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Another record, a first win, a call home & all kinds of confidence

Kansas junior Jordan Rothman breaks through with first collegiate tournament victory

6 min read
Kansas junior Jordan Rothman shows off the championship trophy from last week's Ron Moore Intercollegiate tournament in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. [Kansas Athletics photo]

For the second time in the past month, Kansas junior Jordan Rothman found herself involved in setting a school record on the golf course.

This time, the record was entirely on her.

After helping the Kansas women’s golf team set a team record for lowest single round in program history in early September, Rothman delivered a new individual tournament scoring record last week in Denver.

The South Africa native carded an 11-under 205 — 69, 70 and 66 — at the recent Ron Moore Invitational to win the title. It was the first individual title for a Kansas women's golfer since Sera Tadokoro won the Louisville Cardinal Cup in 2020. And her 205 topped the previous record by a single stroke.

As a team, KU finished in fourth place with a 54-hole program record score of 850. Earlier this season, Lindsay Kuhle's Jayhawks set the single-round scoring record with a final-round 274 at the Dick McGuire Invitational in mid-September.

Last week's win was Rothman's first collegiate tournament victory and it came after a career-round of 6-under on the final day. Rothman dropped seven birdies, one bogey and 10 pars in Round 3 and did not know she was in contention for the title until moments before her final shot of the round.

Facing a downhill, 5-foot putt that broke left to right rather significantly, Rothman was approached by Kuhle before lining up the putt. Kuhle had just one question.

“Do you want to know where you stand,” she asked.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, where’s the team lying?’ I didn’t even think individual,” Rothman recalled in a recent sit-down interview with R1S1 Sports. “So, I said, ‘Yeah, sure.’ And then she told me I was tied for the lead and I was like, ‘Ohhhhh.’”

KU golfer Jordan Rothman, a junior from Cape Town, South Africa, watches the flight of her iron shot during a recent round. [Kansas Athletics photo]

Rothman knew she was playing well. But she had no idea how that related to the rest of the field. Finding that out altered her frame of mind ever so slightly, but only in a positive way.

“I wouldn’t have changed it,” she said. “I would’ve wanted to know. I like pressure. I like the adrenaline. My heart was pumping, I’ll tell you that.”

As she lined up the putt — using a bit of free info from her playing partner’s eagle putt on the same line just minutes earlier (“This thing’s snapping,” she thought) — Rothman told herself one simple message: You just have to release the ball and it’ll get there.

The eagle putt before her missed on the low side, so Rothman knew how far left she needed to start the ball. With her routine the same as always, she hit the putt and waited.

“I blanked for a second, and the next thing I knew it was in and it was like, ‘Oh, we’re done,’” Rothman remembered.

The funny thing about the record-setting putt, which slid in on the left side, was that watching it fall into the cup was the second time she saw it happen.

The night before, in her hotel room in suburban Denver, with her roommate Hannah Hawks sleeping nearby, Rothman visualized a birdie at 18.

In fact, she went through all 18 holes on the course, calculating where to hit every shot and identifying 10 holes as birdie opportunities. When she stood there on the last, knowing one more birdie would give her a shot to win, everything she pictured the night before came rushing back to her.

“It definitely did,” she said. “Obviously, you’re not going to be able to picture it exactly. The bounces will be different. The wind could be different. And all that. But I could see that as a birdie hole. You picture the emotions you’ll be feeling, my heart rate going up, the pressure putts and stuff like that. I’ve always done it, but I felt like this time it was so intentional.”

Jordan Rothman (far right) sits with her teammates and listens to her coach talk about the Jayhawks' record-setting team score earlier this fall. [Chance Parker photo]

After making the putt, Rothman still had to wait for one player to finish her round. When that competitor came in higher than 205, the feat became official. Rothman had won her first collegiate title.

Her teammates rushed her with high-fives and hugs. Hawks cried. And Kuhle told her how unbelievably proud of her she was.

There was just one thing missing. Rothman’s family.

Knowing her mom and dad were tracking the action back in Cape Town, South Africa, Rothman quickly dialed them up on FaceTime to celebrate the accomplishment.

The call took place around 1 p.m. in Denver, 9 p.m. in Cape Town.

“My mom told me, ‘Jordan, I just woke up the neighbors screaming,’” Rothman recalled with a laugh. “She was like, ‘This is crazy.’”

Rothman added: “I got kind of emotional on the plane coming back. This was my first big win without my dad there, and I think that was tough.”

In all, Rothman has won somewhere around 10 tournaments in her life and her father, Ian, was there for nearly all of them. That included the final round of the South African Women’s Amateur Match Play tournament when she was 15.

After tracking his daughter’s play all week, Ian found her in contention at the top entering the final round. So Jordan said he booked a flight from his desk for the two-hour trip and went straight to the airport, foregoing a stop home for a change of clothes or toothbrush.

Another time, before a stretch of four consecutive tournaments during her high school days, Ian made a deal with his daughter — win one of the next four events and you can have any phone you want.

Rothman won the first one — and three of the four — and after that initial victory her father approached her with a hug, a smile and some memorable feedback.

“He walked up to me and he was crying afterwards, manly crying, and he whispers in my ear, ‘You (brat), you just wanted a phone,’” she said, breaking out into laughter. “And I’ll never forget that ‘til the day I die.”

A couple of days later, a brand-new iPhone 8+ was hers.

Those moments and others at Kansas, where Rothman had come close to winning but never finished, led her to last week’s triumph.

Rothman said she sensed that a breakthrough victory was coming as a result of how she performed last spring. She said her dad told her he felt it, too.

"They call Day 3 of a golf tournament the moving day and this is my third year, and he always jokes about this is my moving year,” she said. “He told me, ‘You’ve had two years to settle in and I think this is gonna be a good year for you.’ So, we speak about that and I think it’s just about getting comfortable with it — getting comfortable going low, being in contention, things like that. I’m just a lot more relaxed on the course now."

Next up, Rothman and the Jayhawks will head to Knoxville, Tennessee to close out the fall season at the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Classic, Oct. 15-17.

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KU's Jordan Rothman follows through on a tee shot during a recent round. [Kansas Athletics photo]