Having Decided to Forego Cross Country Career, Quinn Emerged as Stalwart for Tiger Men’s Golf
MIGHTY QUINN: Princeton University men’s golf star Evan Quinn displays his driving form. Quinn, who graduated from Princeton earlier this month, enjoyed a stellar career for the Tigers. As a junior, Quinn helped Princeton win the 2019 Ivy League tournament, earning All-Ivy honors in the process. He was also a two-time PING All-Northeast Region selection. In his final campaign, Quinn produced a solid fall season, leading Princeton in three of four stroke-play events that it competed in the early stages of the 2019-20 season which saw the spring portion of the schedule canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo by Beverly Schaefer, provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)
By Justin Feil
Evan Quinn was good enough at cross country for Morristown High School to run in college but he gave it up to pour his competitive energy into golf when he came to Princeton University.
“I made a brief reappearance at the Turkey Trot this year,” said Quinn, a captain for the Princeton men’s golf team in his senior year before graduating earlier this month.
“My brother is on the varsity cross country team now so he’s in good shape. I did that, but that’s pretty much the extent of my running career since high school.”
Quinn has always been competitive in any sport in which he has participated and has typically experienced both individual and team success. He started to cultivate his golf game by the second grade, although he also played soccer and ran. In high school, he was Morris County cross country champion as a senior in a school-record 15:53 over the 5,000-meter course to lead the team to victory, and finished 11th at the 2015 Meet of Champions. After that race, he turned to golf full-time. He won the NJSIAA North 1-2, Group 4 sectional individual championship and led Morristown to the team title. Quinn had won the Group 3 sectional the previous two years.
“A bunch of my friends were on the cross country team and did it with me in middle school and so that’s how I got into running,” said Quinn.
“It was never really a question for me which one I wanted to do in college. I enjoyed being good at cross country and track and had really good teammates which made it that much more exciting, but golf has always been my passion.”
Princeton’s men’s golf program has reaped the benefits of Quinn’s decision. He made an immediate impact as a freshman who could hold his own and has been a vital part of the Tigers team throughout his career.
“You can’t overstate his value to our team over four years,” said Princeton head coach Will Green. “It’s been unbelievable. In four years, he might have missed three tournaments in four years, and two of them were his freshman year. It’s nice to have someone you know you can count on.”
Quinn helped the Tigers win the Ivy League tournament in 2019. Without a senior on the team, Quinn led Princeton to a title a year earlier than many would have anticipated. Quinn shot a +4 217 in the three-round event to finish second overall and help the Tigers upset Yale by a single stroke for their first league crown since 2013, earning First-Team All-Ivy honors in the process.
“Last year was the culmination of all of the hard work that me and my co-captain, Caden (McLaughlin), and the year under us, a bunch of those guys have all really improved and put in a lot of time,” said Quinn reflecting on the Ivy title.
“When it comes down to one shot and it’s in your favor, you feel very lucky, but also you think all the work that I put in, even if all it did was lower my team score by one shot, that’s the difference.”
Heading into this spring, Quinn and the Tigers were primed to defend their Ivy title. Having lost nobody from last year’s championship team, they felt like favorites. While the COVID-19
pandemic dashed that opportunity as the spring season was canceled, it also made last year’s title even more meaningful.
“We didn’t graduate anybody and Yale, who was definitely the favorite last year, lost two of their really key players, one of which – James Nicholas – has gone pro and is making a name for himself,” said Quinn, who produced a solid fall campaign, leading Princeton in three of four stroke-play events it competed to start the 2019-20 season.
“This year we felt we had a really good chance to repeat. Our freshman class was strong. Everyone was excited to be able to try to bring home two titles in two years. Obviously we didn’t get that opportunity but it feels nice to go out on top. My only regret is not getting a chance to win an individual title. I guess it’s a little selfish to say it, but it was always my goal to win an individual conference championship. Coming in second last year was great, I stumbled a little down the stretch. I lost to a really, really good opponent – James. With him graduating, I thought now was my chance to assert myself, but I’m going to remember the team championship forever and that’s the one thing I’ll appreciate about my Princeton experience for years to come.”
Quinn still had a chance to demonstrate his ability and made the most of his final college competition in a dual match against Duke on February 16 held at The Club at Emerald Hills in Hollywood, Fla. He defeated Adrien Pendaries of Duke in match play, 3 and 1, to open the spring season. Pendaries finished the fall ranked No. 1 by Golfweek and Golfstat, and was ranked No. 2 at the time Quinn played him.
