By Frank Foreman
CAMBRIDGE SPRINGS —
Citing experience can often be an overused reference in sports, as players claim to have learned from past mistakes, though the end result remains the same.
Trevor Rodgers is ready to prove that theory wrong.
A year after finishing in a tie for eighth place in the PIAA East Regional Championships, Rodgers returns in his senior year looking to not only improve upon last year’s finish, but also eclipse his 28th overall finish at the state championships on Monday.
But before making the daunting run at a state title, a top 20 finish today at Tom’s Run Golf Course at Chestnut Ridge Golf Resort in Blairsville is in order, although for a player expected to move on to Monday’s state tournament, it’s hard not to look a bit into the future.
“Obviously the big one is next week, but you have to take it one shot at a time at regions like everybody else,” Rodgers said. “In the back of my mind I may be looking a bit toward states, but if I play bad there is no next week. You just can’t get ahead of yourself.”
Joining Rodgers at regionals is Titusville junior Matt McCord, who won the District 10 title on Oct. 8.
Rodgers is about as even-keeled a golfer you can find, and certainly one that never appears to be satisfied.
It’s that type of drive that his Cambridge Springs head coach Michael Tomko believes sets Rodgers apart from others.
“I’d be shocked if he didn’t make it through regions. They take almost half the field, so I’d be shocked if he didn’t make it,” Tomko said.
Rodgers’ eighth-place finish at Tom’s Run last year was tops among all District 10 golfers, and was easily enough to claim a berth into states. That’s the same plan today, as Rodgers looks to lean on what he learned a year ago and make today’s round another successful one.
This is where that experience kicks in.
“I know the course better this year. I know where to miss on the course, and where you just have to play smart on certain holes,” Rodgers said.
Tomko couldn’t agree more.
“The biggest thing, no matter if it’s states or the regional tournament, is experience from last year,” Tomko said. “It’s the most valuable asset you can have. To have already played the course, you have the upper hand on someone who hasn’t been there.”
The younger and more inexperienced golfers tend to take more of an aggressive approach in tournament play of this caliber, according to Rodgers. For the senior, it’s all about letting the day unfold and simply taking what’s in front of you.
“I think you post a much better score when you play conservative. The ones that aren’t experienced will make those mistakes like trying to go for certain shots,” Rodgers said. “When you play more aggressive, you get higher numbers.”
As far as Tom’s Run is concerned, the par-72 course offers a little bit of everything, and tends to reward the players that don’t try to do too much.
That bodes well for Rodgers.
“I play as conservative as possible,” Rodgers said. “I don’t risk anything. When you try to get on the green in two shots on a par 5 when it’s not necessary, you have just as good of a chance to shoot an eight as you do a a birdie.”
A total of 42 golfers will take part in today’s action, and Tomko said he likes Rodgers’ chances to advance. That is, of course, as long as the talented senior doesn’t beat himself.
“The one thing with golf is, it’s a unique sport. You’re really not playing against somebody else,” Tomko said. “When you hit bad shots, you can’t blame anybody but yourself. You just have to know what pins to be aggressive at.”
Nerves don’t factor in to Rodgers’ game. It’s a trait that is rare in young athletes. The senior’s calm demeanor and analytical approach only help him in big moments and situations. The biggest of those situations is Monday at states.
Up first: Regionals.
“I’m a better player now than I was last year,” Rodgers said. “I did it last year. I feel more mentally strong, and I feel I can score better this year.”
The top players in the region tee off today at 9 a.m.