Stanford golfer Rodgers looks to cap stellar college career with NCAA title 

click to enlarge Patrick Rodgers
  • Kathy Kmonicek/2013 ap file photo
  • Stanford’s Patrick Rodgers has already announced he is turning pro after the Cardinal’s season finishes.
In less than a month, Patrick Rodgers will leave college behind and participate in his first golf tournament as a professional.

But he isn’t thinking about that just yet. The Stanford junior wants to help his program to its ninth NCAA national championship, and first since ’07.

Stanford heads into Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan., where the tournament will be held Friday through Wednesday, with considerable momentum. Including the NCAA regionals, where the Cardinal withstood a tough final day to edge host Oregon by one stroke in the team competition, Stanford has won its past four events.

Stanford is led by Rodgers, who under the tutelage of Cardinal coach Conrad Ray has blossomed into the top-ranked amateur golfer in the world. He is a three-time first-team All-American, the 2013 Pac-12 Golfer of the Year and recent recipient of the Ben Hogan Award, given to the top men’s college player, regardless of division. Rodgers was a Hogan award finalist as a freshman; and on Sunday he became the first Stanford player ever to win it.

But Rodgers would rather talk about this team, which he considers to be the best in his three years. Along with senior Cameron Wilson, one of two runners-up for this year’s Hogan Award, Stanford is considered to have the best 1-2 punch in the nation.

“It’s a great group,” Rodgers said. “Cam’s had an incredible year — he’s easily a first-team All-American, and his scoring average should break the single-season school record. We’ve got two great freshmen in the lineup. There’s five guys that know how to compete and play their best golf when it really matters.”

Rodgers has won five of his last six individual events — the sole “blemish” was a second-place finish — and Wilson took home that particular individual title. His individual victory at the NCAA regionals gave Rodgers 11 for his Stanford career, tying him for the program record with Tiger Woods, his childhood idol.

“As a coach, I really haven’t seen anything like this,” Ray said. “Any time you’re in the discussion with Tiger, it’s pretty special. It’s been fun to watch Patrick do it. He’s a model of consistency. I always contend that it’s not as much about your good days as how you manage your bad days. Even his bad days have gotten better.”

After heading to Fort Worth, Texas, for the presentation of the Hogan Award, Rodgers drove to Kansas. He wanted to get to Prairie Dunes ahead of time so he could get a feel for the course. He wanted to mull over the shots he’ll need, the ways in which he’ll manage wind, ball control and other technical elements.

Both Rodgers and Ray feel Stanford’s depth — eight players have contributed this season — and ability to survive rough patches, as they did in Oregon, will serve them well at the championships. Rodgers is looking forward to leading this team one last time as captain.

“I love the team aspect,” Rodgers said. “College golf is unique in that way — you’re playing for your teammates and the university you represent. I love that my score matters for our four other guys. In an individual sport, it’s easy to get down on yourself or focus on your own victories, but here, you stay in it for the team.”

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