Rogers almost extends appearance to weekend

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The player profile in the prominent NBA logo is the legendary Jerry West. The PGA's logo, similar in color and design, must be Chris Rogers, or so it seemed this week during the first two rounds of the Stanford St. Jude Championship.

Rogers, a former Ole Miss golfer who played with the Rebels through the 2007 school year, qualified Monday for his first-ever PGA Tour tournament. That short notice being the case, there was only a picture of the PGA's logo on the scoreboard when his name popped up, as opposed to pictures when a regular tour player was posted on the boards throughout the TPC at Southwind.

Such are the small, arguably insignificant, details in the golfing life of the soon-to-be 25 year old from Franklin, Tenn., with Memphis and north Mississippi roots. This week it was all about being here, doing this, as a large number of Rogers' family, friends, former UM teammates, and locals followed him the two days he played here, including parents Larry and Marilyn and brother Rhett.

His play came to an abrupt halt Friday evening around 6:30 p.m. when Rogers' final putt for birdie on his last hole, the 9th since he began the day on No. 10, was just a bit short. Not making a birdie three there meant he missed the cut for the final two rounds by a single shot, firing a two-over par 72 on day one and a four-over 74 on day two.

Rogers joined another former Ole Miss golfer in the field, veteran journeyman pro Vance Veazey, a Senatobia native, who came up just short as well. Veazey's 69-77 also left him one shot off the five-over par 145 cut line.

Although it ended two days earlier than he had hoped, Rogers said the week was unforgettable and gives him hope for future weeks on the PGA Tour.

"That's golf," said Rogers as several news and TV reporters gathered ‘round him after he signed his scorecard to end his first PGA experience. "About another inch and I'd be here for the weekend. I learned a lot this week, and I'll take it with me and run with it."

Rogers, a member of the Hooter's Tour, heads now, ironically, to Rogers, Ark., for his next tournament. But the memories of this week in Memphis and the learning experience he carries with him will be invaluable.

"I hit the ball decent both days, but I had five or six penalty shots (mainly in the water), and that kind of sums it up right there," he said. "I missed a couple of putts inside four or five feet. A little bit here or there would have meant a whole lot. Overall I feel good about my game, and tomorrow is a new day."

It was only a few weeks ago that Rogers, a pro for less than a year, wondered if it was meant to be that he continue to pursue his life's dream. Then came the Tennessee State Open.

His girlfriend, Tracy Fowler, mentioned it was during the event in Nashville that Rogers seemed to find his game and perhaps his future. Rogers agreed.

"Up until that week, I had really struggled," said Rogers, at 5-foot-8, 135 pounds, driving the golf ball past the two competitors in his group much of the day. "I shot 76 the first round, and I went home and really thought about things. I really asked myself if this was what I needed to be doing, not just because of the round but because of the past four months or so."

He regrouped and shot 70-66 to finish in a tie for 16th, along with Rebel signee Joe David.

"I made a check. I had some confidence, and things started coming around in my game," Rogers said. "A little confidence can go a long way. One good round or one good tournament and you're off. I think that really did something for me."

His caddie here this week was good friend and former Rebel teammate Brice Bailey of Memphis. Bailey finished in a tie for 8th at the Tennessee State Open and is also a member of the Hooter's Tour.

"He told me what to do, and all I had to do was pull the trigger," Rogers said of Bailey. "He has a lot of local knowledge, and he knows this course so well."

Bailey said Rogers played well and came so close to playing for two more days.

"He played with the best players in the world this week, and he was right there in the middle of it," Bailey said. "I think he played well enough to make the cut; if some of the putts at the end would have gone in. We knew where he stood, and that made it tougher. There were scoreboards everywhere.

"But we had fun and laughed, and I learned a lot being out there," said Bailey, who also heads to Rogers, Ark., to play this coming week. "If I'd played like he did, I would have been happy with it. I was proud of him."

And now Rogers looks to the future with more enthusiasm than he's had in a while.

"I can't really even describe it," said Rogers, a member of the Rebels' 2007 NCAA Tournament team. "Having all this support here from so many people who really care, it means a whole lot to me."

And likely a whole lot to a career now headed up for Rogers.

"I think I belong out here," he said.

And maybe the next PGA Tour event, they'll have his picture for the scoreboard, too. Based on this week, they'd better have one ready.

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