By Austin Block
Andrew Yun shot a 4-under-par 68 on the final day of play over the weekend to secure a two-shot victory at the Pac-12 Championships, held at Oregon State’s Trysting Tree Golf Club. However, Yun was one of the only Stanford golfers to play well, and the No. 8 Cardinal struggled to a sixth-place finish at 8-over-par, 20 strokes behind tournament winner Cal.
“It was a disappointing event for the team,” said sophomore Cameron Wilson. “We felt that everyone was playing well coming off [the Cardinal’s mid-April second-place finish at] Pasatiempo, and Stanford teams have been successful at Trysting Tree in the past.”
Yun, who shot rounds of 68-70-69-68 to finish at -13, is Stanford’s first conference champion since 2002, when Jim Seki won the Pac-10 Championship at the same course. This was Yun’s second collegiate tournament win: he won his first last year as a sophomore at The Prestige at PGA West in La Quinta, Calif.
Behind Yun, freshman Patrick Rodgers, the nation’s third-ranked college golfer, vaulted up the leaderboard with a tournament-low round of 65, but a final round 70 left him in eighth place.
From there, the drop-off was severe. Stanford’s next-lowest scoring golfer was senior David Chung, who finished 19 shots behind Rodgers at +13.
“Unfortunately we had the same problem we have been struggling with all year. We have a couple guys play really well but can’t get a good fourth or fifth score in there to capitalize,” said junior Steven Kearney. “In a game of addition, you are only as strong as your weakest link.”
However, Kearney refused to consider the Cardinal’s sixth-place finish a huge setback.
“Every tournament is simply just preparation for NCAAs,” he said. “We are in the position now where we may not be a favorite, but I think we will play better if we are considered underdogs. All of our focus is being put in regionals now.”
“I definitely don’t think [the sixth-place finish] shows how much talent we have, because I feel like we have the most talent out of any team in the Pac-12 and maybe even in the country,” Yun said. “We just have to have some confidence and I think we’re maybe lacking that a little bit.”
Perhaps the most disappointing moment of the weekend came from a pencil, not from a golf club, when Wilson, whose second-round 66 put him in a tie for seventh halfway through the tournament, was disqualified after he accidentally signed an incorrect scorecard for his third round of play.
“[His disqualification] was a little disappointing but it’s just a good thing it didn’t happen at NCAAs, and I think he learned from it and we all learned from it,” Rodgers said.
In addition to the reminder to be circumspect when signing a scorecard, the Cardinal now has a golden opportunity ahead of it, as Stanford hosts one of the six NCAA regionals at the Stanford Golf Course starting May 17.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled to play regionals at home,” Wilson said. “Often, players struggle to play in familiar settings as they place too much internal pressure on themselves … It will be important to focus on the inherent advantages that we have playing at our home course, as well as the great support we’ll enjoy all weekend from our fans and supporters.”
“It’s going to play a lot different from our home tournament,” Rodgers said. “Our home tournament was wet, it was playing long, now it’s going to be firm, it’s going to be playing really fast, the greens are going to be fast, the pins are going to be really difficult, the rough is going to be up, so Stanford will be all we can ask for … I think we’re all excited.”
A fifth-place finish or better will send the Cardinal to the NCAA Championships, held at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, starting May 29. Riviera is the annual site of the PGA Tour’s Northern Trust Open and has hosted three PGA major championships, most recently the 1995 PGA Championship.
After three rounds of stroke play, the 30-team field at the NCAA Championships will be whittled to eight, and the remaining eight teams will then square off in a match-play bracket to determine the NCAA champion. Stanford last won the NCAA Championship in 2007, and the Cardinal finished second in the nation in 2008.
“I think [our disappointing finish at Pac-12s] was definitely good for us because I think we are going to work really hard, probably even harder than we ever have, going into regionals,” Yun said. “We’re extremely motivated and we want to get another win under our belts before we head out to nationals.”