COLUMBIA — Alina Rogers watched as her short putt wobbled across the green then off the outside edge of the cup. She tapped in the next putt for a double bogey Sept. 18 at the Wild Eggs Cardinal Cup.
It was Rogers' worst score of the day, a blemish on an otherwise solid round of 2-over par 74. The Missouri women's golf team finished just one stroke behind Louisville, the host and eventual winner.
The Tigers plan on using their home course advantage Monday when Louisville and other schools come toThe Club at Old Hawthorne for the Johnie Imes Invitational.
Regardless of how well Rogers plays at "the Johnie," it will be a more enjoyable experience for the sophomore than her first tournament of the season on Sept. 10. After making a five-and-a-half hour trip to Lincoln, Neb., for the Chip-N Club Invitational, Rogers slept on her shoulder wrong and was unable to play.
Nearly in tears, one of the first people she called was Phil Hardy.
Hardy is in charge of a scholarship program at Beacon Hall Golf Club in Aurora, Ontario. Rogers gained access to the exclusive country club through the scholarship program and has spent her past six summers there. Her time at the club has helped develop her golf game and her relationship with Hardy.
Beacon Hall's scholarship program allows non-members to caddy and network with the club's members, who are typically executives. Rogers once caddied for Blackberry CEO Jim Balsillie. Caddies are also given access to the golf course, driving range and Hardy's instruction.
Hardy's teaching helped Rogers improve from averaging 13 strokes over par a round to one stroke over par.
Today, Hardy and Rogers will speak on the phone every night after a tournament. The conversation usually has to do with golf fundamentals, such as maintaining good posture throughout her swing.
"I enjoy the phone calls. I sincerely appreciate our relationship," Hardy said by phone. "Next to my family, she's one of the closest people to me."
Rogers said that if she's really struggling, she will even send Hardy a video of her swing.
Hardy's instruction helped Rogers finish fourth in the Canadian Women's Amateur Championship this summer. A top-three finish would have given her an invitation to play for Team Canada.
Rogers' family moved from Neustadt, Germany to Toronto when she was 13. Even though her father is a tennis instructor, she's been taking golf lessons since age 7.
“I can’t run,” Rogers said, laughing, “My dad knew that, so golf was my only option.”
Her father was the one that told her about the new scholarship opportunity at Beacon Hall, and he coached her in preparation for the interview process.
With his help, she became the first female caddy at Beacon Hill. The members consider her the best caddy at the club.
"Beacon Hall is a special place,” Rogers said.
Caddying has also benefited her golf game. Typically, a caddy is the only person a golfer may ask for advice on putting. College golfers are not afforded the luxury of a caddy but the extra experience predicting putts on the green has helped her own golf game.
Missouri coach Stephanie Priesmeyer said her putting ability is one of her strengths.
“She’s a competitor,”Priesmeyer said. “She’ll be (on the practice range) early.”
Even when Rogers is not playing, she wants her teammates to win. She drove a golf cart around to deliver peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to her teammates because she was injured during the season's first tournament.
Michelle Butler took Rogers spot for the tournament and said she appreciated her support.
“It’s hard to watch your team play when you’re not. What she did was really admirable,” Butler said. “She handled it the best that she could have.”
Rogers said that she would love a chance to play with the tournament on the line because she feels she plays best under pressure. She offered a simple key to success for Monday's tournament.
“For me," she said. "I just have to swing the damn club well.”