Oregon's Casey Martin on the Ducks' success, college golf's evolution, and Tiger's return
Casey Martin was born in Oregon, but it was in Stanford that the golfer first made his name, being selected for the All Pac-10 team three times and earning All-American honors twice as a member of Stanford's powerhouse team in the early 90s that managed to capture the 1994 national championship.
But since 2006, Martin's name has been synonymous with Eugene, Oregon. In 2006, the Eugene native was named head coach of his hometown team. In 2016, he guided the Ducks to their first-ever national championship, and even brought Oregon back to the 2017 national championship match, where they lost to Oklahoma.
Wednesday, as Martin's team prepared for a rematch with Oklahoma in the East Lake Cup, we caught up with the coach to talk Oregon golf, college golf's evolution, and the recently-announced return of his college teammate, Tiger Woods.
As an Oregon native, how does it feel to be coaching in your home state?
"I’ve lived there all my life except my years at Stanford, so it’s home. I know all the people and care about it. It’s more than a job, it’s my community, it’s my people so to speak. I feel a strong connection there and have enjoyed being the coach."
What was your relationship like with the school before you started coaching?
"It was good. I lived there, so I went to all the games and knew all the people in the athletic department and the coaches just by virtue of playing professionally and a lot of those people like golf anyway. I had a strong connection. My family’s been huge Oregon supporters forever."
What was it like to win that 2016 national championship in Eugene?
"That was a dream come true, because it’s my home town and getting to recruit a man from South Eugene (Sulmon Raza) who made the winning putt in front of all his friends and family, that’s a fairytale type of deal."
How has college golf changed since your time as a player at Stanford?
"There’s a lot more support for it, both from club manufacturers and departments. Our budgets are bigger and the tournaments are more sophisticated, obviously this one is on TV. It’s evolving into a bigger sport and it’s been great. Players are better, deeper, the practice facilities are just massively better. Just so different from back in the day. It’s pretty remarkable to see. The last 25 years have been a huge change."
Speaking of your time at Stanford, you were briefly a teammate of Tiger Woods there. What do you think of his recent announcement that he’s returning to the game?
"It’s great news. I’m a huge Tiger fan. Golf is more exciting to me when he’s in it. I hope people don’t put too much pressure on him because he’s been through a lot and he needs time to get it back. But when he tees it up, I’ll be watching every shot."