Oregon readies for final stretch as championship season nears

One month and one regular season tournament separate the Oregon men’s golf team from the beginning of championship season.

It hasn’t been the season head coach Casey Martin envisioned. Compared to last season’s breakthrough, in which the Ducks won five regular season tournaments, they’ve finished first in just one tournament this year. The Western Intercollegiate, taking place from April 11-13 in Santa Cruz, California, will be Oregon’s last chance to measure itself before the championship season begins.

“It’s not for lack of effort–we’re trying super hard and the guys are doing a great job,” Martin said. “We just haven’t quite found our flow yet.”

The past two tournaments suggest the Ducks are headed in the right direction. Oregon placed second at the Northwest Classic in Canby, Oregon on March 22. Redshirt junior Sulman Raza’s finished in the individual competition as well. Redshirt junior Nigel Lett and sophomore Aaron Wise finished second and third, respectively.

Four days later, the Ducks finished fifth out of 25 teams at The Goodwin in Stanford, California.

“Everyone else kind of feels the pressure that they want to join [Sulman and Aaron],” Martin said. “They’re doing everything they can, it’s just a matter of relaxing, getting out of our way and letting it happen.”

Behind Raza and Wise, Oregon’s lineup has been inconsistent. Seniors Zach Foushee and Brandon McIver most recently finished 59th and 50th at The Goodwin. Junior Thomas Lim, who played in three of Oregon’s fall tournaments, hasn’t appeared in a lineup since early November.

When asked about Lim’s status after Wednesday’s practice, Martin said, “I’m going to kind of let that go. I’d prefer not to chat about that.”

In Lim’s absence, freshman Edwin Yi and Lett have rotated in and out of the lineup. Martin knows each golfer is capable of playing well in stretches, but neither has distanced himself from the other when playing in the team’s lineup.

“They’ve played well as individuals but when they’ve played on the team they haven’t had their best, which is pretty common, there’s a little more pressure,” Martin said.

Martin has seen one through six in his lineup play high-level golf this season. That’s why at this point in the season, he’s focused more on the mental approach to tournaments. The pressure will increase as the championship season begins, particularly with the NCAA Championships taking place at Eugene Country Club.

“I don’t think it’s anything result-wise, it’s just getting better in our process, getting better at what we’re working on,” Wise said. “We’re trying to get out of the technical side of the game and more into playing with a free mind and really clearing things up.”

Raza echoed Wise’s stance.

“I think it’s, for us mentally, to not get so hard on ourselves because we do from time to time,” he said. “Mentally it’s just going out and getting lost in our process, kind of trusting where our team is at and bringing that same mentality into the postseason.”

After the Ducks finish their regular season, they will play in the Pac-12 Championship, which begins April 29 in Salt Lake City.

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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.