NHL defenseman McAvoy caddies for childhood friend Nicholas at Orange County National
October 09, 2020
By Kevin Prise, PGATOUR.COM
- Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy and Korn Ferry Tour rookie James Nicholas have been friends since childhood. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
WINTER GARDEN, Fla. – James Nicholas’ tee shot at his fourth hole Thursday flew a bit left, settling on the left tree line.
As Nicholas and his caddie, Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy, approached the ball, they encountered an unwelcome spectator.
“Ooh, that’s a spider! Jeezus!” Nicholas explained. “Dude, I hate spiders.”
“Want me to take a swing at it?” McAvoy replied.
“That thing’s massive,” retorted Nicholas. “Give me a tee. I’ve got it.”
The duo regrouped, procured a yardage and went on to salvage bogey, en route to an opening-round 68 at the inaugural Orange County National Championship presented by Knight 39.
For the childhood friends from the New York City metroplex, concurrently pursuing their dreams as professional athletes, this week’s experience in central Florida has been a long time coming.
“It was so cool,” reflected McAvoy on his caddying debut at Orange County National GC (Panther Lake). “I’ve gotten into golf fairly recently, a couple years ago. With cheering James on and starting to play a little bit myself, I’ve grown to like it, and it’s a great sport. Today was just awesome. To be able to go out there, cheering him on and trying to support him when I can … it was awesome.”
“He’s my biggest supporter out there,” added Nicholas. “I made a mess of No. 3 and had about a 50-footer for par, and Charlie’s like, ‘This is easy. Let’s go. Knock it in,’ and I made it. It was a highlight of the day. He’s been really positive, positive energy out there … he’s done a great job.”
Boston Bruins' Charlie McAvoy caddies for James Nicholas at Orange County
The Nicholas-McAvoy connection stems from even before birth, as Nicholas’ mom Eileen and McAvoy’s dad Charles grew up in the same hometown of Long Beach, New York.
Nicholas’ dad Stephen, an orthopedic surgeon, later operated on the elder McAvoy.
The duo grew up pursuing a variety of athletic endeavors, including surfing – “Charlie taught me the ropes,” Nicholas recalled – and both took a particular liking to the ice.
First, they were rivals, Nicholas competing for the Westchester Express and McAvoy suiting up for the Long Island Gulls. Eventually, McAvoy “came over to the dark side” and played with the Express for a year, and the duo also played together in the Pee-Wee Junior World Championships together on the Jr. Rangers.
McAvoy pursued hockey at Boston University, eventually being drafted by the Boston Bruins in 2016. He recently completed his third full season with the Bruins, logging 92 points in 184 career games, and was also named to the 2018 NHL All-Rookie Team.
Nicholas attended Yale and began his collegiate career as a dual-sport athlete (golf and football), eventually focusing on golf from sophomore year onward. The 23-year-old graduated in 2019 with a degree in ecology and evolutionary biology, and earned Korn Ferry Tour status via Q-School last fall.
“Just followed each other all the way up the ranks,” McAvoy reminisced. “When he switched over to golf and football, I was so happy for him that he was following his dream, and I was doing the same. Just always keeping tabs … for it to come full circle and have an opportunity to come together … he shot me a text, and I knew I had to come and support him.”
Hockey is a physical game, with inevitable bumps and bruises, and McAvoy frequently keeps in touch with Nicholas’ dad to discuss medical best practices.
One day, McAvoy posed the question.
“Yo, Doc! When am I going to get to caddie for James?”
This week at Orange County National, with the Bruins in an uniquely timed offseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the stars aligned.
“At first it was a joke, and then I was like, ‘Dude, let’s go.’” Nicholas said. “It’s awesome to share this experience with other people. He’s one of my close friends, and he came out and supported me.”He has such a high ceiling. The sky's the limit, and he's on his way.
Although there might not be an equivalent caddying role when it comes to professional hockey, Nicholas certainly supports McAvoy in his chosen profession – even if it requires opposition to his root allegiances.
“I’ve just got to sit in those stands and cheerlead,” Nicholas said. “I hated the Bruins (when I was younger. I’m a Rangers fan. I’m rooting for Charlie. I’m not rooting for the Bruins; I’m rooting for Charlie.”
As Nicholas and McAvoy navigate the journey of professional athletics, they’ll follow the scoreboards and leaderboards with great respect for each other’s craft.
A week inside the ropes at Orange County National extends the bond even more so.
“We grew up watching each other excel at the younger levels and keep progressing, and he’s been an incredible role model,” Nicholas said. “Everyone wants to achieve that highest level, and he’s done that at such a young age. It’s really admirable.”
“As a kid, the craziest thing about James was just how incredible of an athlete he is,” added McAvoy. “He played every single sport until he went to college, and he could’ve picked a ton of roads … once he focused in on golf was around the same point where I was starting to really grow with hockey, and just cheering him on and seeing him excel and just get better.
“He has such a high ceiling … the sky’s the limit, and he’s on his way. He’s going to do amazing things, and I’m happy to be a part of it this week.”
Regardless of spiders.
“I didn’t get anywhere near that,” McAvoy said. “That was him. He went and took care of it. I cheered him on from about 20 feet away.”