Oregon men's golf competed in the first day of the Pac-12 conference tournament in Eugene on Monday. The Ducks have a rare home course advantage in this year’s tournament, and they took full advantage in the first round on Monday with especially strong early showings by freshman Craig Ronne and sophomore Donald Kay.
After the end of the first day, the Ducks are tied at sixth place with Colorado. The Ducks took 364 strokes in the first round and 353 strokes in the second round for a combined round score of 717 strokes. The day one leader was No. 17 Stanford, who ended the day with a score of 705 strokes. Oregon racked up a total of 124 pars, 40 birdies and one eagle.
The second round of the tournament went noticeably faster than the first round as players of all teams settled into the course.
“The day went smoothly we stayed patient,” Kay said.
The Ducks' underclassmen stole the show on day one. Kay and Ronne were the top two finishers for the Ducks. Ronne is currently tied at eight place in the tournament and Kay is tied for twelfth.
“I wanted to contribute to the team and get some solid scores," Ronne said. "I got a lot of great advice from my teammates. There is going to be nerves, embrace it.” Kay added that home course advantage would be a good opportunity for the young players on the team. “This is the best tournament for us (underclassmen) taking the next step.”
This tournament is a good opportunity for the young Ducks to springboard themselves to the next level, especially since the underclassmen had a strong showing at the Western Intercollegiate Tournament last week.
This tournament was a large jump for Ronne, who played high school golf this time last year. “The level of competition has skyrocketed since high school golf.”
Head Coach Casey Martin was pleased with the team’s results especially the young players. “Craig and Donald were in and out of the lineup all year and it's very encouraging that they are playing well. ... Hopefully we can get on all cylinders tomorrow.”
Other notable finishers include Yin Ho Yue at 26th place, Tom Gueant at 32nd place, Ryan Gronlund at 35th place and Edwin Yi at 49th place.
One reason that the more junior Ducks players had a strong opening day was because they are familiar with the course.
“I’ve played this course so many times,” said Kay when asked about how his knowledge of the course affected his game. Ronne added, “The intimidation factor isn't as present for us.”
Indeed the Ducks' home course advantage could serve them well especially against strong competition such as Stanford, UCLA, California, USC, Arizona, Oregon State and Arizona State, who are all ranked opponents. The Sun Devils are currently the second-ranked team in the country, but are eighth after the first day in Pac-12s.
Pac-12 conference tournament action continues Tuesday as the Ducks will have a full day of golf ahead of them.