Oregon returns to familiar Eugene Country Club for NCAA Championships
Aaron Wise couldn’t remember the last time he practiced at Eugene Country Club when the topic came up Thursday.
“Wow, a long time ago,” the sophomore golfer said. “Before Pac-12 [Championships] or something like that.”
With the Eugene Country Club hosting the NCAA Championships, NCAA rules prohibited the Ducks from practicing at the club leading up to the tournament. Thursday, however, the team returned to practice on its familiar course, along with 29 other teams, trying to survey the course one last time before the six-day tournament begins Friday morning. But even after an extended absence, Oregon inevitably has experience on the course that far exceeds the rest of the field.
“It’s a huge advantage,” junior Thomas Lim said. “There’s a lot of little things that you have to pick up throughout the week. It’s good to go into the week already knowing those things. I can really focus on my targets and my game instead of trying to figure out the course.”
Oregon men’s golf has never won a championship in the history of its program. Last year, the Ducks finished 23rd at the NCAA Championships in Brandenton, Florida. In 10 years as head coach, Casey Martin has taken Oregon to seven NCAA Championships. In 2010, the Ducks made it to the final four of match play, before losing to Oklahoma State 3-1-1.
Besides the home-course advantage, Oregon’s lineup will look a lot different next season. Wise recently announced he will turn professional following the end of the season, while seniors Zach Foushee and Brandon McIver are graduating.
“This is obviously the best chance we’re going to have for a while at least, and we’re looking forward to making the most of it,” Wise said.
The NCAA Women’s Golf Championships took place this week at Eugene Country Club, and several men’s golfers came out to support the Oregon women’s golf team that eventually finished eighth. As the tournament wore on, the Ducks were itching to get on the course themselves.
“That was probably the hardest part of this week: coming out and wanting to support the girls, but having to wait our turn to get out here and play,” Wise said. “We’re happy that’s over, pleased with how we played today… and we’re ready to go tomorrow.”
The six-day tournament will start with a three-round, 54-hole stroke play before the field is cut from 30 to 15 Sunday. An individual champion will be crowned following the end of stroke play Monday, before the top-eight teams compete in a head-to-head match play format Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Ducks will tee off at 7:22 a.m. tomorrow on hole 1 along with SEC teams South Carolina and Arkansas. Freshman Edwin Yi will start things off for the Ducks, followed by Foushee, Sulman Raza, Lim and Wise.
Follow Will Denner on Twitter @Will_Denner
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