Nov. 8, 2012
STANFORD, Calif. -
Stanford golfer Cameron Wilson flirted with history earlier this week. Competing in the first round of the Gifford Collegiate at CordeValle Golf Club in nearby San Martin, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound junior left-hander from Rowayton, Conn., had a 59 within his sights.
Plagued by back troubles most of the fall, Wilson carded 11 birdies and one bogey on the rolling par-71 layout, home of the PGA Tour’s Frys.com Open, and finished with a course-record 61. He wound up tying for second individually, two strokes behind winner Rick Lamb of Tennessee, but still produced his best showing as a Cardinal.
“I feel good about the state of my golf game, but I’m frustrated I didn’t win,” said Wilson, who closed with a pair of 74s. “I should have won the tournament by 10 shots. I threw away a lot of shots.”
In the second round, Wilson inadvertently played a wrong ball on the 14th hole and was penalized two strokes. In the final round, he let the slow pace of play bother him.
“I lost my patience,” he said.
Not that the 61 wasn’t special. His previous low score was a 63 in a small amateur tournament in New Jersey.
“I drove it well,” said Wilson. “I made a few putts and had a lot of good yardages and could make nice, full swings.”
As for breaking 60, Wilson said he did a good job of staying in the moment and never got ahead of himself. He poured in seven birdies on the front nine. His lone blemish was a bogey on the 407-yard par-4 fourth hole, where he lipped out a 3-foot putt, but he still made the turn in 6-under 30.
On the back nine, Wilson made four birdies, with three coming on the last four holes. He two-putted the par-5 18th hole from 85 feet for a birdie, and shot 31. “I left a couple putts on the edge,” said Wilson, who qualified for the U.S. Open last year at the Olympic Club. “I guess it could have been lower. I was really focused on the shots at hand.”
Where does the 61 rank in Stanford history?
In 1994, Notah Begay III fired a 10-under-par 62 in the second round of the NCAA Championship at Stonebridge Country Club in McKinney, Texas. That established an NCAA record, but more importantly, inspired the Cardinal to capture its first NCAA golf title in 41 years.
But the lowest score in relation to par ever posted by a Stanford golfer in tournament play – and this should come as no surprise – was a record-setting 11-under-par 61 shot by Tiger Woods in the first round of the 1996 Pac-10 Championships at Big Canyon Country Club in Newport Beach, Calif. He followed up with a 65 the same day and breezed to the tournament title.
Not to take anything away from Wilson. While he wasn’t thrilled with his play the last two rounds, no Stanford golfer has ever shot a lower score for 18 holes.
“It’s hard to back up a low round,” said Wilson, a history major with concentration on the Middle East. “I’m sure I’ll think about that in a couple days. Right now, it still stings.”
* * *
Nice reward for the Stanford women’s field hockey team: Win Tuesday’s NCAA Play-In game and advance to the first round of the NCAA Tournament against top-ranked North Carolina on Saturday at 8:30 a.m. PT in Chapel Hill, N.C.
It might sound like a raw deal for the 11th-ranked Cardinal (16-6), but you’ll hear no complaints from head coach Tara Danielson. She’s grateful to get another shot at the Tar Heels, who beat Stanford 6-2 in Chapel Hill on Sept. 23.
Never mind that the Cardinal has never won an NCAA Tournament game – 0-for-11– and is playing early and far from home. This is precisely why Danielson scheduled so many quality opponents during the regular season; to expose her players to great competition and toughen them up.
Stanford finished 2-5 against top-25 teams, losing to three No. 1-ranked schools at the time: Maryland (3-2 in double-overtime); North Carolina (6-2); and Syracuse (4-1). The first two defeats came in September, the latter last month.
The only way to compete and beat elite teams is to play them early and often. Nothing North Carolina does will surprise Danielson and her players, who know they are big underdogs, but will play hard and fully comprehend the challenge.
Danielson and her squad have been preparing for this task all year. And while it might look like a mismatch, don’t be surprised if the Cardinal gives the Tar Heels all they can handle.
-- By Mark Soltau, Stanford Athletics
Palo Alto native Mark Soltau has spent his whole life and much of his career around Stanford sports. A sportswriter for 35 years, Soltau spent 16 (1981-97) at the San Francisco Examiner, where he covered not only the Cardinal, but all five 49ers Super Bowl-championship teams. Golf always has been his passion and Soltau served as the golf beat writer for the Examiner, as well as national golf writer for CBS Sportsline, and contributing editor to Golf Digest. He has been the editor of tigerwoods.com since 1997.