HUTCHINSON, Kan. – Cameron Wilson stood over another important putt Tuesday at Prairie Dunes.
Which situation was more pressure-packed: Trying to win an individual title or attempting to send his team into the NCAA semifinals?
Oh, it wasn’t even close.
In the decisive match against Illinois’ Alex Burge, the Stanford senior made a two-putt birdie on 17th hole and then sank a 3-foot par putt on 18 to win, 1 up.
No. 3 Stanford will face No. 2 Oklahoma State in the semifinals, which begin at 3:20 p.m. ET.
“Yesterday I was excited to be in that position, and of course you wanted to win desperately, but I had to put the team on my back this afternoon and it was staring me in the face,” Wilson said. “If I didn’t win it was my last few holes in college golf.
“Yesterday was gravy. That was a thrill. It can’t even compare.”
In the other quarterfinal matches, top-ranked Alabama defeated SMU, 3 and 2, while LSU topped UCLA, 4 and 1. That semifinal matchup begins at 2:30 p.m. ET.
It’s been a whirlwind 24 hours for Wilson.
First, he prevailed in a three-hole playoff over Georgia Tech’s Ollie Schniederjans to win the NCAA individual title.
On Tuesday morning, the No. 2-ranked player in college golf squared off against Illinois’ Burge, who didn’t even have enough rounds to qualify for Golfstat’s individual ranking. Playing as an individual most of the season, this was Burge’s seventh round in the lineup.
Wilson and Burge were all square on 17 tee, then the Stanford left-hander busted a drive deep down the center. Burge found the left rough and was forced to lay up.
With only an 8-iron into the green, Wilson hit his second shot to about 25 feet, while Burge wedged to 15. The two-putt birdie gave Wilson a 1-up advantage, and his long-range par putt from 60 feet on the last was enough to hold off Burge – who missed from 20 feet for birdie – on the final green.
“It was neat to see him make another important putt when it mattered,” head coach Conrad Ray said.
Said teammate Patrick Rodgers: “If there was a player that you’d want it to come down to, it’s Cam. He’s been unbelievable for us all year.”
Ray put Rodgers and Wilson – the Nos. 1 and 2 players in college golf – in the final two spots in his lineup. Ray said there was a “reassuring feeling” about sending out those two guys last, especially since he knew the overall match against Illinois, the 2013 NCAA runner-up, would be tight.
Sure enough, Rodgers cruised to a 3-and-2 win, while Viraat Badhwar buried a long birdie putt on 17 to halve, then coolly sank a 5-footer for par on 18 to win, 1 up.
“It was set up for us to dethrone them,” said Illinois coach Mike Small, “but they just made more putts than us. That’s what you have to do in a one-day match.”
The other three quarterfinal matches weren’t nearly as taut, but Oklahoma State scored an impressive 4-0-1 win over Georgia Tech in a battle of the Nos. 2 and 4 teams in the country. Talor Gooch, Zachary Olsen, Wyndham Clark and Jordan Niebruggeeach recorded a point for the Cowboys, while Ian Davis halved his match with NCAA runner-up Schniederjans.