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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Snow kidding, Clark, Oregon sweep to titles in Pac-12 Championship

   You have to think that when college players on the West Coast check in on their East Coast brethren during the spring, they get a kick out of seeing guys in ski caps and layers of cold-weather golf gear battling the always unpredictable elements of March and April in the eastern half of the country.
   But it was a reversal of fortune for last weekend’s Pac-12 Championship which was reduced from 72 holes to 54 holes by, get this, snow. Boulder Country Club hadn’t hosted a conference championship since the 1972 Big 8 Championship and after last weekend it might be another 45 years before it hosts another.
   But hey, what can you do about the weather? Not a thing. The original plan was for 36 holes Friday, 18 Saturday and 18 Sunday. Frost delayed the start of play Friday and when clouds descended on the Rocky Mountains, there was wind, rain and then a little snow. There was a half-hour delay when the snow briefly coated a couple of greens.
   The delays resulted in 12 players not being able to complete their second round. They wouldn’t return to the golf course until Sunday morning because in the wee hours of Saturday morning up to five inches of snow were dumped on the golf course, wiping out any chance of playing Saturday.
   Temperatures returned to the more springlike 60s and 54 holes did get completed. No word if there was any “casual snow” in any of the shady areas. It was a certainly a challenge for what might very well be the most talented golf conference in Division I.
   When the snow was all cleared, reigning national champion Oregon, No. 7 in the latest Golfstat rankings, had survived the conditions better than the rest to claim a three-shot victory over No. 4 Stanford.
   The championship had teams of six players with five scores counting rather than the more typical five-count-four format.
   The Ducks opened with a 4-over-par 354 over the 7,129-yard, par-70 Boulder layout and added an 11-over 361 as conditions deteriorated Friday afternoon. Oregon added a final round of even-par 350 for a 15-over 1,065 total.
   After a pair of 13-over 363s, Stanford came from way back and almost caught Oregon with a final round of 8-under 342 to finish at 18-over 1,068. It was another 14 shots back to No. 1 Southern California and No. 31 Washington, which finished tied for third at 32-over 1,082. The top-ranked Trojans finished with a 1-over 351 while the Huskies posted an 8-over 358. It was another six shots back to No. 58 UCLA in fifth at 38-over 1,088.
   The Ducks also had the individual champion in redshirt senior Wyndham Clark, who transferred to Oregon after spending most of his career at Oklahoma State. Being a Denver native probably helped Clark withstand the changeable conditions better than most. He sandwiched a 2-under 68 in the middle round with a pair of 1-under 69s for a 4-under 206 total and a three-shot victory.
   Oregon’s Ryan Gronland, a redshirt sophomore from Pleasanton, Calif., was one of three players tied for sixth at 4-over 214 after finishing with a 2-under 68. Norman Xiong, a freshman from Canyon Lake, Calif., finished tied for 14th at 6-over 216, like Gronland also breaking par in the final round with a 1-under 69.
   Also for the Ducks, Edwin Yi, a sophomore from Beaumont, Calif., and Sulman Raza, a redshirt senior from Eugene, Ore., finished tied for 26th at 9-over 219. Yi finished up with a 75 while Raza matched par in the final round with a 70. Kevin Geniza, a freshman from Corvallis, Ore., finished tied for 35th at 221 after a final-round 74.
   Two very talented players shared runnerup honors and were the only other two players beside Clark to finish under par.  Southern Cal’s Rico Hoey, a senior from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., and Stanford’s Franklin Huang, a junior from Poway, Calif., tied for second at 1-under 209, three shots behind Clark. Hoey finished with a 1-under 69 while Huang did him one better with a final-round 68.
   A big part of Stanford’s final-round surge was the play of its main man, Maverick McNealy, a senior form Portola Valley, Calif. He might have caught the worst of the conditions while shooting a 7-over 77 in the middle round. He was one of the players who had to return to finish the round Sunday morning.
   But McNealy saved his best for last, a 5-under 65 in the final round that enabled him to finish tied for fourth at 3-over 213. He was joined at that figure by Washington’s Carl Yuan, a sophomore from Orlando, Fla. who finished with a 3-over 73.
   Joining Oregon’s Gronland in the tie for sixth at 4-over 214 were California’s Colin Morikawa, a sophomore from La Canada Flintridge, Calif. and another of the very best players in college golf, and Washington’s Corey Pereira, a senior from Cameron Park, Calif. Morikawa carded a final-round 72 while Pereira matched par in the final round with a 70.
   Many of the Pac-12 teams will continue their seasons in the NCAA regionals. Their destinations will be revealed Thursday at noon on The Golf Channel. Hopefully, wherever they’re headed, the weather is a little better than it was in Boulder.

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