ROLAND — Patrick Rodgers left little doubt he’d be the medalist in the 111th Western Amateur Championship when he started his fourth round Friday morning at The Alotian Club with three straight birdies.
The fast opening put him at 18-under, and though the Stanford junior-to-be would reach 19-under-par twice Friday, a bogey at the last hole left him at 18-under, tying the Western Amateur record for the 72-hole stroke play portion and three shots ahead of former North Texas golfer Carlos Ortiz.
Fordyce’s Lane Hulse, who plays collegiately at South Alabama, struggled Friday and shot 10-over 82 to bring up the rear of the 53 golfers who made the 36-hole cut Thursday morning, tallying a 12-over-par 300.
Rodgers, who failed to reach the Western’s match-play round last year at Exmoor Golf Club outside Chicago, enjoyed a trophy presentation and accolades from course owner Warren Stephens, but starting this morning it means nothing. Rodgers and 15 other qualifiers, including two Arkansas Razorback golfers, will begin 18-hole match play at 8 a.m., with quarterfinal matches at 1 p.m. Sunday’s semifinals begin at 8 a.m. and the final round will tee off at 1 p.m.
“I never imagined anyone could shoot a score like this on this course, especially with the setup and where the pins were the past two days,” Stephens told Rodgers.
Taylor Moore, a Razorback sophomore-to-be, and Sebastian Cappelen, a rising senior and native of Denmark, secured match-play spots. Nicolas Echavarria (even-par 288) tumbled to 40th place after standing 25th after three rounds, and Little Rock’s Joe Doramus, a Razorback senior to be, had too much ground to make up Friday to land a spot in the Sweet Sixteen, but did have his best round of the week, a 3-under 69 to end the tourney at 2-under 286.
“It’s pretty exciting to represent the state, and to do it here shows how good we’re getting as a team,” said Moore, who was in Friday’s next-to-last pairing and dropped three stokes to par, yet landed in a seventh-place tie at 6-under-par 282. “It’s exciting to have me and Sebastian in the final 16, and it’s exciting to have four guys have a chance today.”
Cappelen, who had two rounds at 3-under 69, had his second even-par round of the week to join Moore at 6-under, 282. He needed an up-and-down from behind the left bunker with a 10-foot downhill putt for par to stay at 6-under.
That was one shot safely ahead of a group of five golfers who played off for the final four Sweet Sixteen spots. Surprisingly, the odd man out after two tries at No. 18 was Alabama’s Cory Whitsett, the No. 1 amateur golfer, according to the Scratch Players world rankings. The Crimson Tide, winner of the NCAA Championship in June, had six golfers here this week but none moved on to match play, though they’ll gain one Sweet Sixteen qualifier this fall in prepster Robby Shelton IV of Mobile.
Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma State each had two golfers reach the Sweet Sixteen. Daniel Snyder, a 15-year-old who will be a high school sophomore at McAllen, Texas, also reached match play.
Rodgers, meanwhile, will carry the tradition-rich Stanford golf banner alone as his name joins some of the most notable figures in the history of golf etched on the medalist trophy — Bobby Jones, Phil Mickelson, Ben Crenshaw, Mark O’Meara, Curtis Strange and Tom Kite, to name a few. His 3-under-par 69 was his worst score of the week, and Rodgers found it harder to match Thursday’s 6-under 66, at least after his three-birdie beginning.
“Every single pin was in such a demanding place that if you got out of position you were going to struggle to make par,” Rodgers said. “Even holes where I thought that I left it in the right spot ended up being really demanding up and downs. It was an 18-hole grind out there, I tell you what. But obviously I’m happy to get another round under par and really honored to have my name on the list of medalists here at this tournament.”
His playing partner, Oklahoma State’s Jordan Niebrugge, shot even-par for the day and finished third at 11-under-par 277. Ortiz, who played with Arkansas’ Moore, had the day’s best round, a 5-under 67 with no bogeys.
After dropping two strokes following his blazing start, Rodgers birdied No. 7 and eagled the par-five eighth — drive and 7-iron to cover 570 yards — with a 15-foot uphill putt to reach 19-under for the first time. He put his approaches in good shape throughout the back nine, except for a bogey on 10, but didn’t manage a birdie until the par-five 17th, chipping from in front of the green to within inches. Then, on 18, with a chance to set to the all-time Western scoring mark, Rodgers bunkered his second shot on the 515-yard par-four, hit long out of the left trap and barely missed the par attempt.
Warren Stephens had predicted 10-under for the medalist score and sheepishly gave his accolades to Rodgers for wiping that out. Three weeks ago, the Avon, Ind., native played in the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic at a Tournament Players Course in Silvis, Ill., where he finished in a 15th-place tie and shot 14-under for the event.
“These are both just championship courses,” Rodgers said, asked to compared the PGA venue with The Alotian Club relative to his scores, “and I think you have to treat each week a little bit differently. One thing I can say is [the] greens were perfect at both places.
“But it’s such a treat be able to play out here. Obviously I played great to shoot 18-under par. The course was a lot more demanding than what my score showed at least, I just played really well and made some putts. But I think match play is going to be totally different.”
Match Play Pairings (Tournament listed in bracket order with seeds and stroke play score in parentheses; par is 288)
Patrick Rodgers (1, 270) vs. Sean Dale (16, 283)
Cory McElyea (8, 282) vs. Tyler Dunlap (9, 282)
Kramer Hickok (4, 279) vs. Beau Hossler (13, 283)
David Snyder (5, 279) vs. Taylor Moore (12, 282)
Carlos Ortiz (2, 273) vs. Keith Mitchell (15, 283)
Robby Shelton IV (7, 282) vs. Sebastian Cappelen (10, 282)
Jordan Niebrugge (3, 277) vs. Talor Gooch (14, 283)
Jonathan Garrick (6, 280) vs. Seth Reeves (11, 282)
Other Arkansas golfers
T27. Joe Doramus, 286
T40. Nicolas Echavarria, 288
T53. Lane Hulse, 300