Ducks return from break with ever-important spring season ahead

After a couple months apart, the Oregon men’s golf team will reunite for the spring season with the ultimate goal of reaching the 2016 NCAA Championships in Eugene.

The Ducks return to a normal Monday, Wednesday, Friday practice schedule this January at Eugene-area courses, including the Eugene Country Club and Emerald Valley Golf Course. It will be the first time the entire team has been together since a “disappointing” end to the fall season in early November. The Ducks finished 10th and sixth, respectively, in their final two fall competitions.

“We didn’t play our best in the last two tournaments of the fall,” head coach Casey Martin said. “I don’t think anybody was really satisfied.”

Many players took time away from golf during November and December knowing it would be their only opportunity to do so before returning for the spring.

The break wasn’t quiet for every Oregon player, however.

Junior Thomas Lim played in the Patriot All-America Dec. 27-31 at the Wigwam Arizona, finishing in a tie for 59th. Sophomore Aaron Wise won the Australian Master of the Amateurs on Saturday, held at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Victoria, Australia. The tournament is the highest ranked amateur golf event in Australia, and many of the world’s top amateurs compete in the event.

In Wednesday’s first round, Wise shot an ace on the par-3 fifth hole. Wise finished the tournament with a combined five-under over four rounds, beating second-place finisher, Jonathan Thomson from the United Kingdom, by two strokes. Wise became only the second American to win the event and the first since 2009.

Martin hopes the team will be fresh coming back from winter break, but it’s not uncommon for players to return rusty. Though Wise and Lim have played plenty of golf away from Oregon during the break, other players haven’t.

Senior Brandon McIver spent much of the break in Montana, his home state, and hasn’t touched his clubs in a month due to weather conditions, Martin said.

When players report to practice next week, Martin and his assistants will begin solidifying the playing lineup.

“Heading into the spring, we need to nail [the lineup] down,” Martin said. “The players that play the best need to start playing a lot more. We’re going to kind of narrow it down and hopefully get ready to peak.”

Wise, Lim, senior Zach Foushee and redshirt junior Sulman Raza likely claimed their spots, having played the most during the fall. McIver should take the fifth and final spot, but an inconsistent fall leaves him no guarantees.

Weather permitting, Oregon will have a full three weeks before travelling to Waikoloa, Hawaii, for the Amer Ari Invitational on Feb. 4, held at the King’s Course. The Ducks opened their spring schedule at the same venue last season, finishing tied for third. They plan on spending a few days in Hawaii leading up to the tournament to get away from the Pacific Northwest winter.

“The guys like going to Hawaii this time of year,” Martin said.

The Ducks had the look of a burnt out team nearing the end of fall. Lineup changes, injuries to key players and working out individual issues kept them from getting into rhythm, Martin said. Solving physical problems on the course will ultimately determine where Oregon finishes, but Martin believes his team has the right mindset.

If the fall season was their mulligan, the Ducks no longer have that luxury. The real test starts now.

Follow Will Denner on Twitter @Will_Denner

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Will Denner

Will Denner

Will Denner is a senior journalism major at the University of Oregon. He covers football and men's golf for the Emerald. Email Will at [email protected] with tips, questions and comments.