Playing the mental game, Oregon men’s golf hopes to channel its emotions heading into Pac-12 Championship

Posted by Justin Wise on Sunday, Apr. 20 at 8:46 pm.

After a season of growth, Oregon men’s golf team heads into the Pac-12 Championships — which begin on Friday and run until April 27.

The Oregon men’s golf team witnessed encouraging signs from its lone upperclassman, Jonathan Woo. Woo, a junior who had only one top-20 finish to show for the season as of last Sunday, led the team to a fifth place finish at the Western Intercollegiate behind a final scorecard that read  70-68-72-210.

Woo finished 14th, overcoming what coach Casey Martin deemed a “down spell” and is now playing his best golf of the year, according to Martin.

“Jonathan’s playing better and we need him,” Martin said. “He was our best player last year … That’s part of golf, I haven’t really been too worried about it. It’s just one of those things that you got to fight through.”

It has become a theme for Martin’s core group of golfers this season after a forgettable fall in terms of performance. Heading into this weekend at Marana, Ariz., Oregon has posted five top five finishes, including a team victory at the Wyoming Cowboy Desert Intercollegiate.

Woo’s resurgence scores are reminders of the obstacles Sulman Raza faced earlier in the year. Raza, who faced issues similar to Woo, channeled those mental demons at the Desert Intercollegiate and finished a career-best second individually.

“We’ve definitely gotten better throughout the year,” assistant coach Van Williams said. “This spring we’ve played more consistent and it’s evident of those guys growing.”

However, the season has not consisted solely of highlights. Mental and emotional miscues have been a setback for the Ducks, especially in the final rounds of tournaments they were in clear contention. It was evident to Woo in the latest tournament as well, something that will need to be controlled throughout at the Gallery Golf Club considering the weight of the competition.

“We still made a lot of immature mistakes that could easily be cut out and hopefully were able to sort it out and perform well,” Woo said. “It’s going to be a difficult week because all the teams are good in the Pac-12, but we know we’re capable of doing just as well as the other guys.”

The Pac-12 boasts a total of eight ranked teams, including the 22 ranked Ducks. The competition also includes the top two teams in the country in Washington and Stanford. The Huskies own the top scoring average (71.21) in the country and Stanford’s Patrick Rodgers has the nation’s top individual scoring average (69.58).

Where does Oregon fit into that category?

“I have expectations that we’ll play well and we’ll compete with those teams,” Martin said. “I’m not going to sit here and say we’re going to win and we’re going to win by 20 shots. It’s not how we think.”

Martin’s assistant William put it in simpler terms.

“I don’t know if I call them expectations, but a desire to play as good as we can play,” Williams said.

Ultimately, Oregon’s final results will be heavily influenced by how its core group of underclassmen respond to adversity. As Martin puts it: “We just got to grow up a little bit on the golf course.”

Follow Justin Wise on Twitter @JWISE25