Albany, Ore., Natives Lead Oregon into Pac-10 Play Thursday at Trysting Tree

April 24, 2002

EUGENE, Ore. - The stage is set for Oregon golfers Aaron Byers and Chris Carnahan.

The two Albany, Ore., natives will lead the Ducks into the 2002 Pac-10 Men's Championships on the course they grew up on, Corvallis' Trysting Tree. The course will play to a 7,022-yard, par 72 lay out, with 36 holes scheduled for Thursday and 18 each on Friday and Saturday. The tournament is a six-play, count-five format.

For both Byers and Carnahan, former teammates and 1997 state champions at West Albany High School, the tournament is a chance to redeem themselves for a pair of disappointments late last season. The Ducks got off to a horrible start at the 2001 Pac-10 Championships at Stanford and were never in contention. Oregon had to rally on the final day to finish eighth, avoiding a last place finish by seven strokes. It was Oregon's lowest showing at the Pac-10 tournament since fading to 10th in 1996. Byers had a solid effort with a 1-under 283 and tied for 12th, but four of the other five Duck golfers finished in the bottom 26.

Then, two weeks later at the 2001 NCAA West Regionals played at Trysing Tree, Byers struggled to a 10-over 226, while Carnahan tied for 77th at 11-over as the Ducks finished 18th and missed a golden opportunity to qualify for the NCAA Championships.

But what a difference a year can make. Oregon is rolling into the 2002 Pac-10 tournament with five consecutive top-five finishes this spring. Last year, only three Ducks had ever played in the Pac-10 Championships. This year, five of the six have postseason experience.

Byers, a senior who will be making his final 'home' appearance, is Oregon's No. 1 golfer. This will be Byers' third Pac-10 tournament and he comes into the event with a 72.3 stroke average and is ranked 87th nationally. Carnahan will also be making his third Pac-10 appearance and will be the Ducks' No. 3 golfer with a 73.0 stroke average.

Junior John Ellis, who tied for 19th at the 2002 Pac-10 Championships, will fill the No. 2 spot with a 72.7 stroke average, while senior Brandon Harnden (73.8 stroke average) and sophomore Mike Sica (75.1 stroke average) fill the four and five spots. All three are making their second Pac-10 appearances. The only championship rookie for the Ducks is senior Chris Heniff, who will play as Oregon's sixth golfer. In seven tournaments this season, Heniff has a 76.7 stroke average.

'We've had 13 or 14 pretty good rounds out of the last 15 we've played, so we're playing consistently at a fairly high level,' said Oregon coach Steve Nosler. 'I'm pretty happy with where we're at, at this point in the season.

Headlining the field are No. 9 USC and No. 10 Washington. Arizona, ranked No. 22, is the Pac-10's only other top 25 team, but four more - No. 28 Washington State, No. 32 Oregon, No. 41 UCLA and No. 42 Arizona State - are in the second 25, according to the latest Golfweek/Sagarin rankings.

'Other than USC, I don't think anyone is capable of running away with this thing, so I'm expecting a shootout up there,' said Nosler. 'It's a course you can certainly score on, but the rough is four inches high so it really behooves you to keep your ball in the fairway. And with the way the wind can come up out there, it's not just going to be about who hits the ball the farthest. It will take some smart course management to stay under par. It's a lot harder to get up and down from that rough than you think.'

The Ducks will be paired with Stanford for the first two rounds and will tee off at 8:18 a.m. Thursday from the first tee. Oregon is scheduled to begin round two at 1:18 p.m. and will again tee off No. 1.

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