LEWISTON, N.Y. (July 30, 2011) -- Patrick Rodgers knows what it takes to contend in major amateur tournaments. Actually breaking through to win was another matter.
Rodgers, 19, of Avon, Ind., made an improbable comeback in the 53rd Porter Cup, erasing a seven-shot deficit with eight holes to play and defeating Wesley Bryan on the first playoff hole.
“It was weird,” said Rodgers, a Stanford freshman, who shot 12-under 268 at Niagara Falls Country Club. “I was so far out of it with eight holes to play that I didn’t even really think about winning until it was over. I just kept playing and grinding trying to get myself back in it.”
Rodgers eagled both par 5s on the back nine, the 11th and the 13th, then birdied the par-3 16th en route to a final-round 68. Meanwhile, Bryan, a South Carolina senior from Chapin, S.C., struggled to find the clubhouse, bogeying three of his final six holes to shoot 4-under 66.
With momentum having changed sides over those final few holes, the playoff was predictable: After Bryan dumped his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 189-yard par-3 18th, Rodgers hit to within 15 feet.
“I rolled it in and just went bonkers after that,” Rodgers said.
Bryan had played flawlessly early, making the turn in 6-under 29 and then adding birdie at the 11th to go to 7 under for the round.
But Rodgers, playing in the final group with Bryan and third-round leader Paul Haley (70-269, T-3), a recent Georgia Tech graduate, made his move.
At the par-5 11th, with 232 into the green in two, Rodgers hit it to within a foot for a tap-in eagle. Meanwhile, Bryan, who had a 5-footer for eagle, missed.
At the 13th, Rodgers gambled off the tee and left himself a 285-yard second shot, which he hit over trees to 10 feet, from where he made another eagle. Bryan three-putted for bogey, cutting his lead to three and losing all momentum. From there, Rodgers kept up the pressure, right through the playoff hole.
Next up for Rodgers: This week’s Western Amateur and then the U.S. Amateur later in August.
He’s also got his eye on the season’s big prize in amateur golf: a berth on the U.S. Walker Cup team that will play the top amateurs from Great Britain and Ireland on Sept. 10-11 at Royal Aberdeen in Scotland.
“That was the reason for me to switch to full-time amateur golf this summer, although I could have played a few more junior events,” he said. “I know that I’ve still got a lot of work to do, but I know I learned a lot from this week that I can use.”
After so many top finishes in big events this year -- runners-up at The Players Amateur and the Terra Cotta Invitational, and third places at the Azalea Invitational and Jones Cup -- Rodgers’ play at the Porter Cup signals a pivotal moment in his development as a top amateur.
“This was so important for me,” Rodgers said. “I kind of got a taste of being in contention this summer, but I haven’t been able to finish it off. I just kept trying to learn from all those weeks.”
Consider the lesson learned.