After a resounding win at the Erin Hills Invitational two weeks ago, the Stanford men’s golf team fell back to earth over the weekend at the U.S. Collegiate Championships. Head coach Conrad Ray’s five-man squad finished tied for seventh at the event, played at the Golf Club of Georgia and hosted by Georgia Tech. Individually, junior Patrick Rodgers and senior Cameron Wilson tied for 15th with a cumulative 2-under 214 score on the par-72, 7,017-yard Lakeside Course.
“We were a little disappointed with our finish today but just a few shots separated third place and where we finished in seventh,” Ray said. “We had a little bit of a soft finish on the last few holes with a couple of bogeys and double bogeys, but I felt overall the guys competed hard and played their best this weekend.”
Indeed, going into the tournament Ray emphasized that “avoiding three-putts and hitting the ball in the fairway” would be crucial to success. Unfortunately for the Card, it simply recorded too many high numbers to get into contention, shooting nine double bogeys or worse as a team over the length of the event. The lineup – which has a diverse mix of youth and experience – struggled to generate any kind of significant momentum, with scorecards marked by strings of alternating birdies and bogeys.
The tough playing conditions, especially the Bermuda rough and speedy greens, came into play most notably for the junior standout Rodgers at the end of Saturday’s second round. The defending champion at the event, Rodgers went into the par-5, 564-yard 18th hole at 2-under with four birdies to two bogeys. An errant tee shot left him with a tough lie and his subsequent chip landed where no golfer ever wants to be: in the water. He would go on to double-bogey the hole, dropping his score to an even-par 72 on the day.
But Rodgers – one of the best amateur golfers in the country – quickly shook off the late-round flop and had a spectacular Sunday, scorching the course with a 5-under 67 to move into the top 20 and a tie with teammate Cameron Wilson. Even with the second lowest round of the tournament, he was still eight strokes behind individual winner Ollie Schniederjans of Georgia Tech.
“It was a good showing by Cameron Wilson and Patrick Rodgers, tying for 15th in a very strong field,” Ray said, “and it was neat to see Patrick come back after a couple tough, tough days of play.”
Sophomore David Boote was not far behind, finishing tied for 29th with a 1-over 217. The Englishman has seemingly entrenched himself in Ray’s lineup along with freshmen Jim Liu and Maverick McNealy. Ray has stuck with the newcomers over veterans Shane Lebow, a senior, and Patrick Grimes, a junior, for the last two events, and both freshmen have showed signs of promise. After a tough first round in Georgia, Liu rebounded nicely with a 1-under 71 on Saturday, one of only five rounds under par for the team at the event. McNealy, though carding several double bogeys, was nonetheless consistent in his scoring with rounds of 75, 74 and 76.
“I’ve played a lot of these courses, played poorly, played well, been injured; I’m aware of what most of the guys are going through and able to help them navigate a lot of the situations that arise,” commented Wilson on how he’s been helping the freshmen. “That could be course strategy, something in their technique, or even how to schedule classes.”
As for the team competition in Alpharetta, No. 6 Oklahoma State and host No. 2 Georgia Tech ran away from the competition, with the Cowboys ultimately eking out a one-stroke victory. There was a considerable gap to the rest of the field, where things started to bunch up – only five strokes separated third-place Wake Forest from Stanford, which tied for seventh with Iowa. The Cardinal was only two shots behind conference foe No. 7 UCLA, and defeated No. 4 Washington and No. 23 USC by eight and three strokes, respectively.
Stanford wraps up its fall schedule at the Royal Oaks Intercollegiate hosted by Baylor, beginning next Monday in Dallas.
Contact Cameron Miller at cmiller6 ‘at’ stanford.edu.