Prussel, a first-team Press All-Star last season, shot a 39 in the front nine. But he was able to make a couple of birdies and some pars on the back nine to keep his score low.

“I struggled a bit overall, on the greens mainly,” Prussel said. “I just have to work on my putting, and hitting my irons a little closer to the pins. I hit my driver decently well, kept the ball in play, so I just need to work on course management.”

Camille O’Halloran, a first-team Press All-Star last spring, led Mainland in scoring (80). The senior won the girls division of the Carl Arena/Al Rifkin Memorial Golf Tournament last season.

The Mustangs’ Michael Mitnick shot an 81.

“I’d always like to do better,” O’Halloran said. “But, considering how hard I had to play today against the wind and keeping my physical endurance up, I felt pretty good. I think I did alright.”

Jeffrey Reilly led Southern Regional with an 81. James Dalzell (84) led Holy Spirit, and Dan Harley (96) led Oakcrest.

Note: Tournament director Ralph Leek expressed appreciation to Blue Heron for hosting and to Garden State Cup sponsors LGPA and ShopRite of Galloway.

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