MGA Member Spotlight: Nikhil Kumar
Club: Young Benefactors Golf Club
Handicap Index: 3.6
Residence: Harrison, N.Y.
Occupation: Director of Graduate Admissions & Men’s Golf Coach, Manhattanville College (Purchase, N.Y.)
India native and current Harrison, N.Y., resident Nikhil Kumar has earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Manhattanville College, where he starred on the varsity golf team from 2001 to 2005. Kumar now works as Manhattanville’s Director of Graduate Admissions and as Head Coach of the men’s golf team, which earned a top-25 Division III national ranking last fall for the first time in its history. MGAgolf.org caught up with Kumar, who was recently selected to the National Advisory Board for the Golf Coaches Association of America, to talk about his introduction to golf, roles at Manhattanville, and his involvement with The First Tee of Metropolitan New York.
How you were introduced to golf?
I started playing when I was nine years old and was introduced by my dad and my granddad. I was immediately drawn to the game. I took lessons at Royal Calcutta Golf Club and played tournaments on the National Junior Circuit in Asia.
When did you come to the United States?
I decided to attend college overseas and looked at a lot of universities, primarily in New York because we had family there. My brother was actually attending Manhattanville, so that was my introduction to the school. It was a nice transition to go from playing a lot of junior golf to playing in college, particularly in an area that has some of the country's top golf courses, which was one of the big attractions for me. The fact that the program was in its inception appealed to me as well and I’ve enjoyed the experience of being able to build the program as both a player and coach.
What were your achievements as a student-athlete on Manhattanville’s golf team?
I earned All-Conference and ECAC All-Region honors all four years and was conference MVP my sophomore year. We actually had a coaching transition during my junior and senior years, with our Assistant Athletic Director filling in as coach. I was lucky enough that [Manhattanville Athletic Director] Keith Levinthal instilled confidence in me while I was still a player to get involved in all aspects of the program. I was awarded the opportunity to represent Manhattanville at the NCAA Champs Life Skills Leadership conference in 2003 and fortunate to receive the Athletic Director’s Award in 2004. At the time the program was gradually beginning to slip because it lacked recruiting and structure, so it's nice to see less than ten years later where the program has come.
Where do you play most of your golf and who do you normally play with?
Being a coach, I’ve been able to develop many relationships in the area and often times I get invitations to play. I play a lot at The Apawamis Club with Peter Norton and Marty Clague, two supporters of the team, and with my brother at Rye Golf Club.
What's it like to work and coach at the school that you attended and played intercollegiate golf at?
The experience has been surreal in a lot of ways because I never anticipated that I would be back. I spent some time working for Octagon, and while I was there Manhattanville pitched an opportunity to start up a graduate admissions office for the business programs and to get involved in the launch of a new Sport Business Management program, which immediately appealed to me. They sweetened the deal by telling me I would have the opportunity to coach the golf team. What’s nice is that I feel I have more of a vested interest in the success of Manhattanville—whether it be Graduate Admissions, the Sport Business Management Program, the golf team, or trying to help students get placed in internship and jobs—I always want to see everything move forward in the right direction.
Where does the team play? Where do they travel to?
We’ve developed some great relationships with clubs all over the Met Area, including Apawamis, Stanwich, Century, Brae Burn, and Doral, among others. We hosted our Fall Invitational at Hudson National and are set to co-host our spring invitational with NYU at Hampshire. Having such a selection and so much support from clubs in Westchester and Fairfield counties, it's been really spectacular and our players are spoiled to say the least. Our schedule includes some of the top small private colleges in the country. We play invitational tournaments at Trinity College (Conn.), Middlebury College (Vt.), Williams College, Hamilton College, Skidmore, University of Rochester, and other top-ranked regional and national teams.
What are the goals for this spring and what steps need to be taken to achieve them?
This year the goals are pretty clear: win tournaments; win our conference championship; make the NCAA Division III Championship; and most importantly make the cut, which is something we’ve failed to do in our last two attempts, despite having been close last year. We won two times in the Fall, and finished second twice. So right now our mindset is to stay focused, stay positive and try to continue to improve on our results from the fall.
Your teams have traditionally had a number of international players on the team. What draws them to Manhattanville?
Manhattanville is known for its diversity, with students from over 66 countries and 33 states. Being just 25 miles outside of New York City and close to many internship and job opportunities makes the college quite attractive to students from all parts of the globe and country. Fortunately, that has lent itself to recruiting players from California, England, Scotland, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Ecuador. They're drawn by the quality golf courses we get to play and the chance to be part of a highly competitive program that is continuing to grow.
You spoke to The First Tee of Metropolitan New York (TFTMNY) participants during its Path to College seminars. How did you become involved with TFTMNY and what do you have to say about the things they’re doing for Met Area youth?
I’ve known about TFTMNY for a long time and have always wanted to get involved, but my friend drew me into the organization when he brought me to the Young Benefactors Member-Guest Tournament at Mosholu last summer. I felt it was a good opportunity to get involved, so I joined, and have since been in touch with Rachel Newman and Ed Brockner of TFTMNY to find out how I could help. I was able to speak at a Path to College seminar, which was nice to give my perspective as a coach and the team is actually going to help run a clinic for TFTMNY kids this April.