EUGENE, Ore. – Patrick Rodgers isn’t one for much emotion. So when he won his fifth event in six tournaments at the NCAA Eugene (Ore.) Regional on May 17, it seemed expected by the soon-to-be professional.
For most of the spring, Rodgers has been the rock upon which his teammates and coach Conrad Ray have depended.
In Stanford’s past seven events, the Cardinal won five, including four in a row entering the May 23-28 NCAA Championship.
“I knew that if I could just stick to my game plan that we would be OK,” Rodgers said after he shot a final-round 71 for a 6-under 204 total and the individual title as Stanford held off host Eugene to win the regional. “I birdied 13, which was nice, and those finishing holes are tough, but we were able to keep our nose in front.”
With the six-stroke victory, his 11th in three seasons, Rodgers equaled Tiger Woods’ school record. Growing up in Avon, Ind., Rodgers idolized Woods, so to equal the 14-time major champion’s collegiate record brought a slight smile to his face.
“It’s a huge honor, obviously, any time you’re mentioned with Tiger Woods and all the amazing things he accomplished in college and at the pro level and everything that he’s been able to achieve,” Rodgers said.
Although Rodgers conceded satisfaction with his individual accomplishment, he says the team aspect of college golf proves exciting.
Dating to his days of playing basketball for his father, Charlie, a former guard at Biscayne College in Florida, Rodgers soaks up the team concept.
But he learned how to compete in golf when he met Tom Maples, the freshman basketball coach at Avon High.
By his own admission, Maples was hard on Rodgers and his teammates. But Rodgers took it as a lesson, forming the basis to learn how to compete.
“I definitely think when you get into that competitive environment, competition is competition, and I think it definitely served him well, especially in the team element of basketball, and I think that’s what he loves about the team element of playing college golf, as well,” Maples said. “You’ve got the pressure of those teammates who are relying upon you, and I think he thrives in that arena.”
Maples was also Rodgers’ golf coach at Avon, but the one year in basketball seemed to mean the most to Rodgers.
“He’s a competitor and kind of that basketball background, I have a lot of respect for him and his opinion,” Rodgers said of Maples. “He’s a guy that I really just enjoy spending a lot of time with. He’s become a really close friend of mine.”
Rodgers has used his time at Stanford wisely, working on his game and continuing to progress. He has averaged 69.41 strokes per round this year. Sunday night, he was named winner of the Ben Hogan Award as college golf’s top player.
“It’s been a very long development process in the game of golf,” Rodgers said. “It never really ends. But I don’t think I’ve really added a ton of shots to my repertoire in college; I’ve just understood and learned how to manage my repertoire of shots a lot better.”
Rodgers realized when he came to Stanford three years ago that he didn’t have the game necessary to excel. He needed to figure out how to shoot a number when he didn’t have his best stuff, such as in the first round of the NCAA regional Thursday in Eugene. Rodgers struggled but persisted to shoot 4-under 66 – his best score of the week but not his best round of golf.
“To be able to come out here and compete and contend and win tournaments without your best stuff, that’s something that takes a long time to develop and something that college golf has really, really helped me with,” Rodgers said. “I have the game where I could win when I was playing well, but I didn’t have the game or the mentality to contend when things weren’t quite so great. I’m getting better at that and I’m learning how to do that week in and week out.”
Rodgers will lead Stanford into the NCAA Championship, which begins Friday at Prairie Dunes, as the Cardinal pursue the school’s ninth national title. Win or lose, Rodgers will turn pro and intends to make his debut in the Travelers Championship on June 19-22 in Cromwell, Conn.
“The opportunities that he’s got in front of him are pretty exciting,” Ray said of Rodgers. “I think looking at the success that a lot of his peers and friends have had here in the last couple years, those young guys on Tour are a good indication of what he’s capable of.”