May 20, 2016
by Rob Moseley
Photo: Eric Evans
The pin on No. 11 at Eugene Country Club during Friday’s opening round of the NCAA women’s golf championships sat near the back edge, atop several rolling tiers of putting green.
Oregon junior Cathleen Santoso, the Ducks’ top player this spring, took a different approach to the par-3, 152-yard hole than did her playing partners from Furman and Tennessee. Those two played safe shots to the middle of the green, downhill from the hole; Santoso, playing on her team’s home course, attacked the top tier, upon which sat the pin.
“The club I chose, I knew it would be a safe shot,” Santoso recalled later. “If I hit it really well — which I did — it would stay up on that top tier. If I didn’t, it would still be at the bottom. So we had a game plan of trying to lay up a bit there; pars are good on that hole. But birdies are even better.”
Not only did Santoso stick her tee shot on the top tier, she then sank the intermediate range put. Three-over for the day through 10, that birdie was the first of four for Santoso on the back side, and she finished with an even-par 72 that led the UO women in Friday’s opening round.
“That was a turning point for me,” Santoso said. “To finally make that putt — when I wasn’t really even expecting it — that was a great turning point for me.”
Among the four players who scored for the Ducks, Santoso was one of three who played as well or better on the back side compared with the front Friday. The nines have been reversed for this tournament, and UO coach Ria Scott said this week’s front nine — typically the back side — is where her team usually finds more trouble.
On Friday, the Ducks’ four counting cards were 2 over after the par-4, 375-yard first hole. The quartet of Santoso, Caroline Inglis, Petra Salko and Kathleen Scavo moved to 5 over after the par-4, 355-yard second hole. The group ended up 8 over for the front side, but recovered to shoot 1 over on the back and finish at 297 collectively.
“There’s only one par-3, and just a bunch of long par-4s on (the front) side,” Scott said. “It was fun to see them come back.”
The Ducks were in the first wave of teams to play Friday, leaving them several hours to wait and see where they stacked up in the team standings at day’s end. Oregon plays its second round Saturday at noon, off the No. 10 tee, and will find out after Sunday’s third round whether it made the cut of 15 teams that will continue on Monday.
The UO women want to extend as long as possible a season wrought with pressure given that Eugene Country Club would host this week’s national championship. Relieved to have qualified for the event, the Ducks still experienced some pressure Friday as the championship began.
“We were just really nervous to start with, and didn’t adjust to the conditions enough,” Scott said. “We took the wet rough for granted in the beginning, and tried to bite off more than we could chew. … So, lessons learned early on, and I think they picked up on that later in the round.”
Case in point, the first round played by Inglis. The Eugene native, who leads Oregon in scoring average for 2015-16, opened with consecutive bogeys. She found the rough on both holes, and wasn’t able to get up-and-down for pars.
Inglis’ round turned on the third hole, when she chipped in for birdie. After opening with the consecutive bogeys, Inglis played the rest of her round 1 under, sparked by the chip at No. 3.
“It was a little kick start,” Inglis said. “It was a good confidence boost; it’s always good to get a birdie, no matter how you make it.”
The chip-in was followed by a boisterous reaction from the crowd watching Inglis. That added to the championship atmosphere that may have gotten to the Ducks as Friday dawned. Fortunately, they were able to settle down and finish well.
With UO assistant Laura Cilek at Santoso’s side to steady her after a triple bogey at No. 4, Santoso played the back nine in 3 under. Salko was 1 over on the back, along with Inglis. Scavo recovered from a 4-over front side to shoot 2 over on the back, including her only birdie of the day on No. 18.
Santoso shot 72 overall, Inglis carded a 73, Salko shot 74 and Scavo finished at 78. Oregon’s fifth player, Marcella Pranovia, found water twice on the par-3 14th hole, a quadruple bogey that marred her round of 81.
Key for Santoso was her play on the par-3 holes. She birdied the first three, and just missed another birdie on the fourth. For the season, she’s under par on par-3 holes, Scott said.
“I think that’s just where my putts are dropping,” Santoso said. “So there’s a little bit of luck, but also some skill in regards to hitting off the tee. I think that helps me.”
Santoso’s experience on No. 11 was the perfect example. She executed her tee shot to perfection, sticking the ball on the top tier of the green. Then, she managed to drop in the long putt.
Now that Friday’s first round is in the books — along with the nerves the Ducks experienced — Scott wants to see her team build Saturday on the momentum from Friday’s finish.
“What I’ve told the team all year is, this is just ECC,” Scott said. “If you get caught up in the banners and the ‘stuff’ that’s put up around it, that’s when you’re gonna get in trouble. They’re sick of me telling them this, but it’s just golf; it’s just hitting shots at targets. If we can stick to that, we’ll be in good shape.”