Strictly by the numbers Oregon’s Men’s Golf team should have been an entrant to the 2022 NCAA Championships held last weekend at the Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona. While only 30 teams qualify for the Championships, Oregon was ranked #27 nationally and so would be “in” if that’s how teams qualified. But they don’t go by rankings - the Ducks needed a 4th place or higher finish in the tough Stockton NCAA Regional ten days ago to qualify and got there with a second-day surge into the top 3 before ultimately finishing 4th.
Oregon has not been to an NCAA Tournament since 2018, but the Ducks showed no sign of hesitancy at Grayhawk, starting out hot, fading a bit, and ultimately finishing the tournament in 15th place out of the 30 that participated - 12 spots above their ranking.
Friday, Day One - Oregon had a tremendous start to this tournament, showing the potential the team has on the links. Oregon started its round in the morning and all 5 Ducks played well. Nate Stember led the team with an even-par 70 and Owen Avrit had the highest score at just 75 (note: the 4 best scores of the 5 count in the team totals - the highest score is discarded). With Grayson Leach at 1 over and Yuki Moriyama and Greg Solhaug both carding 2-over 72s, Oregon had a team total of 285 - 5 over par - good enough for a tie with Auburn for 2nd place overall, just 3 shots behind first-day leader Vanderbilt.
Saturday, Day Two - Oregon had a mid-day tee time for the second round, and conditions were less than ideal. As one might expect, it gets hot in the desert in the afternoon even in May, and the Ducks were also greeted by a windy afternoon. Oregon’s scores ballooned a bit as the team struggled with the wind and heat, but two late birdies from Owen Avrit lifted Oregon just enough to ensure their Sunday round would start in the morning, avoiding another day of potentially tough conditions. Avrit shot even-par 70 to lead Oregon overall, but the Ducks shot 15 strokes higher than Friday, and fell into a tie for 14th place with a team total of 300 for the day, and 585 for the tournament, 25 over par.
Sunday, Day Three - The third day of the NCAA Tournament ends with the field being cut from 30 teams down to just 15 who will continue play on Monday. Oregon started the day “on the bubble” just two places above the cut line and the heat was on, despite starting in the morning. Oregon did what was needed, as Solhaug shot what would be the best round for a Duck in the tournament, a 1-under-par 69. Leach added a crucial even-par round of 70 and Oregon improved by 9 shots over its Saturday score. Oregon’s overall score for the 3 days was now 876 - 36 over par - good enough for the team to stand alone in 13th place, and to move on to Monday’s 4th round.
Monday, Day Four - The Tournament’s fourth day of stroke play also serves as another chance to further reduce the field. As with the Women’s Tournament, the top 8 finishers after Monday move on to a head-to-head “match play” team competition. For Oregon to qualify for match play, the team would need to pick up about 10 strokes on the field during Monday’s play. Unfortunately, the Ducks shot their highest team score of the tournament, carding a 306 for an overall team total of 62-over-par 1182, leaving Oregon with a 15th place finish. Nate Stember led Oregon on Monday, shooting a 4-over 74. For the Tournament Greyson Leach had Oregon’s best finish, tying for 57th place at 15-over 295.
The Ducks gained valuable experience, playing all 4 days of stroke play and enduring some difficult conditions. All 5 Oregon golfers who played in Scottsdale will return for the 2022-23 season and will be looking to build on their excellent late-season finishes at the Regional and the NCAA Championships.