2002 Men's Golf Outlook
Jan. 25, 2002
The Washington men's golf team heads into the spring portion of its 2001-2002 schedule on a roll.
The Huskies won three tournaments last fall, finished second in another, blew apart the school record book and find themselves ranked 11th in the Precept Golf Coaches Association of America spring preseason poll.
Not a bad start for first-year coach Matt Thurmond, one of the youngest Division I coaches in the country, and his Husky squad that includes just one senior on the roster.
'I felt like last year we could have played a lot better, but we were still learning a lot of things,' says Thurmond, who was an assistant for head coach O.D. Vincent in 2001. 'I thought we were on the verge of a lot of success.'
Thurmond did not have to wait for Washington's fall season to commence to view his player's progress. The performances of several Huskies, during summer amateur events, served as a precursor to UW's fabulous fall.
Sophomore Brock Mackenzie won the Washington State Men's Amateur championship and then finished second to Texas' Jason Hartwick at the Sahalee Players Championship. Mackenzie and teammates Corey Prugh and John Robertson claimed the top three spots at Washington's U.S. Amateur Qualifier and then finished 12th in the qualifying round at the U.S. Amateur.
Prugh won the Pacific Coast Amateur Championship and won the Washington U.S. Amateur qualifier. Robertson, who was 25th at the Western Amateur, also advanced past the qualifying round at the U.S. Amateur. Sophomore Dan Potter reached the finals of the Idaho State Amateur that was postponed due to weather.
'There is no question that the play last summer really helped our program,' Thurmond says. ' I was a little worried that our guys had so much momentum from their tournaments in the summer, that we would have a tough time keeping that going. I knew we would do well in the fall if they just kept doing what they were doing.'
Thurmond credits the player's strong commitment to improve their individual games as being the most important part of Washington's success story during the opening portion of the season.
'At our first meeting last fall, we set our focus on just getting better and everyone becoming a better golfer,' says the former BYU standout. 'We felt if we all did that, and concentrated on just being better golfers then we would win many, many tournaments. It would not be how many tournaments, but by how many strokes. Everyone took that to heart and the winning has come.'
During the fall Washington won its own Husky Invitational for the first time and also picked up tournament victories at The Nelson Invitational at Stanford and The Prestige at Palm Desert. Senior Gordy Scutt claimed medalist honors at the first two events of the year and Mackenzie, after finishing second at The Nelson, claimed first at The Prestige.
Mackenzie and Scutt both carded 54-hole totals of 203 during the fall to better Washington's school record by five strokes. Robertson turned in the best 18-hole score ever by a Husky when he shot 64 during the final day of competition at The Prestige.
As a team, Washington set a new tournament records for a single round (272) and 54-hole tournament (839), during The Nelson. The Huskies' 280 during the third round at the Taylor Made Red River Classic was a new mark for a third-round score.
'I'm a young coach, so there's some pressure to succeed early,' says the 27-year-old Thurmond. 'To win three tournaments right out of the gate, I have to admit that takes a lot of pressure off of me. We've proven we're doing the right things.'
Mackenzie established himself as UW's top golfer during the fall. He led the Huskies with a 70.11 stroke average and finished in the top 10 of every tournament. He shot under-par during 13 of his 18 rounds in the fall. Mackenzie was UW's top finisher at the last three events of the year, including his first career tournament win at The Prestige. He won that tourney with a 13-under score of 203, tying Scutt's school record. Mackenzie posted a career-best 65 during the second round of The Prestige.
Mackenzie's play during the fall earned him an invitation to The Savane College All-America Golf Classic. He shot even-par 213 to tie for eighth overall in the 24-player field.
Mackenzie's play picked up dramatically near the end of his freshman season. Mackenzie carded a 7-under 209 at Arizona State's Invitational to place sixth overall and followed that up with a ninth-place showing at the Pac-10 Championships. He was 30th overall at the NCAA West Regional and placed 28th at the NCAA Championships, losing a playoff for the final individual spot in the tournament's final two rounds.
'Brock is one of best ball strikers I have ever seen,' Thurmond says. 'He has developed a lot of confidence in his game. He is playing to win now and that's a big difference between this fall and last year. The sky really is the limit for him.
There are a handful of teammates capable of pushing Mackenzie for the team's number-one position.
