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June 2, 2012

 

Ducks Fall One Hole Short in NCAA Semifinals

Wong and Miernicki hold on for exciting victories.

 

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – Oregon’s bid to upset top-ranked Texas came up one hole short, as the Longhorns survived 3-2 in the NCAA Men’s Golf national semifinals Saturday at Riviera Country Club.

 

In the other national semifinal, Alabama held off a late rally by California to win 3-2. The Longhorns and Crimson Tide will square off to decide the national title on Sunday.

 

The seventh-ranked Ducks gave the top-ranked Longhorns all they could handle in an entertaining match.

 

“We played incredibly good golf today and even the guys who lost played really well,” said Oregon head coach Casey Martin. “Texas was just a stroke or two better than us today and I give them all the credit in the world because I think we made them earn it.”

 

After Texas posted the first two points of the day, the final three matches all came down to the 18th hole before a large gallery on a sunny day at Riviera.

 

And once again, it was Oregon’s three seniors who nearly pulled out the victory.

 

Daniel Miernicki went back-and forth between all square and one down with Texas’ Dylan Frittelli, but never took the lead until a brilliant eagle on the 17th hole. Following a monstrous drive, Miernicki smoked an iron on to the green and then made a 25-foot putt to go ahead for the first time in his match. The senior from Santee, Calif., then struck a 10-foot birdie on 18 to defeat Frittelli 2-up.

 

“We both had a pretty fast start,” said Miernicki. “I think we were both at five under at the turn so that shows what it takes to makes this far and how well you have to play.”

 

Eugene Wong got off to a hot start and never trailed Jordan Spieth in winning 1-up. He birdied the first hole to go ahead by one, and then doubled up when Spieth bogeyed No. 2. The senior from North Vancouver, B.C. extended his lead to three holes with a birdie on six. The 2010 Jack Nicklaus college player of the year saw Spieth get to within one on the back nine, but then went up by two with a birdie on 16 for a comfortable lead.

 

That left the deciding point up to Oregon’s Andrew Vijarro and Julio Vegas of Texas, who played a riveting match that saw the lead change hand five times before Vegas went birdie-birdie on 17 and 18 to win 2-up. Vegas took the lead on the first hole with a par, only to bogey No. 2 while Vijarro pared to square the match.

 

Then Vijarro took the lead with a par on the fourth hole, but gave it back with a bogey on five. Vegas made a run with a birdie on six to go ahead by one, and then moved to plus-2 when Vijarro carded a six on No. 8. The tables turned when Vijarro sizzled a tee shot near the green on the tantalizing short par-4 10th hole. A birdie there cut Vegas’ lead to one, and things were all square again when Vijarro birdied 11.

 

Vijarro, a senior from Bend, Ore., also took 1-hole leads on 13 and 15 following bogeys by Vegas, but the Longhorn senior prevailed in the end to lift Texas to the finals.

 

“It was unfortunate that someone had to lose today,” said Miernicki, who will play in a U.S. Open qualifier at Emerald Valley on Monday along with his head coach and teammate Rak Cho. “We made a great run at it and we lost to great team in Texas.”

 

The Longhorns opened the day with a win the first match, with Toni Hakula getting the better of Robbie Ziegler, 3 and 1. Hakula took the lead with a birdie on the seventh hole and stretched to lead out to three on the back nine. Ziegler, a junior from Canby, Ore., got within two after Hakula bogeyed 15, but then Hakula closed things out with a par when Ziegler bogeyed 17.

 

Johnathan Woo battled all day before falling to Texas’ Cody Gribble 2 and 1. Woo, a freshman from Singapore, was two down at the turn, but then rallied with birdies on 10 and 11. He gave one back with a bogey on 12, but squared things up again when Gribble bogeyed 13. Gribble then won the match with consecutive birdies on 16 and 17.

 

Saturday marked the final day of the career of the three Oregon seniors, who have led the Ducks to a pair of NCAA final fours in the last three years.

 

“These seniors have just done so much for us,” said Martin, who turned 40 on Saturday. “We won six times this year. This was a really magical year and  can’t say enough about what those three guys have meant to this program.”

 

Texas 3, Oregon 2

Toni Hakula, TEX, d. Robbie Ziegler, ORE, 3 and 1

Cody Gribble, TEX, d. Jonathan Woo, ORE, 2 and 1

Daniel Miernicki, ORE, d. Dylan Frittelli, TEX, 2-up

Julio Vegas, TEX, d. Andrew Vijarro, ORE, 2-up

Eugene Wong, ORE, d. Jordan Spieth, TEX, 1-up

 

-www.goducks.com-