Romero Dazzles In Collegiate Debut

LAKE ELMO, Minn. — True freshman Kiara Romero put together a remarkable performance in her collegiate debut on Monday as the Oregon women’s golf team kicked off its 2023-24 season at the Annika Intercollegiate at Royal Golf Club.

The highest-ranked recruit in the class of 2023 and winner of the 2023 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, Romero fired a bogey-free 5-under 67 to pace Oregon in her first round as a Duck. Fifth-year senior Briana Chacon added a 3-under 69, and both Ching-Tzu Chen and Minori Nagano shot even par as the Ducks closed the opening round with an 8-under 280.

Oregon sits in fourth place entering Tuesday’s second round, with South Carolina in the lead at 15 under followed by Wake Forest and San Jose State in a tie for second at 11 under.

“We’re thrilled to be back out on the course as a team,” head coach Derek Radley said. “We played well, stuck to the plan and put together a solid opening round. We certainly learned some things out there today and I’m excited to see how our team adjusts and adapts over the next two days.”

How it Happened: Romero got off to a steady start, making par on each of her first six holes. The San Jose, Calif., native birdied No. 7 and No. 9 to make the turn at 2 under, and then made par on her next five holes. Romero caught fire to close the round, making birdie at No. 15 and then closing with back-to-back birdies to come in with a stellar 67.

Romero – who was named to the preseason watch list for the Annika Award earlier on Monday – is tied for second place overall after 18 holes, just one stroke behind South Carolina’s Louise Rydqvist.

“What an unbelievable first round as a Duck for Kiara,” Radley said. “We know how talented she is and the kind of potential she has, and to come out with that level of confidence and execute the way she did in her collegiate debut is really amazing. The sky is the limit for her.”

Chacon got her fifth and final season at Oregon off to a strong start, shooting 3 under across her final 16 holes after going birdie-par-bogey to start her day. Chacon made 10 consecutive pars before a birdie at No. 15, and she closed her round with a birdie at No. 18 to break 70 for the ninth time in her career.

Chacon and Romero were among 11 players in the field go shoot sub-70 on Monday, and Chacon will enter Tuesday in a tie for ninth overall.

Nagano led the Ducks with six total birdies, but battled through two bogeys and two double bogeys to end with an even-par 72. Chen’s day was more even, making three birdies and three bogeys to match Nagano at even par. Chen was 2 over through 14 holes before making two birdies in her final four.

Senior Ashleigh Park rounded out the Oregon lineup with a 1-over 73, and joined Chacon, Chen and Romero with birdies on both No. 15 and No. 18 to finish her round strong.

Team Leaderboard

1. South Carolina – 273 (-15)

T2. Wake Forest – 277 (-11)

T2. San Jose State – 277 (-11)

4. Oregon – 280 (-8)

5. Texas A&M – 283 (-5)

6. Baylor – 286 (-2)

T7. Florida State – 287 (-1)

T7. Virginia – 287 (-1)

9. Texas – 288 (E)

10. Minnesota – 290 (+2)

11. Duke – 291 (+3)

12. Mississippi State – 292 (+4)

Ducks on the Leaderboard

T2. Kiara Romero – 67 (-5)

T9. Briana Chacon – 69 (-3)

T30. Ching-Tzu Chen – 72 (E)

T30. Minori Nagano – 72 (E)

T38. Ashleigh Park – 73 (+1)

Notable: Oregon’s 21 total birdies on Monday were third-most in the field … The Ducks were 9-under par on par-5 holes, tied for second-best … Nagano’s team-high six birdies tied for fourth-most in the field.

Up Next: Oregon will be paired with Texas A&M and Baylor in round two on Tuesday, with Park first off the No. 1 tee at 7:30 a.m. PT.