As he worked around the short game practice area at last month’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, James Nicholas caught the eye of Lydia Ko, at the time the world’s No. 1-ranked player.
“Do I know you?” Ko asked. “Are you the kid from the water shot?”
“It was pretty cool,” said Nicholas, a former junior club champ at Westchester Country Club, where the tournament was held. “I had the No. 1 player in the world come up to me.”
For someone who spent most of his four years glaring into the local spotlight, the Scarsdale senior never earned more attention than in the final season of a storied three-sport all-state career.
Nicholas won the state title, and did so with a memorable flair. His pitch shot from the water on the 17th hole in the first round helped save bogey in a tournament he eventually won by one shot.
For the Westchester/Putnam golfer of the year — also a two-time hockey player of the year — the moment soon went viral. The six-second video shot on his father’s cell phone spread around the internet and TV like wildfire after The Journal News’ Mike Dougherty posted it on his Twitter account, @lohudgolf.
“I made it on SportsCenter. I made it on Fox 5,” Nicholas said. “That’s been one of my dreams to get that kind of fame. It’s pretty cool.”
Of course, as always, Nicholas brought plenty of substance to the big stage as well. That the well-traveled shot sparked his run to a state championship was not lost on anyone.
Nicholas’ late bogey save gave him momentum going into the second and final round of states, leaving him just three shots off the lead. He double bogeyed the second hole and fell six back when leader Alec Bard birdied the first, but Nicholas lapped the field coming home. He played the final 16 holes in 2-under on a rain-soaked afternoon that saw everyone else move backward.
Nicholas’ determination in the poor conditions didn’t surprise anyone. All these years, he juggled a competitive academic workload with the burden of starring in three varsity sports, each of which took a backseat at times. Yet Nicholas played at a high level in all three.
“Any time in all the sports in the seasons I coached James, any time I knew he was healthy, I knew we had a chance to win or he had a chance by himself to win,” said Andy Verboys, who coached Nicholas in football and golf. “He’s not the fastest guy in the world. He’s not the strongest guy in the world. But he’s a fierce competitor.”
Nicholas went on to finish second at the Federation tournament at Bethpage Black to complete his career. He plans to play football and golf at Yale, but has already begun to bear the fruits of intensifying his golf training in recent years. He has worked the last two years with Gary Weir — the director of golf instruction at Westchester — to hone his natural gifts.
“Golf is a game of precision,” said Nicholas, who has also won a junior club championship at Winged Foot. “I really haven’t focused on it that much. To see how good I’ve gotten in the past few years, shows how good I can be one day.”
Even though his focus in college will be on football, Nicholas might have the brightest future in golf.
“His ceiling in golf far outweighs his ceiling in the other sports,” Verboys said. “He’s excited about it and motivated to put in that work now.”
And it shows. Just check the tape.
Christian Cavaliere, Jr., Somers
Connor Daly, Jr., Bronxville
Brent Ito, Jr., Ardsley
James McHugh, So., Rye
James Nicholas, Sr., Scarsdale (player of the year)
Paul Terminello, Jr., Stepinac
Coach of the year – Chris Lockwood, Bronxville
Bear Carlson, Sr., John Jay
Bobby Diforio, Sr., Iona Prep
Chris Gay, Jr., Bronxville
Josh Goldenberg, Sr., Scarsdale
Matt Minerva, 8th, Valhalla
Justin Stagg, Sr., Harrison
Honorable mention: Matt Bettino, Jr., Bronxville; JP Collins, So., Stepinac; Brendan Cooney, Jr., Stepinac; Nick DelFico, Sr., Fox Lane; Jonny Emmerman, Jr., Scarsdale; Mike Glatstein, Jr., Solomon Schechter; Jack Maresca, Sr., Rye; Aidan McDermott, Jr., Pleasantville; Jay Milch, So., Fox Lane; Harrison Moyle, Sr., Briarcliff; Taikan Nakada, Jr., White Plains; Lewis Raboy, So., Solomon Schechter; Jordan Sanyshyn, So., Brewster; Kris Scarfone, Sr., Rye Country Day; Phil Servider, Jr., Carmel; Sol Thompson, So., Scarsdale; Jake Trotta, Sr., Iona Prep.
Westchester/Putnam boys all-stars golf fan voting
W/P Boys golfer: Christian Cavaliere, Somers (1,488 votes)
W/P Boys first team:
James Nicholas, Scarsdale (1,073 votes)
Justin Stagg, Harrison (26 votes)
Bear Carlson, John Jay (20 votes)
Josh Goldenberg, Scarsdale (18 votes)
Chris Gay, Bronxville (16 votes)
W/P Boys coach: Chris Lockwood, Bronxville (278 votes)
Sunday, June 28: Baseball
Monday, June 29: Softball
Tuesday, June 30: Tennis
Wednesday, July 1: Golf
Thursday, July 2: Girls track
Friday, July 3: Boys track
Saturday, July 4: Girls lacrosse
Sunday, July 5: Boys lacrosse