By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Tall and sturdy yet graceful on the links, Nick Rogers was the standout in Empire prep golf.
Already close to a scratch scorer, the Montgomery sophomore pushed to improve and reach this season’s Nor Cal finals. Falling just one shot short of the state championships, Rogers is the Empire Boys Golfer of the Year.
“That is a lot of motivation for next year,” Rogers said. “I feel like I’m really, really close.”
Improving by two strokes on his scoring average, Rogers was challenged by a handful of seniors who with Rogers made Montgomery one of the North Coast Sections top teams.
“He is laid back and really easy going, but he is competitive. He doesn’t like to lose,” said Montgomery coach Marcelo Bautista.
To sharpen his shots coming into this season, Rogers honed his short game. Solid wedge shots off fairways and out of roughs put the good golfers in position for birdie putts.
“Those are the scoring shots,” Rogers said. “I’m a lot more comfortable out there because I know I can get it close to make birdies.”
While putting has been a strength, Rogers aimed for greater consistency this season. More time on the six-cup putting green in his family’s backyard resulted in a greater number of better finishes on holes.
“I didn’t put a lot of high numbers on the board,” Rogers said.
After leading Montgomery to a second consecutive North Bay League title, the league’s low scorer was just warming up.
Winning a Northern California Golf Association junior tournament at Oakmont West in May served notice Rogers was shooting well just ahead of the prep championship series. Rogers shot a 75 and 68 on consecutive days, the two-round test for young golfers.
“It gave me a lot of confidence. I knew I could score that low in every tournament,” Rogers said.
After tying for the lead in the NBL final and losing the tiebreaker, Rogers had a week with his teammates to prepare for the section Tournament of Champions.
Rogers shot a 72 — including a hole in one — to lead Montgomery to fifth place at Castlewood Country Club, in Pleasanton. The top three teams advanced to the Northern California prep championships. Rogers led the individual qualifiers who were not on those teams.
“Making it to Nor Cals was a big step for him,” Bautista said.
At Nor Cals he again shot two over par, this time at Butte Creek Country Club, in Chico. But that was one shot too many to advance to the CIF state tournament.
“I had to scramble a lot,” Rogers said. “The one thing that’s really hard is hitting and putting well at the same time.”
Battling through bad rounds to stay high on leader boards demands mental toughness. Rogers is finding greater resolve on the course.
“He’s just beginning to see the golf course as the competition,” Bautista said.
Playing more junior tournaments this summer and against tougher competition should help Rogers develop into a player who can compete against the state’s best prep golfers.
“It’s really competitive and a lot of fun,” Rogers said.
The middle child of triplets, Rogers found his passion on the golf course. Sister Jackie is a competitive figure skater. Brother Bobby played hockey before taking up golf.
“We push each other a lot. We’re really competitive,” Nick Rogers said. Improvement is a must if Rogers hopes to reach his ultimate goals. First is qualifying for the United State Junior Amateur, which he has missed by three shots.
A professional career could be on the horizon. “That’s the goal,” he said. “It’s just a lot of practice. Golf is a lot more fun when you’re doing good.”
Player of Year: Nick Rogers, Montgomery, sophomore
Kasey Cazet, Rincon Valley Christian, senior
Frank Euphrat, Cardinal Newman, senior
Corey Ghiringhelli, Casa Grande, senior
Julian Landen, Montgomery, senior
Aaron Walker, Santa Rosa, sophomore
Jeff Johnson, Montgomery, senior
Evan Knight, St. Vincent de Paul, Junior
Matt Medeiros, Petaluma, senior
Javier Torres, Ukiah, senior
Austin Westly, Maria Carrillo
Steven Bird, Rancho Cotate, senior
Jason Brendel, Windsor, senior
Clayton Farris, Analy, junior
Junior Perez, Healdsburg
Trace Yaeger, Point Arena, senior
Coach of the Year: Marcelo Bautista, Montgomery