Ducks working non-stop to improve

Nothing says summer quite like long stretches of green grass waving in the breeze and blue skies overhead. For most college students, enjoying a day like that is scrunched in between days when they aren’t working or going to school. For the men’s golf team, on the other hand, it’s an every day occurrence.

Most of the Ducks have been playing non-stop, working hard to prepare to better the team’s 22nd-place finish at the NCAA Championships last spring.

“Summer is very important for us,” head coach Casey Martin said. “There are more individual tournaments and things to play in. There’s two seasons: college and summer. It keeps them sharp.”

So far, the players have made the most out of their summer season. Sophomore Eugene Wong placed third at the British Columbia Amateur on July 17 and will play in the Canadian Amateur on Aug. 9. Sophomore Robbie Ziegler played well in the Pacific Northwest Amateur Championship, and junior Sean Maekawa made it to the round of 16 at the U.S. Amateur Public Links in Norman, Okla. on July 16.

All in all, pretty good, Martin says.

“It’s very exciting,” Martin said. “Andrew (Vijarro) has been playing well and Sean has been getting his game back. That’s good to see.”

Maekawa, a native of Pa’auilo, Hawaii, says his finish at the Public Links Championships is a good sign.

“I felt I played pretty well,” he said. “I’ve been struggling on pretty much everything for a year and a half. My swing has changed a lot … but it’s just something you have to be persistent about. Try to get the fundamentals down.”

His next challenge is to qualify for the U.S. Men’s Amateur. The Hawaii Regional is in Honolulu and there are 26 guys vying for one spot. But Maekawa doesn’t mind; he’s in Hawaii.

“I’m really enjoying my time here,” he said. “Playing golf in Hawaii is the best experience I could have this summer.”

Maekawa’s teammate Wong is also enjoying himself away from the continental United States. He’s travelled thousands of miles in Canada and the U.S. and is set for a trip to Great Britain. He started off in British Columbia and has since played in Washington, Arizona and Montreal. He’ll play in the Canadian Amateur, followed by the British Amateur.

“I’ve been playing pretty solid,” Wong said after talking about his third place finish at the B.C. Am. “My short game is not going as well as I would have liked, but this summer has definitely been important to get more experience and mentally prepared.”

Wong said he’s been working on his short game because last year was an eye-opening experience playing in the Pacific-10 Conference.

“You can never work too much on that,” he said. “Plus I’ve been trying to improve on stuff from 150 yards in getting closer to the pin. In the Pac-10 I was surprised about how tough the pins are. They’re really hard to get close to.”

All of the preparation is going to make sure the Ducks continue to rise in the national rankings.

“I’m very excited,” Maekawa said. “We’re going to be very good. We surprised everyone last year and it was pretty incredible what our freshmen did. We want to continue that this year.”

But Wong says expectations are something this team doesn’t do. They just play.

“Last year we did well by keeping it simple,” he said. “We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. Everyone thinks we’ll have expectations about where we want to end up, but we are just going to play our own game.”

“We’re getting better,” Martin added. “We’re building a culture of wanting to be great at golf. We have guys who want to do that and are going to games and working hard.”

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