Hosting the U.S. Intercollegiate at the Stanford Golf Course last weekend, the Stanford men’s golf team–ranked No. 8 in Golfweek’s national rankings–was unable to recover from an early deficit, ultimately taking third at the tournament with a score of 849. No. 7 Oregon jumped out to a five-shot lead with a first round team score of -8 and was able to hold on for a one-stroke team victory–a 54-hole score of 841 (+1)–over the No. 4 Southern California.
Stanford freshman Patrick Rodgers, the No. 4 collegiate golfer in the nation, shot 68-67 to take a two-stroke lead into the last round, but a final round 75 dropped him to a tie for fifth place at even par. Senior Andrew Yun vaulted up the leaderboard on the final day, shooting a 68 to tie for 10th at +2, and senior captain David Chung also finished strong, shooting a final round 69 to tie for 14th at four over par. As a team, the Cardinal finished eight shots behind Oregon at +9.
“We had our chances but the lead that we gave the [Oregon] Ducks was just too tough to overcome,” head coach Conrad Ray said.
“I feel like we can take a lot of positives out of [the tournament]” Yun said. “Obviously we didn’t get the win like we wanted to, but I think we played well, especially coming down the stretch.”
Senior captain Wilson Bowen said the Cardinal was hurt by a stroke of bad luck: On the second day of play, players had to fight through rain and high winds before flooding greens forced a rain delay.
“We had bad luck with the draw on the second day because we ended up going off early, and the greens were really hard at the beginning of the round and it was very windy,” Bowen said. “Oregon and USC didn’t have to play through that. But I think our guys did a great job of grinding it out despite the conditions and posting good numbers.”
Although players were disappointed that the team was unable to pull out a win at home, the Stanford “B” team impressed, finishing in a tie for sixth out of 17 total teams and tying the “A” team in the first round with a team score of +4. The “B” team was led by freshmen Patrick Grimes and Marcel Puyat, who finished the tournament at +5 and +6, respectively. Coming back from injury, Bowen was the team’s third lowest scorer, shooting an even par 70 on the final day and finishing at seven over.
“Our ‘B’ team this week showed how good they can be, especially with the first round that they posted,” Yun said. “They finished sixth with that good of a field, so it just speaks to our depth [as a team].”
The U.S. Intercollegiate was the Cardinal’s second-to-last tournament before the Pac-12 Championships. In two weeks, the team travels to the famous, and difficult, Pasatiempo course in Santa Cruz, designed by Augusta National Golf Club designer Alister Mackenzie, for its final tournament of the season.
“It’s a course which has very undulating greens, and they’re going to be very fast, so there’s going to be an emphasis on lag putting and short game,” Bowen said. “It’s also going to be windy so you’re going to need to be able to hit the ball low and control your golf ball off the tee and into the greens.”
“We played [Pasatiempo] last year and we finished 11th so it was a bit disappointing. But we obviously have the experience, which is a good thing, and so I think a lot of the guys are preparing for the greens,” Yun added. “I think we have one of the best short games in the country, so if we just get that clicking then I think we’re going to have a really good tournament.”
Following the Western Collegiate at Pasatiempo, the team will journey to Corvallis, Ore., at the end of April for the Pac-12 Championships. The Cardinal has not won the highly competitive conference since 1994. As of April 1, the Pac-12 boasted six of the top-10 teams in the nation, including No. 4 UCLA.
No members of the Stanford team have played the course in Corvallis, but Bowen and Yun aren’t too concerned about the team’s lack of experience there. NCAA regional playoffs, held at the Stanford course, start on May 17, and Bowen felt this week’s experience of playing the Stanford course in tournament conditions would be helpful for the Cardinal.
“The course plays a lot differently in competition than it does [normally] because the rough is a lot longer and the greens are really fast, so there’s some different strategy that comes into play,” Bowen said. “Any time you get to play at a tournament on a course where you’ll play a tournament again later, you’re always going to learn how the course plays differently, how to best approach it and what holds up under pressure, which is very important, especially coming down the stretch at regionals.”
Yun said the team is building momentum, citing the team’s third place finish this weekend and its fifth place finish at the highly competitive Southern Highlands Masters in March, where the Cardinal beat out top-ranked Texas.
“I think we’re peaking at the right time. A lot of the guys had really good finishes this week,” Yun said. “I think it’s just a matter of time before we’re all playing well at the same time… Right now, we have like two or three guys playing really well, but it’s just a matter of time before we have all five guys clicking.”