It’s a busy time of the year in sports — football is over, but March Madness is just around the corner and Spring Training is in full swing. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the academic quarter is heating up in advance of Finals Week and tax season is looming on the horizon. Apparently, the Stanford men’s and women’s golf programs got the “busy” memo, as there has been a flurry of activity around both teams in the last few weeks — a period punctuated with big team and individual wins as well as an ever bigger announcement.
The look-back first visits the California desert, where the Stanford men eked out an impressive team victory at The Prestige at PGA West, which concluded Feb. 19. It was certainly a unique and exciting week for the nine Cardinal golfers, many of whom welcomed their families to La Quinta. There was no shortage of drama, either, although no one would have predicted a crazy finish after just having looked at the first round scores. The Card jumped out to a sizeable 13-stroke lead over Pac-12 foe No. 19 UCLA after the first 18 holes, spurred by identical 6-under 65s via junior Patrick Rodgers and freshman Maverick McNealy.
And though head coach Conrad Ray’s ’97 squad fell back to Earth on Tuesday in terms of its cumulative team score, it actually pushed its advantage to 14. Wednesday’s wild final round, however, was a little less smooth for Stanford, which saw conference mate No. 11 Washington make a daring run up the leaderboard. The Huskies received clutch 7-under and 5-under performances from Trevor Simsby and Gerrit Chambers, respectively, en route to a 14-under 270 round — a score which would have tied the Cardinal had it not been for senior Cameron Wilson’s 2-under 69. Ultimately, the Card held off Washington by two strokes and a streaking Bruins quintet by 10 shots.
On the individual side, Rodgers, despite shooting even-par 71 on the final day after being 9-under through 36 holes, held off a streaking Max Rottluff of Arizona State to win the event by one stroke. The victory gives the two-time PING All-American seven wins in his collegiate career before he plans to leave Stanford in May to pursue a spot on the PGA Tour. Other top-10 finishes for the Cardinal were turned in by Wilson, who carded a cumulative 6-under, and freshman Jim Liu, who came in at 4-under.
“We did a nice job of scoring on our par-3s, which is something we focused on in practice and preparation,” Ray commented on his team’s play at The Prestige. “It was fun to see Wilson and Rodgers both contending…but it was a full-team contribution.”
Stanford is back in action tomorrow at the Southern Highland Collegiate Masters in Las Vegas, a tournament Rodgers won in a playoff last year. Ray has emphasized a few key things in advance of the event, including preparing for the “fast, undulating putting surfaces” the team will face.
As successful as the men were, their female counterparts matched them stride for stride. The Stanford women’s golf team too produced great team and individual performances, maintaining its hot start to the spring season. After winning the Peg Barnard Invitational, the Cardinal headed south to the UC-Irvine Invitational, entering the event as the class of the field and the favorites. A 54-hole, 2-day tournament, the Card cemented their lead after round one, outpacing eventual second-place finisher Texas A&M by eight strokes. Sophomore Mariah Stackhouse minimized her mistakes on the first day of play, carding only two bogeys in 36 holes of play to put herself in the driver’s seat of the individual standings. Stackhouse and the team would preserve their leads over the final round, with Stackhouse defeating Grace Na of Pepperdine by two shots and the team eventually besting the aforementioned Aggies by thirteen.
Head coach Anne Walker’s team will look to continue its auspicious start and excellent play at the Darius Rucker Invitational, which also begins tomorrow and will be played on the Long Cove Course in Hilton Head, S.C.
Stackhouse, recently named the Pac-12’s Women’s Golfer of the Month for February, is familiar with the course — as if she didn’t have enough of an advantage already.
“I played Long Cove a number of years ago for a junior tournament and did well, so I’m excited to get back,” Stackhouse said of the venue for Darius Rucker. “It’s the kind of course you have to play smart and respect. It’s fun and challenging, and the members love to open their course to amateur competition. I think the biggest challenge we’ll face this week as a team is the cold, rainy weather expected the first couple of days.”
Contact Cameron Miller at cmiller6 ‘at’ stanford.edu.