West: Ducks surprise field once again

Oregon's head coach Casey Martin, left, and player Joey Benedetti.

Oregon's head coach Casey Martin, left, and player Joey Benedetti.

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1Joey GarberGeorgia  68.61 
2Robby SheltonAlabama  68.62 
3Patrick RodgersStanford  68.67 
4Ollie SchniederjansGA Tech  68.81 
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5California 69.81  11 

DALY CITY, Calif. — Last year, Oregon almost pulled off an incredible upset by nearly winning the NCAA West Regional as the 16th seed. The Ducks finished second two shots behind Southern California.

This year, again with a seed outside the number of allocated spots, Oregon turned more heads with another runner-up finish.

The sixth-seeded Ducks closed with an 11-under 277 to finish nine shots behind regional champ Arizona State at the Lake Merced Golf Club. Rounding out the top five teams and advancing to the national championship were Texas A&M, San Diego and Southern California.

“I am thrilled,” Oregon third-year coach Casey Martin (pictured) said. “To think where we were in the fall and as young as we are and to have a spring like this and to finish off the West Regional in second place, I am just ecstatic and can’t wait to go back to a national championship with these guys.”

The Ducks recorded five top-5 finishes this spring with a pair of victories at the Braveheart Classic and Western Intercollegiate.

Martin pointed to a change in equipment as a big reason for the improvement this spring.

“The only thing that has changed from the fall to spring is actually all of my guys switched to Nike,” Martin said. “They came out and fitted all of my guys. That’s the only thing that has really changed and I think that has really had an impact.”

The Ducks’ improvement this spring can also be attributed to freshman Daniel Miernicki, who tied for seventh this week with rounds of 69-71-69 for a 7-under 209.

“Daniel has been a huge, huge boost and he only played one time in the fall and has been really good this spring,” Martin said.

Miernicki, who is from Santee, Calif., has finished inside the top 20 in seven of eight spring events, including a tie for third at the Pac-10 Championship.

Martin’s national-championship squad from last year included seniors Joey Benedetti (pictured) and Derek Sipe. But his team this year has three freshmen Miernicki, Eugene Wong and Robbie Ziegler.

The Ducks missed the cut, finishing near the bottom of the leaderboard at the 2008 NCAA Championship. Martin sees only positives for his young squad this year heading to the Inverness Club.

“To build these guys for the future... that’s what I try to preach a lot, is to just try to get better everyday and to be able to go play in the national championship – it’s going to help us so much down the line,” Martin said.

• • •

Top-seeded Southern California had to play the final round without All-American Jamie Lovemark. Due to a strained rid cage muscle, Lovermark withdrew during the final round.

“Every guy has an element in their round where they showed a lot of heart,” USC coach Chris Zambri said.

The Trojans had no room for error if they wanted a chance to play in the national championship. They got a superb effort from freshman Steve Lim, who finished birdie-birdie to post a 6-under 66.

“Unbelievable,” Zambri said. “He shoots 66 which is the round of the year for our team.”

Sophomore Tim Sluiter shot a 3-under 69, Matt Giles responded with an even-par 72 and Tom Glissmeyer struggled with a 5-over 77 in a round that produced three birdies. The Trojans finished with a 4-over 284 to grab fifth place, finishing a shot ahead of New Mexico.

Lovemark is questionable for the NCAA Championship.

• • •

The University San Diego didn’t come to Lake Merced just glad to be there. Knowing they were the last at-large team to get into this year’s postseason field, the Toreros took full advantage of their opportunity.

“I know we were the last bid to get in,” San Diego senior Blake Trimble said. “We came in with the attitude that we can make it, and we know we are a good team.”

The Toreros, the No. 12 seed, finished with a 15-under 849 total and placed fourth. San Diego’s appearance at the national championship will be the first in program history.

“This is a big step for our program,” San Diego coach Tim Mickelson said. “You always have to make steps. Last year we made it to regionals and this year we make the national championship. We will go and see what happens.”

• • •

Arizona State sophomore Jesper Kennegard posted rounds of 66-68-70 for a 12-under 204 total to win the individual medal by a shot over Texas A&M senior Bronson Burgoon.

Burgoon turned in an 8-under 64, the tournament’s low round, which also ties the Lake Merced competitive record. His 64 also ties the Aggies’ all-time low for 18 holes.

BYU’s Brady Johnson, playing as an individual, earned the individual bid to the NCAA Championship. Johnson shot 67-72-69 for an 8-under 208 total and tied for fifth.

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