Under Par: The Army of One

FishDuck Staff Editorials

2,746 miles from home in Eugene, it’s 9:30 in the morning on the first of three days at the English Turn Golf and Country Club in New Orleans. More importantly, 9:30 means tee-time for the Ducks. After she places her ball down on the first tee she gets into her stance, lines the driver up with the ball, does a little wiggle of the wrist to get loose, takes in a deep breath and exhales.

She puts a thunderous swing on the ball and it lands where it has since the beginning of the season, right in the middle of the fairway. She is Casey Isagawa, freshman phenom for the Ducks women’s golf team.

That deep breath that the Hawaiian native took on that first tee set the tone for yet another remarkable three day performance for Isagawa in New Orleans back on Feb. 26. Isagawa ended the Big Easy Tournament taking second place outright.

However it wasn’t the final day that Isagawa shined, it was actually the second day that she rose above the pack shooting an incredible 65. The low score tied the Oregon school record and broke the Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate tournament record.

The freshman and No. 21 ranked Ducks followed up with yet another eyebrow-raising performance this past week (Mar. 5-6) in San Jose at the Almaden Country Club. On the first day in San Jose, Isagawa began by leading the entire field shooting three under par but ended the day at one over. With her performance in San Jose, Isagawa recorded her 13th round as the UO leader this golf season.

When the sun set that day in San Jose it was no big deal. Isagawa went back to the Ducks hotel room, got a good night sleep, got up the next day and picked right back up where she left off the day before. Isagawa propelled the Ducks with an even par round, finishing the invite at one-over 217 and taking fourth place in the tournament. By the end of the second day, Isagawa recorded her fifth even-par round and has now led the Ducks 14 times (in scoring) in her first seven months as a Ducks golfer.

“Casey’s accomplishments speak for themselves. She’s such a dynamic player with unbelievable focus and the ability to go low. She has accomplished some exceptional things in her junior career, yet we believe she will be an even better collegiate golfer” said Ducks head coach Ria Scott.

However, some of her friends and family back in Hawaii might say that it is unusual that Isagawa chose to compete in golf since the Wailuku resident actually exhibited dancing talent before she showed off her amazing golf skills. Isagawa actually danced hula and Tahitian competitively from the age of 4-10 and did not start playing competitive golf until the age of nine.

Greatness at work.

I guess the Ducks are lucky there isn’t a professional hula or Tahitian dance circuit, because Isagawa says that if she wasn’t a golfer she would probably still be competing in hula and Tahitian dancing back in Hawaii. So it is more than comforting to know that one of the best young female golfers in the country is taking the collegiate golf circuit by storm in a green and yellow Ducks polo.

To this point if you are unfamiliar with just how good Casey Isagawa is at this game, just know that she enjoyed one of Oregon’s greatest fall campaigns, and logged par or better scores in nine of her 12 fall rounds…as brand new true freshman. My hope is that you’re still not convinced she is really one of, if not the most incredible freshman golfer in the country, so that you’ll read the next part.

Overall, she led the team in nine rounds and three of her four tournaments and included a pair of top-three finishes in the Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational (second-tie, 72-71-72) and Stanford Intercollegiate (third, 67-67-80). She also staked an 11th-place effort in her collegiate debut, the Golfweek Conference Challenge (11th, 77-71-77-225).

Have I mentioned she’s only a freshman?

In the fall she was tabbed to the Golf World Midseason All-Freshman Team and was picked after she logged a 72.25 fall scoring average. If you don’t speak golf you probably have no idea what that means. Hopefully this will help. That 72.25 average tops nationally among ALL freshman and 11th overall in collegiate golf on the women’s circuit.

Isagawa stood third among collegiate recruits in the 2011 Junior Golf Scoreboard after she won titles in the Junior PGA Championship, Junior America’s Cup, King Auto Group State Championships, and was the runner-up at the Callaway Junior World Golf Championships.

However, in lieu of all of these miraculous accomplishments for teenager Casey Isagawa so far as a Duck, in her mind the greatest thing in the game of golf that she has participated in took place when she was a senior in high school.

She was invited to, and played on the winning 2010 Ryder Cup team in Gleneagles, Scotland. She was invited after her three-hole playoff win in the Junior PGA Championship.

“She is the first player in Oregon women’s golf history who has played on a Junior Ryder Cup Team” said Coach Scott.

In attempting to learn as much about Casey Isagawa as possible, there is one factor about her that stands out above everything else. She is one driven and passionate individual who lets nothing get in her way. Her favorite saying is: “You should never let your fears become the boundaries of your dreams.”

It is no coincidence that Isawawa holds that saying above anything because she is proof that the saying above is an absolute truth. As only a true freshman she has placed herself atop the Ducks golf roster as an inspiration and an unquestioned leader of the team.

The other thing I learned about Casey Isagawa is that she is so much more than an unbelievable golfer.

There’s a commercial by the NCAA that has the line; “and almost all of us are going pro in something other than sports.” Until doing this story I actually didn’t believe that. I figured every athlete at least tries to go professional before they do something else. While doing my homework on Isagawa I learned that she is proof that the commercial is more of a fact than a plug and plea for athletes to get a full education.

As a student at the University of Oregon Isagawa actually intends on becoming a Radiologist which requires much more than the average four year education. If not yet convinced that she is committed to academics, her favorite place on campus is the Jaqua Academic Center and frequently spends quality time in the facility. This makes Isagawa special because it’s not all about the passion and performance on the golf course; it’s how driven and passionate she is about her responsibilities off the course that makes her a great story.

She is one of the rare athletes that knows and acknowledges that the immense amount of athletic talent she has, could be gone in a second. It seems as though with this second career goal of becoming a Radiologist, she is one of the rare athletes that is prepared for that potential circumstance if it ever comes up.

As you can see from above, Isagawa has won a lot of golf hardware and honors, but the one thing that Isagawa says she values most above anything else is “my life.”  It appears that at such a young age, she shows maturity beyond her years in realizing that she has been given some remarkable talents and she should never take it (her life and golf talent) for granted.

Golf is a sport where it really is up to the individual to succeed in order to help the team succeed. For a golfer their head can be their own worst enemy. However, the Ducks are in good hands with Casey Isagawa as a leader simply because she has a good head on her shoulders. Isagawa is the living example that not all collegiate athletes are “jocks” and the negative stigma that comes with it.

Instead she is the example that is it possible to be the best athlete in a given sport AND have the ability to succeed in the classroom with the intent to go pro in something other than sports. Casey Isagawa is the Army of One. She is the leader, warrior, intelligence, and the athlete with playoff experience.

However, if Isagawa had it her way she’d probably say she’s just one of 24,447 University of Oregon students and she just so happens to also play a sport.

Great golfer, leader, student and role model.

Casey Isagawa, the army of one.

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