Staying sharp over summer

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It’s only been a month and a half since the end of spring term, but members of the women’s golf team have already played a summer’s worth of golf.

Junior Kendra Little has placed second in two tournaments and qualified for U.S. Women’s Amateur. Senior Felicia Eastick took a trip to Asia as part of an all-star team, and the rest of the team has also played in tournaments to keep their games sharp.

Added to this busy schedule of travel and golf was new head coach Ria Quiazon, who arrived from the University of San Francisco last month. The team has yet to spend any significant time with her because of the hectic summer schedule each member keeps, and Quiazon herself just finished packing her home in California, but she says there will be enough time later for introductions.

“The team comes back pretty early in the fall because our first tournament is before school starts,” she said. “I’ve only met a few girls and talked to the rest on the phone, but the summer is a big time for tournaments and furthering yourself as a golfer. Plus, I’ve been pretty busy, too.”

The former Cal Bear golfer’s schedule so far has been a lot of flying and meetings. She was in Eugene to meet then-athletic director Pat Kilkenny and then she was off again, watching tournaments all over the country for recruiting. Her next trip will take her to England for an amateur event.

But Quiazon doesn’t mind. She loves the opportunity she has here at Oregon.

“The potential of what I could do here is what drew me to the U of O,” she said. “After I visited I saw the facilities and saw what the possibilities were. San Francisco was a great place to start coaching because I had to do everything, but here I feel so lucky because I will have more support and the focus will be on recruiting and making the players better.”

Right now, it looks like the players are well on their way to improving on their 12th-place finish at last year’s NCAA West Regional. Little, who was pegged as a Second Team All-Pac-10 honoree for the second straight year, placed second at the

Oregon Women’s Amateur in Bandon, Ore. in late-June, followed by another second place at the PNGA Women’s Amateur in mid-July.

Little had to play teammate Erica Omlid in the quarterfinal of the match play at the Oregon Am, and she beat Omlid 4 and 2. In the finals, Little, who was the top seed, lost to No. 2 seed Amy Simanton by one after 36 holes. Then in the PNGA final, Dottie Ardina of Sun City, California beat Little 5 and 4.

“I’ve been playing a lot; each of these tournaments have been about 10 rounds,” Little said. “It was kind of unfortunate that I placed second twice, but you learn more from when you lose. It’ll make me stronger.”

The Eugene native, who is currently in New Jersey working with her swing coach, said the match play has also helped her competitively, although she still prefers stroke play.

“Stroke play is more a true test of golf because it’s your lowest score against another person’s,” she said. “In match play you’re more playing the person. But it does force you to use things to your advantage.”

And although she was disappointed in second place, she was able to make up for those by qualifying for the U.S. Amateur in St. Louis beginning Aug. 3.

“I’m really excited,” Little said. “I’m going to be playing with some of the best golfers in the country.”

But Little hasn’t been the only one who has done great things this summer. Eastick, as a member of the Collegiate All-Star Golf Team, played in 11 Asian tournaments in Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and China. All she did for 3 1/2 weeks was play golf and hop from one country to the next.

“I was pretty tired,” Eastick said. “It was quite exhausting. We’d play, then hop on a plane and then play again the next day. We were constantly on the go.”

The team, made up of golfers from across the country, didn’t get to do much sightseeing, but the courses they played at were some of the best on the planet.

“There was one club we played at where it cost $1 million to be a member,” Eastick said. “And a course in Korea had a 60-foot waterfall.”

The experience, Eastick says, is something she’ll never forget, but the one thing that she thinks will always stay with her is the demeanor of the different people she played with.

“One thing I will take way from the Asia trip is to always have fun,” she said. “I played with a lot of people and they were all just happy to be there playing golf.”

It’s something Little has talked about, as well. Even though she’s played golf every day this summer, she said the only day she’s going to take off is her birthday in August – maybe.

“I love golf,” Little said. “It’s not exactly like I want to take a day off. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be right now than on a golf course.”

That’s a good sign for Quiazon, who hopes her first season as a Duck is a good one.

“I hope to surprise some people,” she said. “If everyone can come out this year feeling like they got better, then it’s a success.”

Little and Eastick took that one step further, saying a realistic goal is the NCAA Championships in Wilmington, N.C. on May 18.

“I really like the team we have,” Little said. “I like what Ria brings to the table and her enthusiasm, and this team is definitely capable of making it to nationals and holding our own.”

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