No. 2 Oregon, Pac-12 women’s golf title contender
Derek Radley had been at work and in Eugene for just two days when he boarded a plane bound for Taiwan, keeping a promise he made to Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens in the process. hiring.
“My wife wasn’t exactly thrilled,” said Radley, the Ducks’ women’s golf coach since 2018. “Our furniture isn’t even in the house yet. … (Rob) asked me what he would take to be successful here and I said to roll up my sleeves and get on with it.
For Radley, that meant signing the best players he could find, no matter where they were.
What he found across the Pacific Ocean that summer four years ago were a pair of players who became important parts of a team that is now ranked No. 2 nationally — the highest ranking in program history — heading to the Pac-12 Championships Monday through Wednesday at Eugene Country Club.
Oregon’s program has never won a conference title and has finished in the top three only twice, when the Ducks finished second in 2015 and third in 2010.
There are four other Pac-12 teams ranked in the top 25, including No. 1 Stanford, but that shouldn’t bother Oregon, which has won three tournaments this season.
This spring alone, the Ducks won the Florida State Match Up and Northrop Gruman Challenge home team titles, then earned back-to-back second-place finishes at the PING/ASU Invitational and Silverado Showdown before the conference tournament.
“I know they’re excited about this opportunity,” Radley said. “They’ve been battle tested since this year and have really proven that we can beat great teams and win, so I’m really excited for the playoffs moving forward.”
‘Team Taiwan’ leads the way
Radley’s first recruiting trip as an Oregon coach finally paid off when he landed Hsin-Yu (Cynthia) Lu and Ching-Tzu Chen, who joined forces with Tze-Han (Heather ) Lin to give the Ducks a terrific trio of countrymen.
“Team Taiwan,” Radley said. “These three really just elevate this program. Their work ethic at a young age has really given them the skills they need to compete at a high level.
Lu, a sophomore, leads the team with an average of 72.48. She was the highest-ranked rookie in program history when she signed with Oregon in 2020 when she was No. 48 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings.
She became the Ducks’ first tournament champion since 2015 when she won the Mason Rudolph Championship in September.
Lin, the only Ducks senior who was already under contract when Radley was hired, is second on the team with an average of 72.55.
“She really stepped into that leadership role and stuck with what we know and how to be successful and really pushed others to be great,” Radley said. “We couldn’t have done it without her…she’s going to be leaving (the program) in an amazing place to move forward.”
Chen, a junior, is fourth on the team with an average of 73.07. She led the Ducks with a 20th-place finish at the NCAA Championships last spring.
“When I came here, it was just me,” Lin said. “It was very different from what it is now. It was really fun. I became very close to them and because of our culture, we always support each other. I know they support me and I support. It was really cool.
Advantage of the home course
Prior to taking the job at Oregon, Radley was an assistant at Arizona when the Wildcats won the national title in 2018.
He quickly hired Monica Vaughn as his assistant, bringing the 2017 NCAA Individual Champion closer to home. Vaughn was a two-time OSAA state champion for Reedsport High before leaving for a college career at Arizona State.
These two were the architects of the Ducks’ rise to national prominence.
The Ducks came back from the 2020 COVID-19 season to finish 11th at the NCAA Championships last season in their first national tournament appearance since 2017 and only their sixth since 2000.
“Rankings aren’t everything,” Radley said. “However, I preached to our team that we are the best team in the country if we have all the cylinders firing at the same time.”
There is very little disparity in scoring between Oregon’s top five players, with less than a stroke between Lu’s team best average of 72.48 and the n’s average of 73.25. °5 Briana Chacon. Sofie Kibsgaard Nielsen, a junior from Denmark, who has four top-eight finishes this spring, has an average of 72.85.
“It’s pretty special,” Radley said. “Regularity is a big word for us and I feel like any week one of our five could be the number 1 man. And so having faith in yourself and each other is important for confidence in the future.
Playing at home this week should help. The weather forecast looks wet and temperatures cool, which could work to Oregon’s advantage.
“Since my freshman year, we’ve been talking about how my senior year we’re going to host the Pac-12 Championships,” Lin said. “This will also be my first and last home tournament, so I’m very, very excited. … Eugene is such a unique place with the weather, the big trees and the fast greens. I’m sure not many schools have experienced such conditions.
Besides the top-ranked Cardinal, the other top teams in the Pac-12 are No. 7 Arizona State, No. 12 Southern California and No. 16 UCLA.
“So excited,” Radley said. “In golf, we don’t normally get home course advantage. … To be able to have all the great Pac-12 teams here in Eugene is really special.