HUTCHINSON, Kan. – Cameron Wilson of Stanford kept his cool after he missed a big putt in the third round of the NCAA tournament. His positive attitude paid off in a big way.
Wilson won the national title on Monday when he birdied the third hole of a playoff against Georgia Tech's Ollie Schniederjans, helping Stanford to the top score in team qualifying.
"I think he was maybe the most overlooked player here," Cardinal Coach Conrad Ray said. "He's had a great year. He's a ball-striker, and if you want to find a ball-striker's paradise, it's Prairie Dunes."
Wilson bogeyed the final hole of his round, leading to the playoff with Schniederjans. But he managed to focus on the bigger picture on the big day.
"The sun was setting, the fescue looked green everywhere, there's (American) flags everywhere and Ollie is a friend," Wilson said. "I was just thinking it was all really cool."
Wilson's winning birdie came at the par-5 17th.
Stanford led team qualifying with a score of 13 under, securing the top seed for Tuesday morning's match-play quarterfinals.
Alabama and LSU tied for second at 4 under and were the only other teams to break par.
Wilson began the day in first place at 6 under. He had a one-stroke lead over teammate Patrick Rodgers, who was looking to break Tiger Woods' school record for victories in a season.
But Rodgers bogeyed three straight holes, starting at 12.
The left-handed Wilson was steady in shooting an even-par 70. After a bogey at 3 and birdie at 5, he parred 10 straight holes. Wilson just missed on birdie putts on Nos. 11, 15 and 16, but he insisted he never grew frustrated.
"I was a little unlucky," he said, "but those are all tough holes so par is a good score."
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Schniederjans pulled even with a birdie on 17. His third round featured six birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey.
"It was a terrible double on 5 and then I three-putted 9," he said. "But I just stayed focused on the next hole."
Wilson's approach shot from 135 yards on No. 18 was short – "The rough grabbed by club," he said – and he could not convert the par opportunity.
Wilson and Schniederjans returned to No. 18 to start the playoff. Both reached the green in two, and Wilson had a birdie putt slide by the hole.
Then on No. 10, it was Schniederjans' turn to face a birdie putt for the victory.
"It was just a tough putt to read, especially with the shadows," Schniederjans said. "I hit it right where I wanted. Just a tough read."
On No. 17, Schniederjans pulled his drive into the tall native grass left of the fairway.
"An awful lie," he said. "I basically swung my 8-iron as hard as I could. I was very happy to hit it down the fairway."
Wilson's third shot, a wedge from about 40 yards short of the steeply elevated green, was key. It took two skips and stopped 7 feet below the hole.
"That's a shot I like," he said, "a shot I work on all the time."
And this time, he made the putt that secured the title.
"I was a little nervous," he said, "but more than anything I was really excited."