Nagano Goes Low in Opening Round

TEMPE, Ariz. — Senior Minori Nagano put together a stellar back nine in the opening round of the PING/ASU Invitational on Thursday to lead the Oregon women’s golf team with a 3-under 69 at Papago Golf Club.

The No. 12 Ducks finished day one with a 2-under 286, good for sixth place in a 17-team field that features seven other top-15 teams. Oregon sits just five strokes back of No. 13 Arizona State (-7) – the tournament host – for the lead entering Friday’s second round.

Nagano’s 69 puts her in a tie for fifth overall on the individual leaderboard, just one stroke back of the lead. She was joined under par by fellow senior Ashleigh Park, who holed out for an eagle on No. 18 to finish with a 1-under 71, and sophomore Anika Varma contributed an even-par 72.

How it Happened: A bogey on No. 6 was the lone blemish on the front nine for Nagano, who made the turn at 1 over. She immediately got that stroke back with a birdie at No. 10, and then ripped off three birdies in a row on holes 12-14 to give her four birdies in a five-hole stretch. The Tokyo, Japan, native closed her round with four consecutive pars to shoot a bogey-free 4-under par on the back nine and card her fourth sub-70 performance of the season.  

Park led Oregon with 14 pars on Thursday, including 12 straight to go into No. 16 at 1-over par. She got back to even with a birdie before making a bogey at No. 17, and then provided the highlight of the day with a hole-out eagle on a 413-yard par-4 to end the day. It was the first eagle of the season for Park and her 10th par-or-better round of 2023-24.

Varma matched her best round of the season at even par, countering three bogeys with a trio of birdies. She made birdie at No. 7 and No. 9 to make the turn at 1 under, and added another at No. 15. 

Fifth-year senior Ching-Tzu Chen rounded out the counting scores with a 2-over 74, and was 1-under par on the day aside from a triple bogey at No. 13.

Ducks on the Leaderboard:

6. Oregon – 286 (-2)

T5. Minori Nagano – 69 (-3)

T18. Ashleigh Park – 71 (-1)

T28. Anika Varma – 72 (E)

T53. Ching-Tzu Chen – 74 (+2)

T65. Ting-Hsuan Huang – 76 (+4)

What it Means: After an uncharacteristic showing their last time out, the Ducks arrived in the desert looking for a bounce-back effort. Thursday’s opening round was a good first step towards that goal, especially with star freshman Kiara Romero – the No. 4 ranked player in the country – out of the lineup this week as she prepares for the upcoming Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

Notable: Oregon was 5-under par on par-5 holes, tied for the second-best mark in the field … Nagano and Park were both 2-under par on par-4s … Park was one of five players in the field to make an eagle on Thursday. 

Up Next: The Ducks will tee off from hole No. 1 beginning at 8:45 a.m. PT in Friday’s second round.