Women's Golf Aims To Build On Stellar Spring
There was nothing normal about the 2020-21 academic year for Oregon athletics.
Besides football, no sports were played until January due to the global pandemic. Classes were virtual. Once competitions began, no spectators were allowed.
But for the Oregon women's golf team, the spring of 2021 was one for the record books.
Boasting a roster full of young talent, the Ducks played their way to a top 15 national ranking. They claimed their first tournament win since 2016, and earned a top-five finish at the Pac-12 Championships.
After advancing out of the NCAA Regionals as a No. 4 seed, Oregon was in contention from start to finish at the NCAA Championships. Playing a lineup with zero postseason experience, the Ducks finished just two strokes shy of earning a spot in match play, ultimately tying for 11th.
With that entire starting five returning - along with a pair of talented newcomers - Oregon is set up to be a title contender both in the Pac-12 and on the national stage in 2021-22.
"Last season was so important for this team," said head coach Derek Radley. "Competing at the national championships and coming as close as we did to match play is going to pay huge dividends as we go into this new season."
The Ducks will not be lacking for talent when they kick off their fall schedule this Friday at the Mason Rudolph Championship, hosted by Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn.
Briana Chacon is back for her third season, fresh off a spring that saw her reach the individual top 25 and become just the fourth WGCA all-American in program history as a second team selection.
"Briana was so steady for us all spring," said Radley. "She is so talented and is still really only starting to unlock her full potential."
One of the other three all-Americans in program history is also back for the Ducks this fall. Sofie Kibsgaard Nielsen - Chacon's classmate - was an honorable mention selection as a freshman in 2019-20.
Ching-Tzu Chen - another third-year Duck - caught fire at the NCAA Championships, shooting a combined 2 under over the final three rounds to close as Oregon's top finisher.
Tze-Han (Heather) Lin will be UO's leader in 2021-22 as the team's lone senior. She also enjoyed a strong finish at the national tournament, pacing the Ducks with a 2-under 70 in the final round.
Rounding out the returners is the top-rated recruit in program history - Hsin-Yu (Cynthia) Lu. One of the top 50 amateur golfers in the world, Lu flashed her elite talent as a freshman and joined Chacon as an all-Pac-12 selection. It was the first time in program history Oregon had multiple first-team all-conference picks.
"Having our entire NCAA Championships lineup back is so valuable." said Radley. "We know what it takes to compete at that level and we know we can play with the very best."
Of course, Radley is always on the hunt to add depth and competition. He brought in a pair of players who both competed at the U.S. Women's Amateur this summer: transfer Brittany Shin and freshman Baylee Hamericksen.
Shin was the 2021 Big West player of the year for Cal State Fullerton. Hammericksen is an in-state recruit who more than left her mark on Oregon high school golf.
"We are so excited to add Brittany and Baylee to our team," said Radley. "They are both great people with tremendous potential to help this team. They definitely make us better."
With a young, deep, and now experienced lineup, the Ducks are a program on the rise and are ready to make some serious noise in the upcoming season.