Founded in the fall of 1701, Yale University is best known for its strong academics. But the Ivy League school has also been a sports powerhouse at times, with golf being among its most successful programs in its long and rich history.
It was 125 years ago, for example, that Yale golfers won the first ever national team golf championship, in a competition at the Ardsley Casino in Dobbs Ferry, New York, that also featured Columbia, Harvard and Princeton – and saw the Elis traveling to the tournament by stagecoach and train.
And with that triumph, the Elis began a run that saw them take that title, which was then overseen by National Interscholastic Golf Association (NIGA), an additional 19 times, from 1897 to 1936. Yale also captured one national championship, in 1943, after the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) had started sponsoring the competition.
This year also marks the centennial anniversary of the last Eli to win the U.S. Amateur. He was Jess Sweetser, class of ’23, and by doing so, the St. Louis native became the fourth Eli ever to take that tournament. He thumped Bobby Jones, 8 and 7, in the semifinals at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, before besting Chick Evans in the final, 3 and 2.
Commemorating that milestone also serves as a reminder of how well Yale golfers once fared in the U.S. Amateur. In addition to having an Eli win that competition four times from 1897 through 1923, the school had a player make it to the finals on nine occasions during that stretch (including Sweetser, who lost to Max Marston in the last match in 1923 while trying to defend his title from the year before).
Remarkably, not one of those matches pitted golfers from Yale against each other, meaning that someone from the university lasted to the finals for 13 of those 25 years (with the championship not being played in 1917 and 1918 because of World War I).
In many ways, Yale’s early dominance in golf was not surprising, for New Haven was one of the first places in America where the royal and ancient game took hold. And students from that school were among the most ardent adopters of that sport.
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