St. Paul's golf coach Rick Collins calls freshman Greg Rodgers mature beyond his years. In yesterday's final round of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association tournament at Woodholme Country Club, Rodgers needed every bit of that maturity to hold on for a three-stroke win.
After seeing his once-commanding lead dwindle to two strokes after bogeys on four of five holes, Rodgers watched as Calvert Hall senior Chris Baloga, making a late charge, nearly sank a 30-foot chip shot for eagle on 18 that would've forced him to birdie.
Instead, the shot from behind the green hit the bottom of the pin and rolled several feet away, sealing the victory.
"I saw [the chip shot] going toward the hole, but I knew that if he made it the only thing I could do was make my putt," said Rodgers, who last year beat Baloga in a playoff to win the Baltimore County 17-under championship at Greystone. "I knew if I could do that, it wouldn't matter what he did."
Rodgers finished with a 5-over-par 78 for a three-round total of 223. Baloga was second (77-226) and Loyola's John Patinella third (76-228). Mark Quick of St. Paul's shot a 74 for the day's low round.
"I knew I needed to make eagle to have a chance," said Baloga. "I almost hit it."
Collins said Rodgers has been "like a sponge" this season, learning from St. Paul's seniors Ben Phelps, Steve Colnitis and Rob Ellrich, all three of whom are going on to play collegiate golf.
"He's poised beyond any freshman that I've ever dealt with," said Collins of Rodgers, who plays out of Hunt Valley Golf and Country Club. "He's got a lot of talent, there's no question about that, but he is extremely mature in not only the physical attributes of being able to play this game, but also the mental attributes."
Alex Bruggemann of John Carroll, who started the day three strokes back in second place, shot an 83 to finish fifth.
St. Paul's topped Loyola by nine strokes to win the team title, which was decided in the tournament's first two rounds played last week at Mr. Pleasant and Pine Ridge. It was the Crusaders' second title in three years.
The league will hold its match play championship beginning tomorrow, when St. Paul's will play Calvert Hall and John Carroll will play Mount St. Joseph, with the winners meeting for the title Saturday at Caves Valley Golf Club.