Despite starting off the tournament in strong fashion and maintaining a top-five position going into Saturday’s final round, the No. 10 Stanford men’s golf team saw its season come to a disappointing finish at the NCAA Columbus Regional. It is the second time in three years that the Cardinal has failed to qualify for the NCAA Championships.
In an event where the top five teams advanced to the Big Dance, Stanford claimed third place after round one and were in a tie for third going into Saturday. However, the team faded with a 14-over 298 performance in the third round, falling into seventh place and five strokes out of fifth.
“This season was largely disappointing,” junior Cameron Wilson said. “On paper we were as good as any team in the country, but we struggled to gain momentum and have more than two guys playing well at a time. Still, I greatly enjoyed the journey and experiences I had with my coaches and teammates. All of that will comprise my memories of the year rather than this poor ending.”
Things looked promising for the Cardinal after Thursday’s first round. Seeking a solid start that had eluded them at the Pac-12 Championships, the team opened the tournament with a 7-over 291 score, putting them in third behind No. 23 South Carolina and surprise leader No. 68 Charlotte. The scores were tight, though, with the Cardinal only three strokes ahead of the non-advancing sixth position.
Friday’s second round saw Stanford shoot four strokes higher than the previous day and slip into a tie for third with No. 19 Auburn. By now, there was an eight shot gap between being tied for fifth and seventh, but the top six teams were separated by a mere three strokes. Charlotte dropped precipitously from first into a tie for eighth and No. 5 New Mexico, the highest ranked team in the tournament, became tied for fifth, one shot behind the Cardinal.
With essentially six teams vying for five spots, Stanford had little margin for error on Saturday and, unfortunately, things unraveled quickly. The team made the turn a 6-over and things only got worse from there. Wilson—usually steady and consistent—shot a highly uncharacteristic 7-over 78, going 5-over on his back nine. That performance dropped him from T-10th to T-34th, with teammate Patrick Rodgers experiencing a similar tumble. The sophomore, who tied for ninth at last year’s NCAA Championship posted a 5-over 76 on Saturday, falling from tied for sixth to T-18th. Senior Steve Kearney and freshman David Boote struggled as well, combining to shoot 10-over.
Senior Andrew Yun was the only Cardinal golfer to break par on Saturday in the team’s only subpar round of the tournament besides Wilson’s 1-under 70 opener. But Yun’s 2-birdie, 1-under 70 performance couldn’t undo his 10-over combined score through the first two rounds and he finished in a tie for 25th place. It was the unceremonious end of what otherwise was one of the greatest careers a Stanford male golfer has ever played—a two time All-American, two time All-Pac 12 First Team selection and the 2012 Pac-12 Tournament individual champion.
“Obviously, this was not the way that I wanted to go out,” Yun said. “It is extremely disappointing that this was the end of the road. But looking at things from a bigger perspective, it has been an unbelievable four years here at Stanford. I have to thank my coaches and my teammates for providing me some of the best memories and experiences I have ever had in my life. I’m extremely proud of the guys on the team for all their hard work and I know that the future is bright for all of them.”
Although the Card will lose both Yun and Kearney from its starting lineup, the team still appears to be in great shape next season. Rodgers and Wilson will be returning to a lineup that will be bolstered by incoming freshman Viraat Badhwar and Jim Liu. Badhwar is the No. 1 ranked junior golfer in Australia and Liu is the second-ranked US junior. David Boote, after a solid freshman campaign, will also likely battle with Shane Lebow, Dominick Francks and Patrick Grimes for a slot in the starting five.
New Mexico was the eventual regional winner, recording the tournament’s best combined round on Saturday with a 1-under 283. Overall, the Lobos finished at 18-over, two strokes clear of Auburn and South Carolina. No. 30 UNLV (+26) was fourth, followed by No. 39 Texas Tech (+27). Virginia’s Denny McCarthy, the 107th ranked collegiate individual, will also be advancing to play at the Capital City Club-Crabapple Course in Atlanta, hosted by Georgia Tech.
Contact Cameron Miller at cmiller6 ‘at’ stanford.edu.