For the third time in head coach Ria Scott’s tenure, Oregon has advanced to the NCAA Championships. What makes this year’s event even more special for Oregon is that it gets to play on its home course, Eugene Country Club.
“It was a great feeling,” Scott said about advancing. “I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to compete with here at the national championship.”
Among the group Scott will be leading is senior star and Eugene-native Caroline Inglis. She said that when you host an event like this, there is more pressure on you to qualify.
“When I found out that we made it to nationals I was so incredibly excited, while at the same time I felt relief,” Inglis said. “There was so much pressure on us to make it to nationals on our home course and so actually achieving that was so amazing.
“It was very emotional for all of us.”
This is the second time that Inglis has made it this far into the postseason. She was a freshman the last time Oregon advanced to nationals in 2013. This year carries extra importance to her, as she’ll be wrapping up her collegiate career at home and on the biggest stage in college golf.
“It means a lot to be able to compete at Nationals in my hometown and especially for my senior year,” Inglis said. “Being a senior just makes it that much sweeter that I can end my college career with all of my friends and family surrounding me.”
Junior Cathleen Santoso recalls her “tears of joy” when she learned that they had achieved their season-long goal of qualifying.
“There was a lot of emotion just because we’ve known that NCAA’s were always going to be at Eugene Country Club,” Santoso said. “So, to finally know that it was official, that we were playing here at Eugene Country Club next week, was such a surreal feeling for me and my team.”
The golfers said they won’t change their approach even on this stage.
“We shouldn’t make it something that it’s not,” Inglis said. “Just because someone put a banner up that says “Nationals” doesn’t mean we should change our game plan or do anything different.”
Oregon qualifying for nationals is remarkable considering where it was when the spring season began. The team was ranked 40th in the country and finished its fall season with a loss to Oregon State. Inglis considered that loss “rock bottom.”
But Oregon pulled it together in the spring. The Ducks secured five top-five finishes, including a first-place finish at the Westbrook Invitational.
Now, their attention turns to a local setting.
The women’s portion of the national championships will run May 20-25. All 24 teams will start with a 72-hole stroke round. From there, the top-eight teams will advance to single elimination. A champion will be crowned on the 25th.
Follow Gus Morris on Twitter @JustGusMorris