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Future for St. Mary's star Hammericksen is just Ducky

If Baylee Hammericksen has looked especially at ease as of late, it’s for good reason.

A giant weight was lifted off the St. Mary’s High senior’s shoulders in June but she has kept it kind of quiet in the months since, focusing instead on the task at hand as she has ventured from one golf tournament to another in an effort to make up for lost time this spring when her junior season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 18-year-old Hammericksen, it turns out, is bound for the University of Oregon and it’s women’s golf team. She gave her verbal commitment in June and expects to put her penmanship practice to good work in November during the official signing period.

“It’s not just the fact that I’m going to a Division I Pac-12 school, because that’s awesome,” said Hammericksen, “but Oregon specifically. I just knew from the very beginning that’s where I belong and I’m just so happy that it was able to work out and I’ll be able to play under such amazing coaches and with such amazing teammates as well.”

Hammericksen was set to compete for her third straight Class 4A/3A/2A/1A individual crown when everything got derailed in March by the coronavirus. Only one girl, regardless of classification, has claimed state four times since championships began in 1971 and that was Summit’s Madison Odiome, whose last title came in 2015.

It’s not a stretch to say Hammericksen had the tools to match that feat, especially since she set the 4A/3A/2A/1A state record for lowest two-day score in 2019 when she had a 5-under 139.

“Baylee’s the real deal,” said St. Mary’s girls golf coach Kevin Klabunde. “She’s got all facets of the game, and the thing I love about her is she loves to work at it.”

When it came time to get more involved in her own recruiting process, Hammericksen found herself optimistic but also realistic about her chances of catching the eye of top Division I programs in such an unusual time for recruiting.

“When I first sent the email to the University of Oregon, it was one of those schools that I actually didn’t even think was going to email back because I know they have a pretty diverse, international team,” said Hammericksen. “But I thought, you know what, they’re right in my backyard, let’s just give it a shot.”

Turns out, that was a great idea.

“They were actually the first to respond,” she said, still stunned by the reaction. “They were like, oh my gosh, we’re so excited you contacted us, please come up for a visit and all this stuff.”

That visit to Eugene came last November and, even though she chose to delay her verbal commitment for a few months, the attraction to the Ducks’ program was instant.

“I was just so amazed, their facilities are incredible,” said Hammericksen. “I think I knew right then that’s where I wanted to go. I ended up waiting it out but I think I always knew right after that visit that’s where I wanted to be.”

“I did not think I would fall in love with it the way I did,” she added, “but here we are.”

That feeling has only grown stronger the more interactions she has had with Oregon head coach Derek Radley and assistant coach Monica Vaughn.

“Coach D and coach Mo are the absolute nicest, most amazing people,” said Hammericksen. “Even just texting with them, I leave the conversation with a smile and feeling like this is so awesome and so positive and such good energy.”

Hammericksen has taken that energy and put it to good use on the course this summer. She placed second in the Oregon Golf Association Stroke Play and Public Links championships and, more recently, won the Rogue Valley Stroke Play Championships and the Southern Oregon Golf Championships.

Her 2-and-1 match-play win Monday came at the expense of former Oregon golfer and three-time SOGC champion Johnna Nealy of Grants Pass.

“This was the first time I was able to play with her, and it was awesome,” said Hammericksen. “She is such a good player. It’s obvious when you watch her step up to the tee that she’s a different level, so being able to keep up with that was really inspiring for me as a younger, developing player.”

Hammericksen admitted that being able to secure her future earlier in the summer has made it immensely easier to keep a proper train of thought while competing.

“It’s been really freeing, especially in this weird time right now with COVID-19 and how that’s impacting college recruiting and how they’re not even allowed to really recruit you,” she said. “A lot of girls who I actually play with were a little stressed this summer, thinking, gosh, we’ve got to play in all these tournaments and show off for the coaches.”

“For me it’s like, oh, I already found where I belong, I already found my home,” added Hammericksen, “and that’s been so great. I was able to go out and not feel like I have such a heavy burden that I need to shoot this certain score. I was just able to go out and play my game without any thoughts about impressing someone else.”

As for her future beyond the Rogue Valley and St. Mary’s High, Klabunde said the sky’s the limit for someone like Hammericksen, who has a definite passion for the game of golf.

“Her love for the game is what really stands out,” said Klabunde. “She loves to be out here practicing, and it’s great that she’s had her sister Riley out there with her to play. Her dedication to her craft is incredible.”

“She’ll do fine at the college level,” he added. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see her really playing in the top spots for the U of O women for four years. I’m ecstatic. It’s great to have her committed to the Ducks.”

Have a story idea? Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry