Taylor Wins Hilo
Feb. 6, 2009
KOHALA COAST, HAWAI'I -- Sometimes par is good enough to win.
University of Washington junior Nick Taylor taught the 17-team field at the Hawai'i-Hilo Invitational the advantages of staying even on Friday, as he took home medalist honors by shooting a 6-under 210 (69-71-70) during the three rounds at the Mauna Lani North Golf Course. On the 17th and 18th holes Friday -- perhaps the two most difficult of the tournament -- Nick made a pair of pars to seal the victory while those around him were fighting to score bogeys.
Taylor was trailing by a stroke to teammate Richard Lee and USC's Jamie Lovemark heading into the 17th hole. His first shot landed within 10 feet of a pin guarded by a bunker in the front and a steep hill on the back.
'I thought I hit it a little short, but it was a tough pin and I came closer than I thought,' Taylor said. 'I was able to two-putt and make par.'
Lovemark's first shot flew over the green, causing him to chip for a chance at par. A chip and two putts later, earned Lovemark a double bogie and Taylor a tenative lead. But all the All-American needed was to card another par to prove himself the best. Playing in the final group one hole behind Taylor, Lee suffered an uncharacteristic breakdown with three holes to play, as he posted a bogie on all. A tpyically strong player with a reliable shortgame, Lee found himself a victim to unruly course conditions in the closing fifth of the final round.
'If you par both of those holes, you're either doing something right, or you're getting lucky somewhere,' Taylor said, referring to the difficult pin placement at holes 17 and 18.
At one point on the back nine Friday, the No. 11 Huskies had their top three players -- Taylor, Lee and Killmer -- at 2-under for the day, and just two strokes apart, providing each a chance at the top spot. Taylor was the only one who managed to maintain that score, as Killmer posted a double bogie on his final hole of the tournament. Killmer (71-70-71) finished in a four-way tie for third place, with Lee (68-70-74) at 212. Until his double-bogey, Lovemark was 5-under on the day.
'This was the story of Nick playing solid and consistent, while a few other guys fell off,' Thurmond said. 'Unfortunately Richard and (Chris) Killmer were also part of that story.'
Winds were swirling during the first two days at Muana Lana. On Friday, however, the winds calmed down, but that didn't make the course conditions much easier, as the placement of the pins made birdies an even more precious commodity. Taylor said that he was surprised to see his name atop the leaderboard at the end of play on Friday.
'I thought Richard was playing well and I needed to do more to catch up to him,' Taylor said. 'In a sense, it kind of just fell into my lap.'
Friday's medalists honor is the second in Taylor's collegiate career, and the second in as many tournaments. Taylor won the CordeValle Collegiate in the fall, earning him Pac-10 Player of the Month honors for November. He is the first Husky to win back-to-back tournaments since Gordie Scutt accomplished that feat in 2002. As a team, the Huskies finished runner-up to USC at the Hilo Invitational. The Dawgs led after the first day, posting a tournament-best team round of 281, but could not hold onto the lead as they finished 2-under (281-292-289 862). USC finished with a combined score of 851, or 13-under.
'It was an awesome tournament for the team,' Thurmond said. 'Obviously you always want to win, but we came out here and played well. It's a good start.'
Thurmond was glowing about the progress that Taylor has shown over the past two years, as he was runner-up in the 2008 NCAA Championship and 2008 World Amateur Championship. Now, Thurmond said, Taylor is learning how to hang around the top and win. And today's victory gave credence to such claims, as Taylor fought off a significant field of players, dealing with, at times, unhospitable weather, and trying course conditions.
'The best player usually wins in a golf tournament,' he said. 'Guys that fail to win are guys that aren't comfortable being there or try to do something spectacular in the end to win. There was a while there when Nick was getting close (to victory), but just couldn't pull it out. Now he's finding ways to win in the end.'
Taylor was one of just three players at the tournament to shoot under par on each of the three days. The other two being Killmer and USC's Steve Ziegler. The Huskies had at least two players in the top 10 after each day, which is especially impressive, considering the invitational showcased six top-25 teams.
'It's awesome to see the kind of finishers we have,' Taylor said about his teammates. 'I can't remember the last time we've been able to have three guys place in the top three.'
But Taylor isn't the only one streaking for the Huskies. Lee's third-place effort was his fifth consecutive top-10 finish. In just his first year as a Husky, Lee quickly has become one of the Dawgs' most reliable players. Beyond those top three for UW, however, the Huskies struggled to come up with a consistent fourth scorer. Sophomore Tze Huang Choo and freshman Jens Bracht fought the tough conditions admirably at times, as they both posted numbers just above par, but not with as much regularity as needed to win the team event.
The Huskies travel to Westlake, Calif. for the USC Collegiate in their next tournament, which is scheduled for Feb. 23. Live scoring will be available on Golfstat.com.
1. USC 285-284-282 851
2. Washington 281-292-289 862
3. TCU 291-297-282 870
4. Stanford 294-291-287 872
5. Oregon 287-299-287 872
6. Colorado 295-289-290 874
7. Arizona State 296-291-288 875
8. Texas Tech 291-294-291 876
9. Georgia Tech 301-295-283 879
10. Florida State 311-293-286 890
10. Oklahoma 294-303-293 890
12. UC Davis 299-294-299 892
13. Hawai'i-Hilo 300-310-300 910
14. Fresno State 308-315-300 923
15. Kansas 309-314-301 924
16. San Francisco 312-316-300 928
17. Hawai'i 314-328-305 947