Rodgers rallies with final 69, beats Bare on first playoff hole

St. Paul's senior's 3rd title sets record

teammates began day tied for second

High Schools

MIAA stroke-play golf tournament

May 11, 2004|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Greg Rodgers made a clutch 8-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to pull into a tie with St. Paul's teammate Tyler Bare. But Rodgers didn't want to settle for a tie at yesterday's Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association stroke-play tournament at Woodholme Country Club.

"We want a playoff," Rodgers said to tournament officials immediately after taking his ball out of the cup - and Bare agreed.

The golfers got their wish, and Rodgers then made history. The Notre Dame-bound senior sank a 5-foot birdie putt on the first hole of sudden death to outlast Bare and become the first golfer to win three MIAA championships.

Rodgers won for the second straight year. He also captured the championship as a freshman and took second his sophomore year. This title, however, might have been the hardest.

Rodgers and Bare came into the final day of the three-round tournament tied for second with Matt Bassler of Mount St. Joseph, two shots behind leader Chris Rockwell.

An opening-round 77 left Rodgers six shots behind the Gilman sophomore, but the senior rallied and he and Bare shot 4-under-par 69 in the final round to finish tied with an MIAA-record 219.

"That was just spectacular golf," St. Paul's coach Rick Collins said. "It was unbelievable."

Rodgers got off to a fast start yesterday with three birdies on the front nine, helping to pull into a tie with Bare and Rockwell after 12 holes on the hot afternoon. But Rockwell was battling the flu and starting to weaken and struggle.

He four-putted to a seven on 11 and put his drive in the water on the par-3 13th while Bare got a par and Rodgers took the lead with a birdie. Rockwell finished with a 77 for 225 and fourth place after tying for ninth last year as a freshman.

"I started out playing really well," said Rockwell. "But it started going downhill, and I didn't have enough energy to get back."

Bare played at No. 5 for St. Paul's most of the season, and his strong round yesterday was a mild surprise. But he played solid golf, hitting long drives, putting beautifully and not making mistakes.

"I kind of slid under the radar," Bare said. "I just tried to start with [Greg] and make a run at the end. I was on a roll."

Bare's run began at the 12th hole. He blasted a 310-yard drive on the par-5 hole, got on the green in two and sank an eagle putt that pulled him into the three-way tie.

The sophomore stayed right with Rodgers, who was trying to pull away. Bare made birdies on the final three holes to shoot 5-under 33 on the back nine and push his teammate. He sank a 30-foot birdie on 17 and left an eagle putt on 18 barely short. Bare tapped in for the birdie that put the pressure squarely on Rodgers.

The reason: Rodgers' second shot landed short and forced him to pitch on to the green from about 50 feet while Bare already was there. His pitch landed about 8 feet from the cup and stopped, and Rodgers then calmly sank the do-or-die putt that forced the playoffs.

That set up the sudden-death playoff with a little less than an hour of daylight left. Both golfers went to the par-4 first hole and drove close enough to the green that each could pitch his second shot. Bare left himself about 10 feet from the hole while Rodgers landed 5 feet away.

Bare's putt curled around the cup and went out. But Rodgers nailed his putt for a third championship.

"If you get the opportunity, you've got to capitalize," Rodgers said. "There might not be a chance on the next hole in sudden death."

Collins was thrilled with how Rodgers stayed calm during the pressure of the final holes.

"He's got unbelievable composure," Collins said. "He had some unbelievable up-and-downs."

Josh Jenkins of Mount St. Joseph shot a 71 yesterday to finish in third place with 223. Bare's older brother, Trip, finished fifth after shooting 76 for 227 for St. Paul's. Bassler dropped to sixth. The Crusaders also won the team championship for the fifth time in sixth years.

St. Paul's beat Mount St. Joseph by six shots, the scores determined by what the golfers did on the first two days before the cut.

The match-play competition takes place later this week. St. Paul's and Loyola meet tomorrow, and Archbishop Spalding and Mount St. Joseph play in the other semifinal match. The winners play Saturday at 2 p.m. for the match-play tournament.

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