June 4, 2010
By Bucky Dent
Special to NCAA.com
OOLTEWAH, Tenn. — Two Canadian kids turned The Honors Course into B.C. Place on Friday.
In an epic match that decided a tight team duel, Oregon’s Eugene Wong edged Washington’s Nick Taylor 1-up and the No. 5 Ducks advanced to the match play semifinals with a grueling 3-2 decision over their Pac-10 Conference rivals.
Taylor started the match with three straight birdies and shot a 69, yet it wasn’t enough because Wong fired a bogey-free 68, including a birdie on the par-5 17 that matched Taylor’s 4.
“For me to beat him, I knew I had to play really solid and play within myself and don’t just get after it,” Wong said.
“Eugene just adores Nick Taylor and looks up to him like you wouldn’t believe,” Oregon coach Casey Martin said. “Eugene knows how good he is. It was just a reminder that it’s showtime.”
This was certainly the feature attraction in a showdown that saw all five matches reach 17 and two get to the 18th.
None had the cachet of Wong vs. Taylor, a pairing of two performers from suburban Vancouver. It was the anchor leg and both players held up their end of the bargain.
Wong said if there was a turning point in this match, it came at No. 10, where Taylor’s only slipup resulted in a bogey and gave the Duck his one-shot advantage.
“I had a 15-to-18 foot slider (for par) and once I made that, he missed to the left,” Wong said. “Then I said, ‘OK, I am 1-up now so I need to stay here or get a little better.”
Wong stayed there, matching Taylor stroke for stroke over the last eight holes as the pressure and rain increased. Taylor had a birdie chance on No. 18 but it went begging shortly before the siren sounded to suspend play.
Huskies coach Matt Thurmond said his senior couldn’t have played much better.
“He was solid all day, but Eugene never made a mistake,” Thurmond said. “They are both Pac-10 Players of the Year and they are both phenomenal.”
The teams alternated wins up and down the lineup, with Oregon getting a 1-up victory from Jack Dukeminier in the leadoff (No. 5) spot and a 2-1 win at No. 3 from Andrew Vijarro.
Fourth-seeded Washington countered with 2-1 decisions from Darren Wallace at No. 4 and Chris Williams at No. 2. Williams was flawless in his 17 holes, notching five birdies and no bogeys.
But it all came down to each team’s best playing at their best. Wong’s best was just a touch better than Taylor.
“That was PGA-level golf being played out there,” said Martin, a former PGA Tour member. “I was glad that Eugene had the putter at the end.”
The Ducks take on Oklahoma State, a 4-1 winner over Stanford, in Saturday morning’s semifinals.