East Lake Cup: Meet Oregon sophomore Norman Xiong, college golf's next big thing
Norman Xiong has experienced so much success in such a short time with Oregon that when he doesn’t have it, it’s a bit disorienting.
Xiong won the 2017 Phil Mickelson Outstanding Freshman of the Year award in June, helped pilot the Ducks to their first Pac-12 championship since 1959, and went on to win the Western Amateur in 22 holes.
This fall, Xiong’s already pocketed two wins, opening the season with a Rod Meyers Invitational victory and then following that up with a first-place finish at the Nike Collegiate Invitational.
Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner said he thinks Xiong is college golf’s next big thing.
Oh, and he’s 19 years old. After graduating high school early to join Oregon this past January, Xiong surpassed any and all expectations.
Which is why, after a T-6th finish on Monday and a 6&4 victory in match play Tuesday at the East Lake Cup, Xiong’s loss to Oklahoma’s Blaine Hale Wednesday was surprising.
But even in defeat, Xiong was impressive beyond his years.
“I like everything about this course, honestly,” Xiong said Wednesday. “The greens roll true and they’re tough. The fairways are narrow, and if you miss them at all you’re in deep trouble. It’s definitely a demanding course, but it’s a very fair course. If you’re playing well, you’re going to shoot a good score.”
Last season, when the Ducks finished runner-up to NCAA champions Oklahoma, Xiong finished with seven Top 10 finishes. But he said this week, as he’s improved his game even more, he could’ve been even better.
“Last year was definitely a tough transition for me, only being 18 years old,” Xiong said. “It was a different environment, with new people, new situations, everything was new. So it definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone. I learned a lot from it, and it prepared me for this summer and fall.”
With time on his side this summer, Xiong said he didn’t work on anything particular in his game. Instead, he used the summer to mentally prepare for his first full year of playing on a college team.
“When I played in high school, it was a way different experience,” Xiong said. “It’s different playing by yourself. You have a lot more demands and pressures, I guess, from playing with a team. So I was getting used to that.”
NCAA.com caught up with Xiong for a few more questions after he finished his first East Lake Cup experience.
Which club is shooting the best for you so far this season?
“Oh. [Laughs]. I don’t know. I guess I would say my irons, my approach shots. That’s a huge part of my game, and they’re doing it pretty well for me right now.”
Which pros do you like to watch the most?
“I like to watch Dustin (Johnson). He obviously bombs it, but he also has a really dynamic game. And I really like to watch Justin Thomas as well.”
Is there anyone you like to style your game after?
“I don’t really model my game after anyone in particular, but I’m trying to follow all my friends from college who’ve already graduated. Wyndham (Clark), as well as Maverick [McNealy], he’s a good buddy of mine.”
What do you do with your free time on campus?
“Free time? Not much. I just hang out, eat, and just enjoy it. I’m usually so busy that when I get some time, I kind of like to do nothing.”