The No. 11 Stanford men’s golf team experienced firsthand the wild nature of the Lone Star State as it pulled out a solid second place finish at the Royal Oaks Intercollegiate, which concluded yesterday in Dallas. Led by junior Patrick Rodgers, senior Cameron Wilson and sophomore David Boote, the Cardinal used a late third-round push to surge back into second place behind No. 6 Oklahoma State, the tournament champion.
The event at Royal Oaks was a play-six-count-five event, meaning teams could play a maximum of six golfers instead of the usual five, with the five lowest scores summed instead of the standard four. This put team depth at a premium, and the Card emphatically showed off its stable of capable players. Rodgers and Wilson represented Stanford in the top 10, while Boote continued his solid fall play by placing in a tie for 13th. Freshman Jim Liu finished tied for 29th at even par, propelled by a team-low 3-under 68 opening round, while junior Patrick Grimes, playing in his second fall tournament, was the team’s No. 5 scorer with a 1-over-par performance. Also making the trip for the Cardinal was Australian freshman Viraat Badhwar, who played well in his NCAA debut.
In addition to the five-score format, the golfers played 54 holes over two days, completing 36 holes Monday — the first such marathon day for Stanford this fall. Head coach Conrad Ray’s squad met the challenge very well, however, getting progressively better as the day went on. With Stanford sitting in fourth after Monday’s morning frame, Wilson and Boote took command in the afternoon as both fired 4-under 67s to catapult the Card over tournament co-hosts Baylor and SMU into second place. Things were still tight, as Stanford trailed the Oklahoma State Cowboys by six strokes, with only four shots separating second place from fifth.
After a disappointing closing round at the U.S. Collegiate Championships last week, the Cardinal certainly wanted to keep its foot on the accelerator and conclude the fall season with a bang. Nevertheless, the Cardinal did not have an auspicious start to yesterday’s third round, and after just nine holes, had fallen behind Baylor and No. 9 New Mexico, with SMU nipping at its heels. The opening half of Tuesday’s round only saw one Stanford golfer — Rodgers — score under par, with a combined 13 bogeys or worse pulling the team down the leaderboard in a fall eerily similar to the one in Georgia just a week prior.
What a difference the next nine would make. For the second consecutive event, Rodgers made a furious run in the final holes, going 5-under on the back nine and storming into the top 10 of the individual standings. Wilson, Boote and Grimes had two birdies apiece over that same stretch, and the other squads in front of Stanford — particularly New Mexico, which went 4-over in the last nine — fell apart. The quick turnaround in the last half of the round lifted the Card back to where it was when the day started: in second place of a field with five top-25 teams.
“The fall that we had — with a very competitive schedule — was solid,” Ray remarked. “I think we wanted to have a few better finishes but to earn a win at Erin [Hills] and then second in this field and a decent event in Georgia Tech being just a few shots out of third shows everyone we can be very competitive.”
The team will now take a couple of months off from competition before making its spring debut February 6-8 at the Amer Ari Invitational in Kona, Hawaii.
“I think all the pieces are in the right spot to make a run at everyone when we commence once again this February,” Ray said. “We have a lot of work to do this offseason; we have plenty to think about and process and learn from. So we’re excited to get to work.”
Contact Cameron Miller at cmiller6 ‘at’ stanford.edu.