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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- The top-ranked University of Oregon men’s golf team has advanced to the final four of the NCAA Championships after defeating the University of Washington, 3-2, in match play at The Honors Course.
The opening match of the single-elimination tournament came down to the final pairing on the 18th hole with UO’s Eugene Wong (North Vancouver, B.C.) holding a one-hole lead over UW’s Nick Taylor (Abbotsford, B.C.). The sophomore All-American pushed his tee shot right, but recovered to match his fellow Canadian’s par and lift the Ducks, seeded fifth after the stroke-play portion, into Saturday’s semifinal against top seed Oklahoma State, which defeated No. 8 Stanford.
The stage was set for Wong’s heroics after victories by Jack Dukeminier and Andrew Vijarro offset wins by Washington’s Darren Wallace and Chris Williams. Like the Wong/Taylor duel, Dukeminier and UW’s Charlie Hughes were forced to play 18, but their match was all square heading down the final fairway. Dukeminier made par, while Hughes three-putted for bogey.
Dukeminier, who equaled the competition course record with a 66 Thursday on the final day of stroke play, actually trailed by one hole with two to play, following a bogey on 16. An eagle on 17 brought the junior from Eugene back to all square before taking the final advantage on the last hole.
Vijarro downed Richard Lee, 2-and-1, drawing or winning every hole after the first. The sophomore from Bend sealed the deal with birdies on Nos. 15 and 16 before a clinching par on 17.
All-Pac-10 sophomore Daniel Miernicki (Santee, Calif.) got off to a strong start, leading by three holes with nine to play, but Williams took skins at 10, 12, 14, 15 and 17 to take the match 2-and-1.
Junior Isaiah Telles was Wallace’s victim. The Tualatin product could not recover after dropping four of the first five holes and eventually bowed out 2-and-1.
Oregon’s semifinal match will start at 9 a.m. Eastern with the winner advancing to Sunday’s championship at 12 p.m. ET. Saturday’s other semifinal will second-seeded Florida State vs. No. 6 seed Augusta State.
QUOTES: Oregon 3, Washington 2
Oregon Head Coach Casey Martin
On the preparation for match play against Washington:
"It was kind of a crazy night, but everybody knew they would have to play great golf. The respect our team has for the Huskies is off the charts because we played with them for a number of years. My guys were motivated. They knew what was at stake. They were pumped."
On Andrew Vijarro:
"You could see Andrew Vijarro running around. He was really ready for today. You could count him to bring a lot of passion, and he did and amazing job, as did the other guys."
On Eugene Wong and the team's play:
"I am drained. It is way more nervous to be out there watching. I was glad that (Eugene) Wong had the putter at the end. He is a heck of a player and had an amazing year. If anyone you wanted to put it on the line, you want Eugene doing it."
On the Nick Taylor and Eugene Wong matchup:
"It was an incredible start, I mean, Nick Taylor (Washington) left it hanging on the lip for eagle. I mean like a centimeter away, then Wong birdied on top of him. They both hit great shots on the par five and birdied, and then, Nick Taylor hit it to within six inches on a 220-yard par 3. (Eugene) Wong had a look at it, and I am thinking 'Bring it on baby, you are going to have to play great.' I think that actually got the best out of him. Eugene (Wong) just adores Nick Taylor, and looks up to him like you can't believe. Eugene (Wong) knows how good he is. It was just a reminder that this is show time. Just to see the guys battle it out is a credit to their institution and to Canada to see two British Columbia kids battles it out."
On not having to play another match today:
"Extremely glad. We need to rest. We didn't get much sleep last night. We need to go relax and soak it in."
On: Winning first group in match play:
"Jack (Dukeminier) has been huge. He had it up, lasted, got an eagle, and won it on the last hole to win. We have had many guys step up. We are having a special year and we want it to keep going. It is just going to get harder down the wire here."
On: Taylor-Wong matchup coming to 18th hole:
"It was just a dogfight. No one was up by more than one all day. It was just classic golf back and forth. That was PGA level golf being played out there
Oregon Junior Jack Dukeminier
On his play today:
"I was up for about the first 12 holes and I was 2-up through 13, actually. He made a couple of birdies and I made a bogie on 16, so I lost the next three holes and was 1-down going into 17. I hit a really good shot on 17, to a couple of feet and made eagle. Fortunately, he three-putted on 18 and you don't really want to see it end like that, but I'll take the win."
On the eagle on 17:
"I hit a nice drive in there. I had, like, 235 in. I used a hybrid cut, sliced it around the trees and landed on the right side of the green and it just kind of kicked close to the hole and I had about a three foot putt for eagle."
On advancing to the next round and how to prepare:
"I don't know. We're excited. We'll probably just take it easy, go get some dinner, do some homework, study a little. Finals are next week."
Oregon Sophomore Eugene Wong
On the last hole:
"I knew I had to get it close on the green or at least close around (the green). I knew he was going to at least two-putt or make it. So I got in my mindset to just make birdie on that hole."
On the 50-foot birdie attempt that you put close on 18:
"I was trying to get it as close as I can to give myself a good chance for a par putt."
On playing against Washington senior Nick Taylor:
"I know he is a great player. For me to beat him, I just had to play really solid and play within myself and don't just get after it."
What hole was the turning point in the round?
"The 10th hole. I didn't hit a very good shot in...Found the greenside bunker on the right. I think I left it was short again. He chipped it pretty close to six-feet. I had a 15-18 foot slider and once I made that, he missed to the left. Then I said, OK I am 1up now so I just need to stay this or get a little better."