OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – The James D. Standish Jr. Trophy, awarded to the winner of the U.S. Amateur Public Links, is on a national tour. Joe Vogel, the father and instructor of Publinks champion T.J., is sending the trophy around the country to people who’ve played an important role in his son’s development.
“It should be back in Gainesville by the end of the year,” T.J. said after finishing his final-round 68 Tuesday at the Olympia Fields Intercollegiate. From the look of things in Florida, it won’t be the only trophy he’ll bring home.
Vogel, a second-team All-American last season, is one of the nation’s top players, and his Gators team might be a national-championship contender. “I feel like we’re a lot deeper,” Vogel said. “We’ve all developed into better players, and it’s shown.”
The Gators finished third at last year’s SEC Championship, second at the NCAA East Regional and 12th at the NCAA Championship, three shots out of the two-team playoff for the final match-play berth. They return four of the five players who participated in the NCAA Championship, and have several strong players who seem ready to fill that open position, including freshman A.J. Crouch.
“A.J. has some serious talent,” Florida head coach Buddy Alexander said. “He’s a great athlete. He’s a little raw. He has some polishing to do.”
Eric Banks, who also competed at the NCAA finals at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., had heart surgery June 25 but could be back in the lineup shortly. He played his first 18-hole round since the surgery before the team left for Olympia Fields.
This year’s Gators are led by two senior All-Americans – Vogel and Tyler McCumber, an honorable-mention honoree. McCumber was runner-up at the NCAA Championship.
The Gators were second at this week’s Olympia Fields Intercollegiate, shooting the final round’s low score, a 6-over 286. Vogel led the team with a seventh-place finish, his second consecutive top-10 to start the season. McCumber was T-20.
The Gators started their season with a 24-shot victory at the Invitational at Kiawah. Four Gators occupied the top five positions on the leaderboard. Vogel and McCumber tied for second, while Crouch and redshirt sophomore Santiago Gavino tied for fourth in their collegiate debuts.
“I can see the hard work,” Vogel said. “Everyone on the team works really, really hard, but hard work only gets you so far if you don’t have the right technique.”
Vogel credited UF coach Alexander, a former U.S. Amateur champion, for helping the Gators improve, especially with their short games. Vogel said that was key in his Publinks victory. “I need all the short-game guidance I can get,” Vogel said. “He has a knack for getting the ball up-and-down.”
Vogel’s Publinks victory comes with an expected invitation to next year’s Masters. “It’s really far, too far,” he said.
One can understand his eagerness. There are plenty of things to be excited about in Gainesville.
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Stanford made its season debut at this week’s Olympia Fields Intercollegiate, finishing fourth. It was a strong showing for the Cardinal, considering they were without two of their top players. Andrew Yun, the reigning Pac-12 champion, is taking this semester off as he attends Q-School as an amateur; he finished runner-up in his pre-qualifying tournament, advancing to the first stage. Cameron Wilson, who qualified for this year’s U.S. Open, missed Olympia Fields with a back injury, but is expected to be back in the lineup shortly, head coach Conrad Ray said.
The Cardinal started their season with a weeklong trip to Scotland, with stops that included Western Gailes, Prestwick, Turnberry and Carnoustie, as well as a visit to St. Andrews.
“It was a good bonding experience,” Ray said. “We can do a better job as coaches and college golfers of recognizing the history of the game and appreciate that. We worked hard when we put the trip together to get the guys immersed with some of the locals, to see how much golf is part of the culture over here. It’s different than the States, and I think the guys left there appreciating how the love of the game should be enough to motivate you.”
Patrick Rodgers led Stanford at Olympia Fields, winning the individual title by five shots.
Freshman David Boote of Surrey, England, also collected a top-10, finishing seventh in his collegiate debut.