Oregon men’s golf begins 2015 season with high hopes, lots of pressure
Expectations are as high as ever for Oregon men’s golf entering the 2015-16 season.
In addition to returning the majority of the Ducks’ playing rotation, Oregon is hosting the 2016 NCAA Championships at the Eugene Country Club, one of the team’s home courses.
While qualifying for the championships at the Eugene Country Club would be “a dream come true,” according to Oregon men’s golf head coach Casey Martin, the Ducks are trying to avoid a letdown season with the added pressure of hosting the event.
“We’re going to have more pressure on us than any team Oregon has ever had by virtue of hosting,” Martin said at the end of last season. “We’ll have to deal with that. But it’s a great opportunity for these kids to grow and learn and get better.”
Aaron Wise enters his sophomore season coming off a summer in which he won the prestigious Pacific Coast Amateur – also played at the Eugene Country Club. He also finished second at the Western Amateur in August.
In the Pacific Coast Am, Wise outplayed elite golfers Maverick McNealy, the No. 1 ranked World Golf Amateur, and last season’s individual NCAA men’s champion, Bryson DeChambeau. Wise’s play in the summer elevated him to No. 10 in the same ranking.
“Aaron’s a really special player,” Martin said. “He’s attacking all aspects of his game and he’s got a vision to become a successful tour player one day.”
Outside of last year’s lone senior, Jonathan Woo, departing from the team, last year’s lineup of Wise, Zach Foushee, Thomas Lim and Brandon McIver looks fairly solidified. Sulman Raza and Andrew Bonner, both of whom redshirted last season, appear to be the most likely golfers to replace Woo.
Raza, a Eugene native, had a memorable summer as well, winning the Oregon Men’s Stroke Play Championship in August. Then, in Oregon’s season opener at the Husky Invitational, Raza placed fifth out of 70 golfers, with a combined one-over scorecard.
“He took his redshirt year seriously,” Martin said. “Even with having a little bit of struggle on the greens (at the Husky Invitational), he still hit some amazing shots for us and came through in a big way… I’m excited for Sulman.”
Combining that with Wise’s four-under, third place finish, the Ducks finished as co-champions of the the tournament.
Injuries and lineup tinkering has allowed several less-experienced golfers an opportunity for early play time. Nigel Lett played the Husky Invitational in place of McIver, who sat out with an injured wrist. Freshman newcomer Edwin Yi played in the team’s most recent tournament, The Jackrabbit, while Lim nursed a sore back. Bonner has also played in both early season tournaments.
“We played some different guys in our first two events to give people some opportunities to see how they would do,” Wise told GoDucks.com. “I think as we move forward, we’re going to look at solidifying the players playing and getting our best team to those tournaments.”
The Ducks have yet to feel any real pressure in this young season, as they play two more fall tournaments before taking a three-month long winter break. Before then, Martin aims to focus on individual development in order to build for the spring.
“Our goal this fall is to address the mechanical issues and the mental issues if kids have them, and just start building a base so we can be at our best come May,” Martin said.
Oregon men’s golf resumes play on Sunday in Portland, where it will be co-hosting the Nike Invitational with in-state rival Oregon State.
Follow Will Denner on Twitter @Will_Denner
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