For Rodgers, pressure par for the course

Winning individual title in '01 raises expectations for St. Paul's sophomore

MIAA golf preview

High Schools

April 01, 2002|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

Last year, he was a freshman who snuck up on more established upperclassmen, including several of his teammates, to win the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association golf tournament.

But times have changed for St. Paul's sophomore Greg Rodgers, who now finds himself in the position of being the favorite, as the MIAA golf season picks up some steam the next couple of weeks after its start was marred by a series of rainouts.

"Everybody is going to be gunning for me and that's going to help me continue to get better," said Rodgers. "I am going to have to be at the top of my game, but it will be fun. That's what we play for."

It has not taken long for Rodgers to feel the heat of being at the top. After beating Loyola's top golfer, John Patinella, when the Crusaders beat the Dons to open their dual-meet season two weeks ago, Rodgers was defeated on Thursday by Calvert Hall senior Josh Prokopik in match play.

Prokopik, along with Cardinals teammates James Chagetos, Mark Lorenzo and Frank Olszewski are among the players expected to challenge Rodgers in May for the MIAA individual title, a three-day, 54-hole tournament with a stroke-play format.

Cornell-bound Patinella, who was third last year, St. Paul's senior Mark Quick, Mount St. Joseph's seniors Del Thebaud and Steve Homans, John Carroll junior Alex Bruggemann and McDonogh senior Justin Jarvis should also be in contention.

Like Rodgers, St. Paul's is the favorite in the A Conference. In the last three years, the Crusaders have won the MIAA stroke-play championship three times, the dual-meet championship twice and compiled a 42-5-1 record in dual meets.

Three key members of those teams have graduated and are now playing at the Division I level. There is no shortage of talent, however, left behind in Brooklandville.

Rodgers and Quick are a lethal Nos. 1 and 2 combination and the Crusaders, coached by Rick Collins, have about eight players vying for the starting six spots, including three freshmen.

"I think they will be as good as ever," Mount St. Joseph coach Michael Dooley said of St. Paul's. "There is certainly no lack of talent out there, so I think they are still the team to beat."

This year, the A Conference, consisting of eight teams, was broken up evenly into Red and Gold divisions in order to give teams more flexibility with scheduling.

The top two teams from each division at the end of the regular dual-meet season will cross over and play against each other, with the winners teeing off in match-play format to decide the MIAA team champion.

"There are no cupcakes in the A Conference. It is the old adage that anybody can upset anybody," said Collins, entering his 12th season as coach of St. Paul's.

St. Paul's is joined in the Gold Division by Gilman, Loyola and Mount St. Joseph.

Calvert Hall, a Red Division member along with John Carroll, McDonogh and Archbishop Spalding, has emerged in the last week to be St. Paul's toughest challenger and maybe even a favorite.

The Cardinals are 2-0, having already beaten the Crusaders - 11-10 on Thursday at the Baltimore Country Club - and John Carroll - 9 1/2 -7 1/2 at the Maryland Golf and Country Club.

The B Conference has only one division, comprised of Archbishop Curley, Boys' Latin, Chapelgate, Sts. Peter & Paul, St. Mary's and last year's team champion, Severn.

Despite losing their top two players, the Admirals are much deeper than last year, and all their returnees have improved by an average of three strokes, coach Tom Heslin said.

Severn, led by seniors Ryan Brown and Blake McKie, and highly touted freshman Christian Freymeyer, has beaten Curley and lost to Boys' Latin.

Boys' Latin dominated the B Conference last year before falling to Severn in the title match, and Jay Crider's team returns almost everybody, including junior Chris Kamphaus and sophomore Kevin Singer.

St. Mary's and Curley also are strong, as the Saints have an ace at No. 1 with Colin Hauck and plenty of depth behind him, and the Friars have what coach Dave Ball said was "probably my best team ever."

Heavy turnover is the story in the 10-team C Conference, where defending champion Chapelgate left to play at the B level. Taking the Flames' place is Pallotti, which played last season in the B Conference.

Other additions include Beth Tfiloh and Friends, which has its first golf team since 1968. Glenelg Country is in its second year in the MIAA, and brings back junior Bryan Snow, who went undefeated last year in dual-match play.

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