When Drue Nicholas was a freshman on the St. Augustine Prep golf team, he quickly showcased his talents, making his name known around South Jersey.
Entering his sophomore season, Nicholas remained unfazed despite all the attention.
He said it actually helped him this spring.
Nicholas won the Galloway Invitational at Galloway National for the second straight year and the Cape-Atlantic League Individual championship. Just as he was last season, Nicholas is The Press Golfer of Year.
“I think (the season) went well for the team and myself,” Nicholas said. “Personally, this year was almost the same as last year. But team-wise, it was a lot better because we all became closer. Overall, it was a great season. Everyone can always change something, but I am happy with how it went.”
The Galloway Invitational was Nicholas’ favorite memory of the season, but not just because he won the individual title. The Hermits captured the team title.
“I never had a team title,” Nicholas said. “So my team winning meant way more to me.”
Nicholas shot a 2-over-par 73 to win the CAL Individual Championship in May. The 15-year-old sophomore was having a bad round but then shot 6-under over the last five holes to seize the title.
That comeback pleased Nicholas more than the score.
“It was pretty amazing,” St. Augustine coach Lenny Dolson said. “I think he picked up right where he left off. He has been winning tournaments since his freshman year. He got a little bigger and started hitting the ball a little farther. I am looking forward to the next two years.”
Nicholas shot a 4-under-par 32 in a nine-hole match against Salesianum, of Delaware, on May 9. He said it was his best match of the season because he didn’t expect to shoot that low. The sophomore had four birdies in that late-season victory.
The Egg Harbor Township resident made his first-career hole-in-one at the Garden State Cup on April 9. Nicholas, along with teammate Jonathan Prussel, shot a 1-under-par 71, taking home third and second place in individual scoring, respectively, after a match of cards to break the tie.
Nicholas had seven birdies at the Blue Heron Pines Golf Club annual event.
“Having one year under my belt helped me,” Nicholas said. “I improved (from last season), and my golf game matured a bit. I shot some better scores than last year.”
Nicholas also finished second in the boys division at the Carl Arena/Al Rifkin Memorial Tournament on May 3 with a 2-under 70.
“He is confident in every match he plays in,” Dolson said. “He always thinks he can win every tournament he enters.”
Nicholas tied for fifth in the South Jersey Non-Public A tournament on May 15. At the Tournament of Champions on May 21, he finished 10th among 18 golfers in the Non-Public A grouping.
Nicholas, who shot an 80 at the TOC, was not satisfied with his score, saying he knows he he could have placed higher.
“People can try to say they’ll to do better,” Nicholas said, “but if there’s one thing I can improve on, it’s toward the end of the season, I think I kind of slacked off. I need to stay focused. If I keep playing my game, I’ll do fine next year.”
Nicholas will play in multiple tournaments around the country this summer, including some invitation-only events.
“It’ll be nice to get the competitive juices flowing again,” Nicholas said. “I look forward to playing tournament golf. It’s what I live for, and it’s what I enjoy.”
Team of the Year
For the second consecutive season, St. Augustine Prep is The Press Golf Team of the Year.
The Hermits finished 18-1, earning the No. 2 spot on the final Press Elite 11 rankings. They captured the Galloway Invitational, a top tournament with teams from all over the state, with a score of 315.
St. Augustine finished second at the Garden State Cup with a 305 and at the South Jersey Non-Public A tournament with 326.
The Hermits will return their entire team next season, including Prussel and Mike DeLong as seniors and Jackson Putney as a junior.
“I am looking for some big things again next year,” Dolson said. “I’m hoping to win every tournament we enter.”
Coach of the Year
St. Augustine Prep’s Lenny Dolson is The Press Golf Coach of the Year.
Dolson spends much of his time on the Hermits’ home course, Buena Vista Country Club, with his team. That added effort, along with his philosophy of entering as many 18-hole tournaments as possible to get St. Augustine ready for the playoffs, has worked.
Under Dolson’s guidance, the Hermits won the Galloway Invitational on April 17. Dolson is 398-15 in 24 seasons with St. Augustine, having qualified for the Tournament of Champions and captured the CAL American Division title each spring.