Men’s golf season preview: Ducks look to defend national title

Oregon men’s golf will begin its defense of its national championship this fall at the start of the 2016-17 season.

The Ducks will begin with the Nike Collegiate Invitational Oct. 2-4, the Paintbrush Intercollegiate Oct. 10-11, and the East Lake Cup Oct. 31 to Nov. 2.

Oregon begins the season as the No. 15 team in the country. Texas, which lost to the Ducks in the national championship, begins the season as the No. 1 team. The Ducks were one of six teams to receive a first-place vote.

In the Pac-12, Southern California is ranked No. 3, Stanford is No. 8, California is No. 11 and Arizona State is No. 19.

Aaron Wise, the 2015 individual national champion, has moved on to a professional career, but the Ducks return three seniors: Wyndham Clark, Nigel Lett and Sulman Raza.

Raza is the hometown kid who went to school at South Eugene High School and hit a birdie putt to win the national championship for the team last season. He had two top-15 finishes in 2015-16. Raza finished in a tie for fourth at the 2016 U.S. Open Local Qualifier but did not qualify for the US Open after finishing 48th. Raza finished last year as Oregon’s Men’s Stroke Play champion.

Clark comes to the Ducks as a transfer from Oklahoma State. He was named a first-team All-American as a redshirt freshman. He made 10 starts last season with the Cowboys and could provide the Ducks with senior leadership.

Lett is a transfer from the University of Nevada. A senior who competed in the Husky Invitational in 2015-16, he is another in-state product from Southridge High School in Beaverton, Oregon. Two seasons ago he shot a career-low 67 in the final round of the Pac-12 Championships, in which Oregon took second.

Freshmen Kevin Geniza, Roberto Lebrija and Teddy Oitzman have joined the squad, while sophomores Sam Foust and Edwin Yi and junior Ryan Gronlund round out the roster. Foust competed in two individual tournaments as a freshman in 2015 — the Husky Invitational and the Gifford — and was ranked No. 1 in his recruiting class in his home state of Minnesota.

The Ducks will face tough competition throughout the season as they look to defend the school’s first-ever golf national championship, starting this weekend at the Nike Collegiate Invitational. NCAA runner-up Texas will be participate.

In Pac-12 play, the Ducks will face talented individuals throughout the conference, including 2015 Pac-12 Player of the Year Maverick McNealy from Stanford and Sean Crocker, a 2015 All-American from USC. Crocker and the Trojans, who return all five starters from last season’s team that finished in the semifinals of the NCAA Championships, will also participate in the Nike Collegiate Invitational.

Follow Zak Laster on Twitter @zlast3445

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Zak Laster

Zak Laster

Zak Laster is a sports writer for the Daily Emerald. He covers volleyball, women's basketball, golf and baseball. He can be reached at [email protected]