Only one team event removed from a crushing, season-ending tournament at the NCAA regionals in May and the graduation of key players Andrew Yun and Steve Kearney, the Stanford men’s golf team is seemingly back on top again. The Cardinal thoroughly dominated the 14-team field at the inaugural Erin Hills Invitational in Erin, Wis., winning by eight strokes over conference foe UCLA. In doing so, junior Patrick Rodgers also collected the individual win, the sixth of his collegiate career.
“I’m proud of the guys on picking up their first win of the season in our second event,” said head coach Conrad Ray. “Our guys did a nice job in their preparation and practice gearing up to the event, and I think that served us well at the tournament. It was neat to see the team win and play well with the lead [Tuesday]. They hit some smart shots, avoided trouble and double bogeys — which is something we’ve been talking a lot about and they’ve been working on.”
If Ray’s message was to stay away from high numbers, his players clearly got the message at Erin Hills: The five-man squad combined for only three double bogeys or worse over the 54-hole tournament. Experience with the course certainly helped, with Rodgers, senior Cameron Wilson and freshman Jim Liu all having played the 2011 U.S. Amateur on the 7-year-old course.
The Card was able to drop strokes in bunches. Stanford received two eagles from Wilson — both on the par-5 14th hole in rounds one and two—and a dramatic hole-in-one courtesy of sophomore David Boote on the par-3 sixth in the second round. It was the first hole-in-one in competitive play in the history of Erin Hills.
“So far, we’ve done a great job of keeping it in play off the tee,” commented Wilson on the team’s play after Monday’s second round. “The fescue grass and native areas are penal but many of the holes can be attacked from the fairway. Also, we’ve capitalized on the par-5s, most of which are reachable.”
Rodgers, Wilson and Boote all attacked the four par-5s well, shooting a combined 11 under par on those holes. Wilson fared especially well, shooting 7-under on the par-5s, for which the average length was 590 yards. Wilson ultimately finished alongside teammate Boote in a four-way tie for sixth place at 2-under par.
Rodgers saw his name atop the leaderboard for the entire event, shooting 68-72-69 on the par-72 course to best his closest competitor, Ryan McCormick of St. John’s, by three strokes.
“Patrick Rodgers picked up his sixth individual win and played really well with the lead today coming down the stretch,” Ray said. “He kept the ball in front of him and made a couple of key up-and-downs when he needed to, which really helped his score and allowed him to pick up the win.”
Freshmen Jim Liu and Maverick McNealy rounded out the Cardinal’s lineup making their NCAA debuts. Liu, tied for third after 36 holes, placed T-10th with an aggregate 1-under 215. McNealy fired an even-par 72 in Sunday’s opening round but faded over the last two days of the event, shooting a combined 4-over par to notch a T-25th finish. The duo beat out veterans Dom Francks, Patrick Grimes and Shane Lebow for the right to be on the traveling squad.
“They both have done really well in qualifying and in their preparation, so we decided they were good fits for our lineup this year,” said Ray of his freshmen. “I think everyone is excited about our depth this year, and the freshmen have definitely already made their mark early on here during the first couple weeks of the season.”
In the team competition, the Card led early and never looked back. The team opened up a six-shot lead over the Bruins and SMU after 18 holes, with the advantage ballooning to 11 strokes after the second round. Though UCLA made a bit of a run on the back nine on Tuesday, the Bruins’ tournament-low round of 9-under 279 only got them to within eight shots of Stanford.
The Cardinal next competes Oct. 18-20 at the Georgia Tech-hosted U.S. Collegiate Championships.
Contact Cameron Miller at cmiller6 ‘at’ stanford.edu.