Feature: Oregon Men's Golf Gets Title Shot

May 17, 2007

By Will Seymour
Oregon Daily Emerald

May 17, 2007

Eugene, OR (CSTV U-WIRE) -- The Oregon men's golf team returns to the scene of its greatest success this season to play in its biggest tournament in two years. The Ducks are one of 27 teams to play the NCAA West Regional, held this year at the Karsten Golf Course in Tempe, Ariz. As the 20th seed in the tournament, Oregon faces a tough challenge to capture one of the 10 berths to the NCAA Championships May 30-June 2 in Williamsburg, Va.

Although they are underdogs, The Ducks can take comfort from the fact that they've already won on the Tempe course this season.

At the ASU Thunderbird Invitational April 13-15, Oregon came away with a surprise victory over a field that included some of the teams they'll be seeing at the regional. The Ducks led from start to finish, holding off final round challenges from Arizona State and USC to take the title. As a team, the Ducks were 20 shots under par for the tournament. Junior Derek Sipe led Oregon, earning a second-place finish by shooting 12 under par for the tournament.

'I think it's a good thing to be confident, but in this situation we're just trying to get out there and get to the next round,' Sipe said.

The Sun Devils and the Trojans both earned a top ten seed in the upcoming regional, along with fellow Pacific-10 schools Stanford, UCLA and Arizona.

Sipe wasn't the only Duck to have success in Tempe. Joey Benedetti shot at par, which was good enough for 28th place. It was the second strong showing at Karsten for the junior; he finished at seven-under and in eighth place in the 2006 edition of the event. Senior Matt Ma also has a history of success on that course, placing 11th in the 2005 Thunderbird and 30th this past April.

Oregon will be glad to return to the desert after an eighth-place finish at the Pac-10 Championships April 23-25. The Ducks were tied for third after the first round of play, but dropped quickly afterwards.

'We set the bar too high,' Sipe said. 'We had a bad second round and everybody was so let down.'

Junior Zeke Reyna and senior Ted Whitney will round out the regional starting five for Oregon coach Casey Martin. Reyna is averaging just under 74 strokes a round this season and will be making his fourth straight start. By contrast, Whitney will only be competing in his fourth collegiate tournament since January.

Although he is coming off a long layoff in terms of playing for the Ducks, there are signs that Whitney's game is finally on track. On May 6, the Eugene native earned one of the six berths to a U.S. Open Sectional Qualifier. Whitney finished ahead of 56 other participants, including Sipe. With a 2-under 69 capped off by an 18th-hole eagle, Whitney finished in a tie for third place, one stroke ahead of his teammate, who also secured a sectional berth, albeit in a four-person playoff. The next step for both golfers is a two-round tournament in Bremerton, Wash. June 4.

Before they can think about qualifying for a major, Sipe, Whitney and the rest of the Ducks will try to pull off another major win in Tempe.

'We know if we play well we'll advance. That's our main thing; just go out there and don't worry about winning,' Reyna said. 'If we do that we'll be satisfied. 'The 54-hole tournament begins today and continues through Saturday.

(C) 2007 Oregon Daily Emerald via CSTV U-WIRE

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