MAMARONECK – The windblown approach James Nicholas landed on the 17th green looked pretty good from 118 yards back.
It looked even better when he stepped onto the putting surface.
Under the circumstances, it was an impressive swing. Chris Troy, his partner, was scrambling. The wind gusts were bending the flagstick, and somehow, the ball came to rest inside of three feet from the hole, allowing Nicholas to swing a tense match with a confident putt.
The rival Ivy Leaguers survived the 18th hole and captured the 80th Anderson Memorial Four-Ball Invitational at Winged Foot with a 2-up victory over Andy Cooper and Craig Hurlbert.
It was one heck of an exclamation point on a day of impressive golf on the West Course.
“On the tee box, I’ve been hitting a cut this week and the left-to-right wind helped, so I was like, ‘OK, this is the time I can rip driver and get it down there as far as I possibly can,’ ” said Nicholas, a Scarsdale resident who just finished his freshman year at Yale. “When I saw that pin, we had the left-to-right wind and it was helping, so I knew I had to lay back. My 54-degree wedge is about 100 yards and I never like to hit a full wedge unless it’s today and the winds are 40 miles an hour and we’re playing the greens at Winged Foot. I just hit it and it stopped next to the pin, and at first it looked to be 15 or 20 feet because it’s deceptive. When I walked up there and saw how close it was, I was pretty happy.”
It’s the first time a team from the host club has won the Anderson since 2009.
“We walked off No. 9 with a 1-up lead,” said Troy, a Greenwich, Conn. resident who is heading into his junior year at Cornell. “I said to James, ‘There are 60 people out here and 58 of them are rooting for us,’ so it was something we wanted to do.”
First they had to play a historic finishing hole under adverse conditions.
Troy found the fairway, so Nicholas pulled the driver and nearly did a Phil Mickelson impression, hitting left of left. Cooper and Hurlbert were both in the fairway, but their approaches both went over the back of the green — not a good place to be with a trophy on the line.
“We thought we’d hit perfect shots into the 18th green,” Cooper said.
The delicate chips settled 20 and 16 feet from the hole and both players missed before conceding Troy’s putt for par.
“Chris and James did exactly what they needed to do,” Cooper added. “They made a lot of fantastic up-and-downs when it really counted.”
The degree of difficulty in the afternoon finale cannot be understated.
“It was fun hearing all the members talking,” said Hurlbert, who plays out of Bluejack National Golf Club in Texas. “We get to play here once a year. They are here all the time and so many of them were saying they’ve never seen it playing this hard.”
Nicholas and Troy beat Adam Horton and Roger Newsom 3 and 2 in the semifinals. Hurlbert and Cooper beat Mark and Brian Gauley of Raleigh Country Club.
“To win a tournament like the Anderson at your club where it’s always been held, it’s special because you have all these people out here rooting for you,” Nicholas said. “And to have that team aspect is really cool because you don’t really get that.”
Rye native George Zahringer III added one more victory to his impressive competitive resume, capturing the senior division along with Brady Exber. The partners from The Floridian beat Jay Sessa and Don Enga 1-up with a par on the 18th hole.