ROLAND, ARK. (Saturday, Aug. 3) – The Western Amateur’s medalist jinx returned with a vengeance Saturday and sent Patrick Rodgers back home to Indiana.
Rodgers, who dominated the stroke play segment of 111th the Western Amateur at The Alotian Club, fell to recent North Florida graduate Sean Dale, who beat the two-time Walker Cup team member 2 up in the first round of match play.
Although the bracketology of the day showed Rodgers to be the No. 1 seed versus the 16th-seeded Dale, such seedings don’t indicate a major difference in the quality of competitors, as they do, say, in NCAA basketball.
“I played great in stroke play and got rewarded [to play against] … probably the best player in the field,” Rodgers observed, referring to his recent Palmer Cup teammate. “I know [Dale] is a great player. He has a great track record…You have to expect to play great players all the way. You have to play well and beat great players, and I just didn’t do that today.”
This is the fourth time in the last five years the Western Amateur medalist has lost in the first round of match play. The exception was last year when Chris Williams won both medalist and match play honors. In 2011, Williams was medalist and lost in the first round.
Rodgers’ elimination means the five top-ranked players in the field are gone: No. 1 Cory Whitsett, No. 2 Michael Kim, No. 3 Justin Thomas – three of Rodgers’ teammates at the upcoming Walker Cup – No. 4 Bobby Wyatt, and the fifth-ranked Rodgers.
Dale took a 3-up lead when Rodgers bogeyed Nos. 9, 10 and 12 “with wedges in my hands.” Rodgers fought back with birdies on 13 and 14.
“I had all the momentum in the match,” said the Stanford junior. “I just didn’t give myself enough opportunities down the stretch to finish it off”
His comeback stalled when he missed the green on the par 3 16th, missed the fairway left off the tee on the par 5 17th (meaning he couldn’t go for the green in two), and lipped out a par putt on 18, which Dale then parred.
“The hardest part when you get down three with six to go is you just can’t make any mistakes,” Rodgers said. “You can’t afford to make any bogeys. You can’t afford to give them any holes. You just have to keep the gas pedal down. I got [birdies on] 13 and 14 but after that I didn’t really have any good looks…”
Rodgers will play in the U.S. Amateur in two weeks and then the Walker Cup versus Great Britain and Ireland on Sept. 7-8 at the National Golf Links in Southampton, N.Y.
Meanwhile, one of Walker Cup captain Jim Holtgrieve’s potential remaining picks – Jordan Niebrugge, of Mequon, Wis. – won his opening Sweet 16 match 4 and 3, dominating his Oklahoma State teammate Talor Gooch of Midwest City, Okla.
If Niebrugge should win the Western Amateur, it would be his third victory in the last three weeks. He won the U.S. Public Links and the Wisconsin State Amateur over the last two weeks.
In other matches, Georgia Tech lefty Seth Reeves made a hole-in-one on the 11th hole to take a one-up lead on opponent Jonathan Garrick, and won 2 and 1. Reeves used a 9-iron on the 167-yard hole. It was his second hole-in-one in competition.
David Snyder, the youngest player in the field at 15, defeated his morning opponent, Taylor Moore, a sophomore at Arkansas by a 5-and-3 margin.
Moore’s teammate, senior Sebastian Cappelen came back from a two-hole deficit against 17-year-old phenom Robby Shelton IV to force the match to overtime and win on the second extra hole.
Texas A&M junior Tyler Dunlap defeated Cory McElyea in 20 holes. A 21-year-old senior at the University of San Francisco who played in this year’s U.S. Open, McElyea was the only player in the field to carry his own bag.
In the battle of Texas Longhorns, Kramer Hickok defeated teammate Beau Hossler 2 and 1. It was the first Sweet 16 appearance for both players.
Mexico’s slightly-built Carlos Ortiz, who was runner-up to Rodgers in stroke play, defeated Georgia junior Keith Mitchell of Chattanooga 2 and 1.
Rodgers also lost in the first round of match play at the 2011 Western Amateur at North Shore Country Club outside Chicago.
First-Round Match Play Results
The Alotian Club, Roland, Ark.
Saturday, Aug. 3
Sean Dale def. Patrick Rodgers, 2 up
Tyler Dunlap def. Cory McElyea, 20 holes
Kramer Hickok def. Beau Hossler, 2 and 1
David Snyder def. Taylor Moore, 5 and 3
Carlos Ortiz def. Keith Mitchell, 2 and 1
Sebastian Cappelen def. Robby Shelton IV, 20 holes
Jordan Niebrugge def. Talor Gooch, 4 and 3
Seth Reeves def. Jonathan Garrick, 2 and 1