Junior Diary: Making a U.S. Am run
Hope everyone has been well. I had a very eventful week in a place that I never thought golf would take me. I learned that University Place, Washington, is a really cool place.
I was so ready to play the U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay. As an amateur golfer, it is our national championship and that is what every junior and college player gets geared up for every year. It is always one of the toughest tests of golf being that it’s a USGA event and it is always comprised of the world’s, best players. I had prepared for a week in attempt to get ready for this event. I had a little bit of experience from last year’s U.S. Amateur at Southern Hills, but I wasn’t very successful last year (I missed the cut) so I was looking to have a good run this year.
Patrick Rodgers, 18, will file a diary each week this summer as he plays some of the premier junior events in the country.
Rodgers, a second-team AJGA All-American, is No. 6 in the Golfweek Junior Rankings. He has three top-10 finishes in 2010, including a second place at the Rolex Tournament of Champions.
It was tough to prepare as the golf course is like no other in America. It was the longest major championship in USGA History at 7,750 yards and it was a firm and fast links-style golf course. That’s slightly different from the soft, tree-lined golf courses of the Midwest! However as soon as I got the chance to walk the course on Friday, I knew that the golf course suited me well. The green complexes were extremely severe and in order to be successful you had to be extremely creative and sharp around the greens.
By Monday I was ready to go and feeling good about my game. I teed off in the morning at Chambers Bay which turned out to be fortunate as the greens got much firmer and faster as the day went on. I have never played firmer greens. On my 10th hole of the day (No. 1 on the golf course), I hit the green in regulation only to find out I was only the fifth player to find the green. Over 100 players had gone through this hole already and this was supposed to be in the easy conditions.
I played well, making a lot of par-saving putts and taking advantage of the par 5s, and I shot a 2-under 69.
I tried a new strategy this year, which was to not look at the stroke play leaderboard or to look at the match play bracket. This way I could just focus on my game and not the other prestigious amateur golfers that were playing. After a very solid 68 on Tuesday I had made match play in a tie for second. I had played very solidly and felt like I had a good chance to make a good run.
I love match play and Chambers Bay was a perfect golf course for it. The USGA could set up the course in a variety of different ways. The first round of match play was set up way shorter than the stroke play which gave the players many options off the tee and made the golf course very scoreable. I made five birdies and an eagle on my way to a 3-and-2 victory over Ricky Stout. It was a good match as he made four birdies and played very solidly. I still didn’t know who I played in the next round but I knew it would be a tough match.
The atmosphere at the Amateur was really cool. There were always at least 50 people following your match so it felt like a major championship atmosphere. I love a big crowd so I feel that it played in my favor. My next match was against Alex Ching, a junior from the University of San Diego. He is a great player so I knew I had to play well. Unfortunately I didn’t play very well and he played smart golf to build a 4-up lead after 12 holes. I fought back to be 1 down with three to play but couldn’t finish off the run and lost on the 17th hole.
It was a really fun match to play when every shot down the stretch was really important. One shot that was really memorable was a bunker shot on No. 15. I had about a 30-yard bunker shot with a ridge behind the hole. The only way to hit it close was to use the ridge and feed it back down to the cup. Alex had a similar bunker shot that he hit to 8 feet so I knew that I had to hit a good one. I committed to the shot and it came out perfectly, riding the ridge and nestling to 3 feet. He missed his putt and I won the hole.
I have a few people that I need to thank for helping me throughout the week. The first is course designer Jay Blasi. He helped me to understand the golf course and its many strategies. It was fun to learn a links-style course from the architect and I couldn’t have played it as well as I did without him.
The next is my host family, the Gullikson’s. I have never stayed in private housing so I didn’t know what to expect but it worked out great. They were very welcoming and they really made the week memorable for me.
The last and most important is my dad. He caddied for me this week, something that he normally doesn’t do and he did a wonderful job. He fought through the aches and pains of adulthood while battling the elevation changes of Chambers Bay and he was really supportive throughout the week. He is my No. 1 fan and always will be so it was an amazing experience for us to go through it together.