Stellar Final Round Propels Ducks to NCAA Championships

AUBURN, Ala. — The Oregon Ducks will compete at the NCAA Women’s Golf Championships for the 13th time in program history after finishing second at the NCAA Auburn Regional on the strength of a tremendous final round at Auburn University Club on Wednesday. 

After entering the final round in fourth place and just two strokes ahead of the cut line, the No. 14 Ducks put together the best round of the week by any team with a 5-under 283. Oregon started the day 18 strokes behind first-place Auburn – the host of the regional – but at one point surged into the lead before finishing the day just four strokes back of the Tigers at 14-over par, a comfortable 14 strokes up on the cut.

North Carolina finished third at 21-over par, while No. 2 South Carolina and Tulsa claimed the final two qualifying spots in a tie for fourth at 27 over. Georgia and Houston just missed qualifying, tying for sixth at 28 over. 

Oregon will return to the NCAA Championships for the first time since its national runner-up showing in 2022, after falling short in the regional round last year. The 2024 NCAA Championships will run May 17-22 at Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, Calif.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our team,” head coach Derek Radley said. “They played for each other every step of the way and came out and put together their best round when it mattered most. We’ve had some ups and downs this year, but we have the right five players in our lineup and couldn’t be more excited to continue our season. Their commitment to our program and each other is what makes this group so special.  It’s going to be a lot of fun seeing what they can do at the NCAA Championships.”

How it Happened: The Ducks started their round on the back nine and immediately began their surge up the leaderboard. Oregon’s four counting scorers combined for nine birdies and just two bogeys on the back nine, after which Oregonhad completely made up the gap with Auburn and sat in a tie with the Tigers at 12-over par.

Oregon and Auburn went back and forth in the standings for much of the back half of the round, before the Tigers eventually pulled away to win the tournament by four strokes. But the Ducks had more than distanced themselves from the rest of the pack, leaving five teams to battle for the remaining three qualifying spots.

UO was led all week by freshmen Ting-Hsuan Huang and Kiara Romero, and that continued on Wednesday. Huang was error-free through her first nine holes, making three birdies in six holes to make the turn at 3 under before adding another birdieat No. 3 to get to 4 under. She had three bogeys in her final six holes, but added a fifth birdie to come in with a 2-under 70.

Romero made three birdies on the day en route to a 1-under 71, including back-to-back birdies at holes 14-15. A bogey at No. 1 brought her back to even par, but she birdied No. 3 and then finished out with six consecutive pars.

Huang and Romero each tied for 10th place overall at 2-over par, the first career top-10 finish for Huang and the fifth of the season for Romero.

Fifth-year senior Ching-Tzu Chen put together her best round of the week when it mattered most, matching Huang with a 2-under 70. Chen was especially clutch for the Ducks early in the round, making birdie on three of her first six holes to get the momentum rolling. Chen finished 12th overall at 4-over par to give Oregon three Ducks in the top 15.

Freshman Karen Tsuru rounded out the counting scores with an even-par 72, her fourth par-or-better performance since joining the lineup in the regular-season finale. Tsuru was bogey-free with a birdie through her first nine holes, and matchedRomero for the fewest bogeys on the day with only two. She tied for 16th overall at 6-over par.

Ducks on the Leaderboard:

2. Oregon – 298-297-283 – 878 (+14)

T11. Kiara Romero – 73-74-71 – 218 (+2)

T11. Ting-Hsuan Huang – 73-75-70 – 218 (+2)

12. Ching-Tzu Chen – 76-74-70 – 220 (+4)

T16. Karen Tsuru – 76-74-70 – 222 (+6)

T40. Minori Nagano – 76-78-78 – 232 (+16)

What it Means: Oregon had dubbed this season its “revenge tour” after missing out on the NCAA Championships last year, and the Ducks put together one of their best rounds of the season at the biggest moment to get back to the national stage. The Ducks found momentum at the Pac-12 Championships with a third-place finish, and were able to carry that over to the Auburn Regional where they were in a tight race all week with a very competitive field. With a trio of surging freshmen – one being one of the nation’s top players in Romero – and a pair of experienced veterans in Chen and Minori Nagano, the Ducks look like a team who could make some noise next week in Carlsbad.

Notable: The Ducks secured the second-best NCAA Regional finish in program history, trailing only the 2022 team that won the Albuquerque Regional en route to being national runners-up … Oregon ranked seventh in the field with 30 total birdies, but led the field by a wide margin with 189 total pars while avoiding big numbers that plagued other teams … The Ducks were the top-scoring team on par-4 holes by four strokes at 27-over par, and ranked second on par-3s at 7 over … Tsuru led the field with 42 total pars, and Huang’s team-high 11 birdies were fourth-most in the field … Chen is now alone in third in UO history with 345 career birdies … Romero now has 104 birdies this season, passing Cassy Isagawa (103, 2012-13) for fifth-most in program history. 

Up Next: The Ducks will travel to Carlsbad next Wednesday and will play a practice round on Thursday before opening the NCAA Championships on Friday.