EUGENE, Ore. (May 31, 2016) – The home team is one match away from having it all.
Oregon blazed through the defending national champion and then upset No. 2 Illinois all in one day to reach the final at the 2016 NCAA Championship.
It took much of the tricks in their arsenal, but the Ducks, playing as host this week on their home Eugene Country Club layout, are now one victory away from the program’s first team national title.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet, but it’s gonna soon, though,” said Casey Martin, Oregon’s head coach of 10 years.
Early on in the day, such a result appeared unfathomable. Oregon was down in all five matches early in its quarterfinal match against LSU, only the 2015 national champions.
“We started horrifically,” Martin said. “There was all of the excitement of elite eight and Aaron (Wise) winning and then all of a sudden you’ve got to wake up at 5 o’clock the next day.”
But the Ducks didn’t panic.
The match slowly turned and then suddenly shifted. Senior Zach Foushee won his last four holes, with help from a chip-in eagle at the par-4 8th (his 17th). Wise, a sophomore and the individual national champion, poured in a 30-footer for birdie on No. 7 to close out his match, 3 and 2. The Ducks would defeat the Tigers, 3-1-1.
Somehow, Oregon had come back from what seemed like early death.
“I just made a decision that I was going to think and believe the best all day long,” said Van WIlliams, Oregon’s assistant coach. “I figured any negative thought wasn’t going to help us.”
That mindset carried over into the afternoon against juggernaut Illinois.
Oregon held the lead most of the round despite being the underdog. Illinois, though, gave one last fight after going down 2-1.
Dylan Meyer, a sophomore, put the battle to Wise all day and chipped in for birdie on 17 to go to the final hole 1 up. Almost simultaneously, senior Charlie Danielson, needing to win 18 to square his match, force a playoff and stave off elimination, hit an incredible second shot from the rough to 25 feet away.