Husky Golfers Mentally Ready for NCAA Championships
May 26, 2003
Stillwater, OK - During Monday's practice round at the NCAA Division I men's golf championship at Karsten Creek Golf Course, Washington men's golf coach Matt Thurmond was on a search. One of his rituals during his team's practice rounds is to explore the rough and tall grass for golf balls adorned with collegiate logos. He's not looking to recycle them to his team. It's more of a mini trophy hunt.
At the same time, Thurmond is extra diligent at retrieving any errant shots his own players make, ensuring the Huskies leave few souvenirs on the course.
During Monday's morning practice round at Oklahoma State's Karsten Creek Golf Club, finding balls that strayed from the lush zoysia fairways was a challenge. The thick rough, at least four inches high, swollowed the balls at every opportunity.
'It's kind of like the U.S. Open,' offers Husky junior All-American Brock Mackenzie 'You have to hit the fairways and you have to hit the greens and not make too many mistakes.'
For Mackenzie, who led the Huskies with a 71.51 stroke average this season, it is what he likes to see at the NCAA Championship.
'It's just a good test of golf,' he says. 'It's a great place to have a national championship. You'll definitely find out who's playing the best this week and who mentally is able to hang in there for a week.'
This year's NCAA Championships will see 30 teams and six individuals compete for team and individual titles. The tournament starts Tuesday and includes four rounds of 18-hole stroke play. Washington will tee off at 7:18 a.m. CST.
Last season Mackenzies and the Huskies did a good job of 'hanging in there' until the final round of the Championship at Ohio State's Scarlet Course. Mackenzie posted scores of 66 and 69 to lead the tournament at the midpoint. The Huskies were in third place entering the final day of play before shooting 11-over 297 to fall back to 11th overall. Mackenzie was 17th after posting a 5-over score during the final 18 holes.
'That's our goal, to be in contention,' Mackenzie says. 'Be it playing in the last group or the second to last group, as long as we have a shot going into the last round. That's what we're asking for. Hopefully we can carry that on this week. It is going to be a grind out there and we will have to be patient.'
The Huskies enter the NCAAs coming off their best back-to-back rounds of the season. After shooting 20-over and standing in 19th place following the first round of play at the West Regional at Washington National two weeks ago, the Huskies responded with consecutive rounds of 2-under 286 to tie for seventh and earn a fifth straight trip to the NCAAs.
Washington's lineup, which also includes seniors Derk Berg, John Robertson, Conner Robbins and junior Dan Potter, is the same as the group that played at last year's NCAAs. It is also the same five that played at Karsten Creek in October at the PING/Golfweek Preview.
'You love to go into postseason with a veteran group,' Thurmond says. 'All of these guys have played this tournament before, which is unique, and some have played it multiple times. They showed at the regionals how much maturity they have. They stepped up when they really needed to. This is going to be a test of toughness and mental patience and you would hope those are things your upperclassmen have developed.'
Berg echoes his coach's sentiments.
'This course does not just lend itself to good drivers,' says the Duvall native. 'Here you have to hit it well off the tee and be a good iron player and be a good putter. A team with all five players who can mentally stay in it are going to be at an advantage at this thing. You have to hit the ball good, but it is also a mental test. At some point you are going to make some bogies on this course.'
'Depending on the wind, the weather and the conditions we get, par could be a much different goal.' Thurmond says. 'Instead of firing for a bunch of birdies, like a lot of tournaments, it is going to be much more of a test of will and patience and mental toughness.'
One Husky is already making history at the tournament. Robertson, from Olympia, is playing in his fourth consecutive NCAA Championship. He becomes the first UW player to accomplish that feat.
'It's kind of neat to know that I'm the first one,' he says. 'I look at that as a sign of how far our program has come. It's nice to be the first, but more importantly, it's better to know there are going to be a lot more guys behind me that are also going to do it. That's a sign our program is getting better.'
Just like leaving fewer balls in the rough.