STANFORD, Calif. – When Patrick Rodgers was in the sixth grade, he was assigned a project called, “All About Me.” He was asked to list his hobbies, likes and dislikes.
“I wrote down that I wanted to play on my high school golf team and win a state championship,” said the junior first team All-American golfer at Stanford. “I wanted to go to an incredible academic institution and play on the best golf team. And I wanted to play on the PGA Tour.”
Two down, one to go.
On Monday, Rodgers announced he will leave The Farm following the spring season to pursue his lifelong dream of playing professional golf. It’s hardly a surprise, considering he is the top-ranked men’s amateur in the world.
“He’s prepared to see what pro golf throws at him,” said Conrad Ray, The Knowles Family Director of Men’s Golf at Stanford.
Rodgers, the Cardinal team captain, thought long and hard about his decision. A native of Avon, Ind., and two-time state high school champion, Rodgers spoke with former Cardinal All-American quarterback Andrew Luck last year on campus while the latter was training during the offseason and finishing his degree.
Luck, a two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up, had another year of eligibility, but opted for the NFL Draft and became the No. 1 overall pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2012.
“We have a neat connection,” Rodgers said. “He gave me some great insight about what pro sports are like and what went through his mind. I thought he handled the situation with such class and did everything the right way. He reached out to me. I owe him a lot for that conversation and I hope there’s a lot more in the future.”
Rodgers has had a taste of the PGA Tour, playing in four events. He proved he belonged last year by tying for 15th in the John Deere Classic, firing rounds of 67-69-65-69 to finish five strokes behind winner Jordan Spieth, his teammate on the 2011 U.S. Walker Cup team. Last year, Spieth earned PGA Tour Rookie of the Year honors.
“Seeing the success of so many of the guys I played with on the Walker Cup team and played college golf against weighed a lot into my decision,” said Rodgers, who helped lead the American side to victory in 2013. “After seeing their success, I really feel like I’m ready to go out there and succeed.”
In 2012, Rodgers received an exemption to play in the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship and was paired with former Stanford All-American Notah Begay III in the first two rounds. Begay, a four-time winner on the PGA Tour, is now an analyst and on-course reporter for the Golf Channel.
“It was an awesome experience just to be able to pick his brain about college and pro golf,” Rodgers recalled. “It was really powerful to have that conversation.”
Even then, Begay was impressed with Rodgers’ game.
“I think the two most striking things I noticed were his maturity and creativity of shots around the greens,” said Begay. “Tee to green, he was solid. But I really liked the variety in his short game arsenal.”
The long-hitting, 6-foot-2 Rodgers said the seasoning he gained by playing in PGA Tour tournaments has been invaluable.
“Each tournament, I’ve felt more and more comfortable,” he said. “You have to kind of get your feet under you. I felt like my game has gotten better and better each time. I have a much better understanding of what it takes to go out there and compete, succeed and eventually win.”
Last week, Rodgers collected his seventh collegiate title at The Prestige in La Quinta, Calif., leading the Cardinal to victory. That tied him for second on the school’s all-time list with former Pleasanton, Calif., product Joel Kribel. Only Tiger Woods (11) has won more.
“I have six events left and I’m four behind,” smiled Rodgers. “I better get cooking.”
Rodgers does own the school record for career scoring average at 70.55, besting Woods at 70.96. Woods played only two seasons at Stanford.
“It would mean a lot, especially over a guy like Tiger, who set so many remarkable records in the game,” Rodgers said of the career scoring mark. “It would mean a heckuva lot more to leave here with a national championship for the team. That’s always been my focus.”
Once his collegiate season ends, Rodgers will turn pro and use sponsor’s exemptions to gain entry into PGA Tour events in hopes of earning enough money to secure a PGA Tour card. If that fails, he will look to compete on the Web.com Tour, where the top 50 money winners earn playing privileges on the PGA Tour next year.
“With the format on the PGA Tour changing, it’s played a big role in the way I’m going about my business moving forward,” said Rodgers. “The plan is to get as many PGA Tour starts as I can over the summer and hopefully make the most of those opportunities. There are a lot of different roads I can take from there.”
Begay has no doubt that Rodgers will find a home on the PGA Tour.
“He really has the composure to excel and separate himself,” Begay said. “I think he can play golf for a living as long as he’d like to. He’s a very grounded kid.”
Rodgers knows success isn’t a given. But he has been preparing for this moment most of his life, and has the talent, work ethic and support to carve out a long and prosperous career. He credits Stanford for giving him the many of the tools he needs going forward to be successful.
“The university has done so much more for me than golf,” he said. “Just tapping into all the resources you have. I’m a lot more ready to be a professional athlete than I was as a freshman. The immense social network, alumni, students and faculty are just incredible.
“College golf is such an amazing opportunity. You have to sit back and pinch yourself at times. I just spent a week in Hawaii with my best friends on campus and some amazing people who support the Stanford golf program. Just to be with your friends, who are more like brothers now after three years, and compete for a team and a world-class university has been such an incredible opportunity and has created memories I will never forget. I’m really looking to making the most of these last few months.”