Robertson heads up that list heading into the spring. He finished the spring with a 70.47 stroke average and was below par during 10 of his 15 rounds. Robertson was a top-10 finisher in four of five fall tournaments after having accomplished that just three times during the first two years of his Husky career. His 208 to end the fall at The Prestige, was a personal collegiate best, including his school-record round of 64. A week later, playing his home course at Indian Summer, Robertson shot a 60.
'In a short period of time, he has improved about as much as anybody I've ever seen,' Thurmond says. 'John is very methodical about his game and how he goes about improving. He has spent a lot of work on his swing and now he thinks he has it where he wants it to be. He's really taken every piece of his game apart and improving it.'
Scutt, the Huskies lone senior, showed off his potential at the beginning of the fall by winning back-to-back tournaments, a first for a Washington golfer. He set the UW tournament record at the Vandal Classic with a 203 (later equaled by Mackenzie), including consecutive rounds of 66s.
Scutt enters his final year as a Husky with 114 competitive rounds of experience. After establishing himself at Washington's top golfer as a sophomore, he struggled last spring and failed to qualify for the team's postseason appearances. He finished the year with a stroke average at 76.4, but improved that to 72.13 this fall.
'I was so excited for Gordy last fall,' Thurmond says. 'He didn't really have a great summer and then things just clicked at the begining of the year. He struggled a little at the end of the fall, but he handled it well. He's not discouraged, like he was at the end of last year. He just needs to find his confidence and get comfortable with his game. I think that will happen for him.'
Husky junior Conner Robbins emerged from fall competition with UW's third-best stroke average at 71.53. As a freshman and sophomore, Robbins never finished a tournament under par in 11 attempts. He accomplished that three times during the fall. Robbins best effort came at The Prestige, where he finished at 5-under 211, including a career-best round of 66.
'Conner loves to go out and attack and play strong,' Thurmond says. 'He has found a way to bring his game up, one level at a time. He is the epitome of what I want in a player in terms of his competitive nature. His play last fall had a lot to do with our improved team scoring.'
Another player that Thurmond holds in high regard is Prugh. As a freshman in 2001, he was second on the team in stroke average at 73.14 and was the Huskies top finisher in three events. Prugh capped the season by placing fourth at the Pac-10 Championships with a 9-under score that included back-to-back rounds of 67.
Prugh carded a 209 to start the fall at the Vandal Classic, bettering his previous best 54-hole tournament total by seven strokes.
'Corey is very talented, that, if he lets himself just play, he will be very successful,' Thurmond says. 'What I mean is, Corey has so much confidence in his game, he does not mind taking things to the edge. That's great, but you have to pick your spots. When he is relaxed, and enjoying himself on the course, he is a very tough opponent.'
Ramos tied for first in his first tournament as a freshman, but has struggled at times to post consistent scoring. Potter appeared in only five tournaments last fall, but has worked hard to improve his game to the point he can challenge for a position in the lineup.
'I think Dan is kind of the glue to our team, our chemistry,' Thurmond says. 'He has a ton of talent and is our longest hitter. I feel that any day he is going to have a major breakthrough. He just needs a little bit more confidence on the course.
'Joe is a young player who will continue to progress and get better for us. To go out and tie for first place in her first college tournament is pretty heady. That can put a lot of pressure on you, but at the same time, that shows Joe's abilities.'
Another returning veteran, who was in UW's lineup for the 2000 and 2001 NCAA Championships, is junior Derek Berg. He has played 59 rounds during his career and was the Huskies' number-three finisher at both the NCAA West Regional and NCAA Championships last year. He posted the low round by a UW golfer at the Ping Intercollegiate and the U.S. Intercollegiate.'
'Derek is our 'Mr. October,' he is always there for us at the end,' Thurmond says. 'He is a very hard working and I expect he'll play well for us during the year and then really turn it up toward the end of the season like he has done in the past.'
Washington's only newcomer is freshman Rick Doerr. He did not register any team scoring during fall events.
'Rick is in a good position because there won't be any pressure on him as a freshman,' Thurmond says. 'We want him to continue to work on his game. He can be a real asset in the future. I like his attitude. He is a tough, feisty competitor.'
Thurmond is excited to see if the Huskies can pick up where they left off last fall.
'This are a very motivated group,' he says. 'When we talk about things, they go out and get better at those things. They work at them. I have never seen a team that improves on a daily and weekly basis as much as these guys.
'I don't think anyone will be complacent with a little success in the fall. That provided a good measure of confidence in the team and I think these guys are ready to build on that some more'