CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Eugene Wong doesn’t mind taking on a little pressure on behalf of his Oregon teammates.
How about the pressure of having to win his round of match play at the 18th hole by holding off his fellow Pac-10 co-player of the year and the Ben Hogan Award winner, Washington’s Nick Taylor?
“My heart was definitely racing,” Wong said. “I just tried to get as close as I could to give myself a good chance.”
With thunder rumbling at a distance and rain sprinkling on the course, Wong nearly sank a 45-foot putt on the 18th green, and he and Taylor both made par to preserve Wong’s 1-up margin. The victory advanced Oregon to the NCAA Division I semifinals with a 3-2 win at The Honors Course on Friday.
On Saturday, the fifth-seeded Ducks will face top seed Oklahoma State, which cruised to a 4-1 win over Stanford. No. 2 Florida State defeated No. 7 Texas Tech 4-1 and will meet No. 6 Augusta State, a 3-and-2 winner over No. 3 Georgia Tech.
The quarterfinals featured just the kind of competition the NCAA was looking for when it added match play to the championship format beginning with the 2009 tournament.
Jack Dukeminier won the first match for Oregon 1-up over Charlie Hughes, and Darren Wallace answered with a 2-and-1 win for Washington over Isaiah Telles. Oregon’s Andrew Vijarro posted a 2-and-1 win over Richard Lee, and Washington’s Chris Williams defeated Daniel Miernicki by the same margin, setting up the showdown between Wong and Taylor.
Taylor took a 1-up lead after grabbing a birdie on the third hole and held the margin until Wong shot a birdie on the ninth hole and Taylor bogeyed the 10th. The pair matched pars and birdies the rest of the way.
“It was just a dogfight,” Oregon coach Casey Martin said. “No one was up by more than one all day. It was just a classic, great golf. Out of 36 holes played by those two guys there was one bogey. That’s incredible stuff. That’s PGA-tour level golf that was being played out there.”
A year after being upset in the NCAA quarterfinals as the top seed, Oklahoma State easily moved past Stanford, who played into the quarterfinals earlier in the day by winning a three-way playoff with Arizona State and San Diego.
The Cowboys’ Sean Einhaus made five birdies and took a 5-up lead by the seventh hole, defeating Joseph Bramlett 5-and-4. Teammate Kevin Tway took a little bit longer to build his lead but also won 5-and-4 over Sihwan Kim.
“I think the guys understand when they see Kevin Tway or Sean Einhaus out watching their match with a smile on their face, that’s a good thing,” Oklahoma State coach Mike McGraw said. “I think that percolates through the gallery, and it’s a good feeling if you know you’ve got your teammates in the clubhouse and they’ve got a couple of Ws on the board.”
Stanford’s Andrew Yun led by as many as 3-up in a match with Trent Whitekiller but bogeyed twice in the last six holes. Whitekiller led by 1-up approaching the 18th but drove his ball in some pine chips near a patch of trees as Yun placed his ball neatly in the fairway.
Whitekiller managed to land his shot from the rough about 20 feet from the hole and both competitors made par, giving the Cowboys the win.
Texas Tech’s Tyler Weworski put the Red Raiders up early with a 3-and-2 win over Florida State’s Wesley Graham, but the Seminoles took the remaining four matches.
Augusta State’s Carter Newman scored first with a 1-up win over fellow junior Paul Haley, but the Yellow Jackets took the next two matches. Patrick Reed maintained a 1-up margin on the 18th hole to grab another Augusta State point by matching Chesson Hadley’s birdie. Georgia Tech’s J.T. Griffin just missed a birdie on the 18th hole that would have forced his match with Henrik Norlander to an extra hole.
“To get this far is phenomenal for us and the program,” Reed said.