“Adrien would have had no idea who Evan Quinn was,” said Green. “But after four or five holes, he probably thought, this kid’s pretty good. It’s just the way it goes. It’s match play. If the two of them played stroke play, it may have been different. But for the rest of his life, Evan can say he beat him.”
The win spoke volumes about Quinn’s competitive side and his mentality that Green saw set him apart from many golfers.
“What’s impressive about that win is more that Evan said, I’m playing this guy that has a future in golf and it didn’t affect his play,” said Green. “He didn’t try to do things he couldn’t do and didn’t make mistakes that other guys might make.”
Aware of Pendaries’s ability because the Tigers play in Duke’s tournament each fall, Quinn got some extra fuel when he heard the Blue Devil coach say the night before the competition that his star never loses in match play.
“I took that as a challenge,” said Quinn, who ended up being named a two-time PING All-Northeast Region selection this season for the second time in his career as he posted a stroke average of 73 in 2019-20.
“I had very much an underdog mentality. If I lost, no big deal, so I played pretty freely. It wasn’t his best day so I can’t say I beat him at his best, but it is what it is and I’ll definitely take it.”
For four years, Quinn was as reliable a player as the Tigers have had, consistently coming through with a good score.
“We knew what we’d get from him,” said Green. “Every now and then, he’d go super low, but he never ever was out of the mix. If he played in 30-some tournaments in his four years for us, I would bet that his score was one of the counters (in the team score) in 90-plus percent of them. That’s how consistent he was. Having him, there’s no locker room, but being a part of the team where everyone knew they could count on him and the energy he brought – he was always a very positive influence – it’s hard to overstate what he brings in addition to the numbers he shoots.”
Aside from his scores, Quinn’s competitive fire and positive attitude were contagious, fostering an attitude that led the Tigers to an Ivy title and cemented his place among Princeton’s most important players.
“We’ve had some really good players over the course of my 21 years here,” said Green. “We’ve had a few that have been multiple first-team All-Ivies, we had a few that won multiple tournaments, we’ve had a few that have won Ivy championships. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of maybe four that I know had more consistent and substantive careers than Evan did.”
The victory over one of the best college players will rest as Quinn’s final memory of his golf career at Princeton. He leaves proud of the way the team developed and how he grew into a reliable contributor and leader.
“Being a student-athlete at Princeton is obviously a really big opportunity, but also a really big challenge,” said Quinn.
“Freshman year, figuring out how to balance athletics and academics was certainly a step up from some of the work I’d had to do in high school. The adjustment period was really the biggest learning curve for me, managing my time, being able to do work on the road, being able to compartmentalize – golf now, work later or in the same regard, do work now and golf later. Even though I’m not going to be playing golf as a career, the things that I learned from being a golfer and student at Princeton are going to be help me no matter what I do.”
A mechanical and aerospace engineering major, Quinn will be working as an analyst for Deloitte in Washington, D.C. Golf will take a back seat to his career for now.
“When I talk to recruits every year, I talk about Princeton is a place where you can come and you can change the world,” said Green.
“I think he took that to heart. I think he’s going to change the world somehow. He’s unbelievably bright and if he chose to make golf his living, he’d figure out a way, but I don’t think he has that desire. He has other things on his mind and that’s the blessing and curse of Ivy League golfers. You have the intellectual curiosity to want to figure other things out, but the athletic ability to think maybe I could. He’s not going to turn professional. He’ll go do consulting for a while, and who knows after that? I’m lucky. I’ve had a lot of unbelievably talented young men who have done unbelievable things and he’s one of them.”
If possible, Quinn would still like to play some amateur events this summer before he shifts his attention to working. While he never seriously entertained playing golf professionally, Quinn looks forward to more chances to compete.
“I still enjoy playing,” said Quinn. “It still feels like I should be competing – this time of the year that has just passed is championship season for us, especially last year going to regionals and getting that experience. It does feel a bit weird to not be competing for Princeton in May. I could see sometime in the future, once I’ve made some money for myself, being able to play some amateur golf. We’ll see. I know a lot of good Princeton golfers have been able to turn amateur careers into something they do alongside their profession.”
In addition, Quinn is contemplating combining his athletic backgrounds of running and golfing, as the Guinness World Record for a round of speed golf is just over 27 minutes.
“It’d probably take a little more practice running to get into shape,” said Quinn. “I think I could do it.”
With his Princeton degree in hand, Quinn will start another chapter of his life and Green anticipates more extraordinary results based on what his star performer produced over his stellar career for the Tigers.
“You think about people and what they add to their programs or their school or to life in general,” said Green, “he’s going to be one of those that I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.”