HOUSTON – Phil Rodgers, who captured the second NCAA individual championship in Houston Men’s Golf history and finished second in the 1963 The Open Championship, passed away Tuesday following a lengthy battle with leukemia. He was 80 years old.
Rodgers, who hailed from San Diego, joined the Cougars under legendary Head Coach Dave Williams for only one year during the 1957-58 season. He posted a score of 215 to earn 1958 Missouri Valley Conference Championship medalist honors at Wichita County Club in Wichita, Kan., and continued that success at the nation’s elite collegiate event.
With a score of 139 at Taconic Golf Club in Williamstown, Mass., he helped lead the Cougars to the NCAA team championship and joined Rex Baxter as the first two NCAA individual national champions in program history.
For his impressive performance, he was named to the 1958 All-America First Team, the first such honor in program history.
“Phil was a special man. His accomplishments as a player and as a coach are remarkable,” Director of Golf Jonathan Dismuke said. “I am very grateful for the time I was able to spend with Phil and so appreciative of his willingness to share his experiences with me. I will miss him greatly.”
After his collegiate career, he served for two years in the Marines before beginning his professional career. He won five times on the PGA Tour and earned Top-7 finishes at each of the major championships. In 1963, he lost to Bob Charles in a 36-hole playoff at The Open Championship for the best finish of his career in a major event.
Following a stint on the Senior PGA Tour, Rodgers became a respected teacher of golf, specializing in the short game. In 1980, golf great Jack Nicklaus won the U.S. Open at the age of 40 and credited Rodgers’ instruction on wedge play as a major reason for his success.
In 2016, Rodgers received the Athletics Department’s highest honor when he was named to the Hall of Honor. He became the 14th Houston Men’s Golfer to earn that accolade.
Rodgers is survived by his wife of 33 years, Karen.