Ringler: Eugene Country Club is 'home run' for NCAA Championship

Ringler: Eugene Country Club is 'home run' for NCAA Championship

Men

Ringler: Eugene Country Club is 'home run' for NCAA Championship

EUGENE, Ore. – Even though the men’s championship isn’t finished, it’s safe to say the NCAA golf committees hit a home run with Eugene Country Club.

It’s not easy to pick a site that can give up its golf course for more than two full weeks to accommodate the needs of this championship.

This year marks the second consecutive year both the men’s and women’s championships have been at the same site in back-to-back weeks with each being televised.

“From the committee’s perspective,” said Eric Sexton, who is the chair of the Division I men’s golf committee, “our goal is to set up championship courses that have the ability to fairly determine two national champions.”

There is no questioning Eugene Country Club’s ability to do that. The only thing we have not seen to this point in the two championships has been the separation we often see in major golf tournaments. But, that does not seem to be a big problem this week, because everything else is perfect.

“It’s all there in front of you, there is nothing goofy,” Eugene Country Club golf course superintendent Chris Gaughan said of the layout. “It’s very fair.”

Gaughan, whose sister (Cathy Mant) is the women’s golf coach at Georgia State, has been the head guy here since 1993 and was even on the staff mowing greens in 1978 when the first NCAA Championship was played here.

There was nothing but praise last week for the setup and the way the golf course played for the women’s championship. However, event may have gotten an assist from Mother Nature in helping it all go according to plan.

“It played right into what they wanted,” Gaughan said. “It was soft because we did not see sun for five days and when it did come out it was cold and only stayed out for like 20 minutes.”

That has started to shift this week. The rain stayed away and the sun came out.

Perfect! That’s what Gaughan wants to see.

“Yesterday it began feeling good to me,” Gaughan said with a grin. “It almost felt like a table, the ball was popping when it hit.”

Green speeds did stretch out later in the day. Which resulted in officials asking Gaughan to put some water on them after the first round.

“I would have kept pushing today because it’s not hot yet,” Gaughan said.

He should know. Gaughan was in charge when the 2008 USGA Women’s Amateur was played here, and every six years when the Pacific Northwest Amateur comes to town. Gaughan admits the course was probably over the top two years ago when it played host to the NCAA men’s regional.

“Green speeds were over 15 and the rough was nasty,” Gaughan said. “They wanted it over their shoes.

Stanford, led by Patrick Rodgers, won that week with a 13-over performance, winning individually by six shots with a 6-under 204 total.

“Hosting those events in the past has helped,” Gaughan said. “We can see what it can take because it’s a whole different game how the (grass) can handle that intensity. It can go days and days of just being babied like that.”

Gaughan has a staff of 18 workers and 15 volunteers who are raking bunkers. Local school teachers come in during the evening hours to fill divots.

With a dry forecast ahead, Eugene Country Club is expected to only get more challenging but remain fair.

“I can get it to be almost like concrete on the greens and sometimes that’s fun,” Gaughan said. “I love a challenge. I like to get it as challenging as possible because that’s how you weed the good from the bad and see who is going to be a champion. I can get the green speeds pretty good, if they let me. But, they want me to hold them back until we get to match play.”

The biggest challenge playability-wise has been the rough.

“Getting the rough back up has been tough,” Gaughan said. “We (watered) it last night and hopefully that shoots up a bit.”

Other than that, the biggest challenge for Gaughan so far: getting sleep.

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