The Oregon men’s golf team was in the midst of transition when Zach Foushee came to Eugene as a freshman in 2012.
From 2010 to 2012, the Ducks finished third in the NCAA Championships twice, led by future PGA tour golfers Daniel Miernicki and Eugene Wong.
The run was unprecedented for Oregon, but it was about to come to an end. Miernicki, Wong and two other seniors graduated after the 2012 season, just as Foushee and the rest of the 2012 recruiting class were set to arrive.
“We didn’t have the team, we were young in certain areas and had some older guys that were on their way out,” said Brandon McIver, another 2012 Oregon recruit. “There just wasn’t much flow or chemistry.”
As expected, the Ducks took a step back in the 2012-13 season, only winning one regular season tournament before ending their season with an eighth place finish in the NCAA regional round. During his freshman year, Foushee appeared in eight tournaments, trying to find his place on a team in transition.
“As a freshman, you just sit back and play your game, and you don’t really say much,” Foushee said.
Now a senior, Foushee is one of the Ducks’ key rotation players and leaders of the team. Far removed from Foushee’s freshman season, head coach Casey Martin and the Ducks have retooled to build a formidable, deep unit. According to Foushee, individuals on the team seldom need advice on or off the course. When necessary, however, Foushee has embraced his leadership role.
“Brandon and I are always there for them if they need advice,” Foushee said. “We’ve been through it for four years now.”
Though Oregon seemed like a natural fit for the West Linn, Ore. native, Foushee initially favored Brigham Young University. His father, Sean, wanted him to go to BYU, but ultimately Foushee was drawn to Martin and the Ducks.
“I had a little change in heart,” Foushee said. “When it came down to signing the letter, I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’ And I knew Casey had a spot for me.”
Martin’s teams from 2010 to 2012 caught Foushee’s attention enough to come to Oregon. Though the Ducks took a step back in that 2012-13 season, they’ve been on an upward trajectory since. Adding junior Thomas Lim and sophomore Aaron Wise, Oregon solidified the team’s lineup with Foushee and McIver.
“We built a more stable team than we had – at least my freshman year,” Foushee said.
The Ducks took another positive step as a team last season, winning all four of their fall tournaments, highlighted by an NCAA record 30-under in last November’s Ka’anapali Classic. At the end of the season, Foushee, McIver and Wise were each named to the Pac-12 second team.
This season has brought a slower start. After finishing tied for first and third in their first two tournaments, the Ducks finished tenth in their most recent tournament.
Foushee and McIver have seen these ups and downs in previous years. With more experience than anyone else on the team, the two have remained level-headed throughout, even when they’re struggling themselves.
“They haven’t maybe played their best recently, but that’s just the ebbs and flows of golf,” Martin said. “They’re pursuing golf and trying to get better.”
Follow Will Denner on Twitter @Will_Denner