Martin has Ducks flying high in Eugene
Casey Martin has been gaining the respect of people since, well, the day he was born. For all of his 37 years, he has battled a birth defect in his right leg known as Klippel-Trenaunay-Webber Syndrome, a congenital circulatory disorder.
He earned respect as a golfer, from his high school days in Eugene, Ore., to his time at Stanford, where he was a two-time All-American and helped the Cardinal to the 1994 NCAA title, and then for his play as a professional on the PGA Tour and Nationwide Tour.
He garnered worldwide respect when he took the PGA Tour to court over the right to use a golf cart in competition under the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. He won that case in a legal showdown that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Today, the respect for Martin is coming from the college coaching community, again with good reason.
In his fourth season as head men’s coach at the University of Oregon, Martin is turning the program into a serious contender, not only in the Pac-10 Conference but nationally.
He has guided the Ducks to back-to-back NCAA Championship appearances in the past two seasons – for the first time since 1998-99 – and a second-place finish at last year’s Pac-10 Championship, equaling their best conference showing since 1997. Oregon ended 2008-09 at No. 33 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, its best finish since 2001-02, when the Ducks were 28th.
“He’s done a great job and really put that program on the map,” said Stanford coach Conrad Ray, who was a teammate of Martin’s with the Cardinal.
“Casey is just a great competitor; it doesn’t matter if it’s golf or checkers, he wants to beat you no matter what,” Ray said. “He is so full of energy, and I think his young guys epitomize that and what Casey is all about.”
Added Texas A&M coach J.T. Higgins: “I have all the respect in the world for Casey. He’s done a fabulous job and brought in some fantastic players. He knows about course management, and he instills that in his guys. Casey is always confident in what he could do, and that’s the way his players are.”
Martin certainly has all his young Ducks in a row this season, one that is unfolding to be the best in the program’s history.
This week, Lance and Asher talk about BYU’s breakthrough, UNLV winning in the wind, and the guys from FSU... from Division II!
In four fall events, the Ducks finished second twice and third twice, then opened the spring season with a tie for second at the Big Island tournament in Hawaii.
But it was earlier this month at the USC Invitational where Martin and Oregon did some real moving and shaking. The field featured 12 teams ranked in the top 50 of the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings at the time, including No. 2 Stanford.
Not only did the Ducks win, but they dominated, finishing 16 shots better than runner-up California. It was strong enough to move Oregon from 19th to 10th in the latest rankings, the first time the program has cracked the top 10.
“It was a stacked field, and the guys just came out and smoked them,” Martin said. “This has to be one of the highlights of all time for Oregon golf, no doubt. And I would predict there will be more highlights coming soon for this program.”
Earlier this week, the Ducks finished fourth at the Fresno State/Lexus Classic, three shots behind co-champs San Diego and BYU and one back of third-place Washington.
Martin is doing all this without magic, without mirrors and, most important, without any seniors on his roster.
Sophomore Eugene Wong of Canada leads the Ducks with six top-15 finishes in seven starts, highlighted by a 10-under-par 203 and one-shot victory at USC that vaulted him from No. 52 to No. 27 in the rankings. He followed that with a third-place showing at Fresno.
Sophomores Andrew Vijarro and Daniel Miernicki also rank among the top 60. Vijarro has four top 10s, and Miernicki has three.
Also contributing have been junior Isaiah Telles (four top 25s), junior Sean Maekawa (three top 30s) and sophomore John Paton (a second place and three other top-35 finishes).
“Casey is definitely doing the right things and has that program headed in the right direction,” longtime Arizona State coach Randy Lein said. “He’s done a wonderful job recruiting and has a lot of talented, young players. I think we’re going to be hearing a lot about Oregon for quite a while.”
Respect and Casey Martin. They seem to go hand in hand.
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CHUN COMES THROUGH: Northwestern sophomore Eric Chun is one of four players in Malaysia who earned a berth in this year’s 150th anniversary British Open at St. Andrews’ Old Course.
Chun shot 67-71 Wednesday and Thursday at Saujana Golf and Country Club to grab the fourth and final qualifying spot in the 36-hole International Final Qualifier for the Open Championship.
Chun, the 2009 Big Ten champion and Freshman of the Year, earned his spot in the final qualifier as the runner-up at the inaugural Asian Amateur Championship last November in China.
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NICE PERK: When this year’s U.S. Intercollegiate at Stanford takes place April 11-13, there will be a bonus for the individual champion.
The PGA Tour’s Reno-Tahoe Open announced it would extend an invitation to the winner, making it the only stop on Tour to offer an exemption to the champion of a college tournament. The exemption is one of eight that the Reno-Tahoe Open, to be played July 12-18 at Montreux Golf & Country Club, can offer to non-qualifying players.
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A look ahead
What: UNLV Southern Highlands Intercollegiate
When: March 12-14
Where: Southern Highlands Country Club, Las Vegas, Nev.
Why it’s important: All 15 teams are ranked among the top 45, with 11 in the top 20 and four in the top 10. Top-ranked Oklahoma State, which finished second here last season, heads the field that also features Texas (4), Florida (6) and defending NCAA champion Texas A&M (7). Other top-30 teams in the field: UCLA (12), Arizona State (13), defending tournament champion and host UNLV (14), USC (15), Georgia (16), Texas Tech (19), Georgia Tech (20), TCU (22) and Tennessee (28). Talk about a duel in the desert.
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What: National Invitational Tournament
When: March 17-18
Where: Omni Tucson National Resort, Tucson, Ariz.
Why it’s important: The 13-team field includes nine teams in the top 45 of the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, highlighted by No. 4 Texas, coming off a big victory in Puerto Rico. No. 17 California will try to make it 2-for-2 in Tucson. The Bears opened their spring season last month with a win at the Arizona Intercollegiate. Also in the field: Texas Tech (19), TCU (22), SMU (24), Colorado State (32), host Arizona (43) and New Mexico (45). It’s a good opportunity for some teams to move up.