Taylor Ready For US Open

June 12, 2008

SAN DIEGO - Nick Taylor may need new slacks next season while playing for the University of Washington golf team.

'Yeah, he'll stand a little taller next year,' Huskies coach Matt Thurmond said, chuckling.

That's because Taylor, a 5-foot-10 sophomore from Abbotsford, British Columbia, is one of only nine amateurs in the 156-man field that is teeing off Thursday morning to begin the 108th U.S. Open in San Diego.

Kyle Stanley, a sophomore at Clemson who is from Gig Harbor, Wash., is also one of six collegians in the nation's most prestigious open tournament.

Josh Taylor, a senior-to-be golfer at UTEP, will be caddying for his younger brother. The bag may as well be purple and gold for his pairing. In a kind bit of scheduling by the USGA, Taylor is teeing off at 10:11 a.m. on the 10th hole of Torrey Pines Golf Course's south course with former Husky Rob Rashell.

Taylor and Rashell are the fourth and fifth golfers from the UW to play in the U.S. Open since 2004. Alex Prugh was in it after his senior season last year. Rashell and Troy Kelly qualified as Washington alumni in 2005. And four years ago Brock Mackenzie made it as a senior.

'It's cool to see your players do that,' said Thurmond, before he left for San Diego to watch Taylor's practice round Wednesday - from behind the ropes, for a change.

NCAA rules prohibit college coaches from caddying for their current players during summer events. So instead of advising Taylor on the distance to holes, club selection and other strategy as he does during the season, Thurmond - UW's coach since 2001 - will be testing his self-control by simply watching like the rest of the large galleries.

Taylor will be sharing locker room space and time on the practice green with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and more of the world's best golfers, on one of nation's renowned courses overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the La Jolla section of San Diego.

Yet Thurmond says it's no big whoop to Taylor. He has already won the 2007 Canadian Amateur tournament. Heck, he was even inducted into Abbotsford's sports hall of fame in 2006.

'He has a spot in the Canadian Open,' a PGA tour event this summer for which he qualified by winning Canada's amateur title, Thurmond said. 'That's what he's been talking about. And he's going to play in the U.S. Amateur later this year, too.

'Nick wasn't even all Pac-10 this year. When he doesn't play well, he's a really average player. He's not real big. He doesn't hit the ball real long. He can have problems with his putting.

'But when he's on, like he is now, putting better, he's great.'

Taylor has been practicing about 600 putts a day this year to improve that weak spot in his game. It paid off when he tied for runner-up at the NCAA championships two weeks ago, becoming the third UW golfer to finish second or higher at the national championships. Then he won a U.S. Open sectional qualifier in Creswell, Ore. This week, Taylor was named as an honorable mention to the PING All-America team.

Then again Thursday and Friday at Torrey Pines, on one of golf's grandest stages, may be another matter. So, no, Thurmond doesn't think he'll need to humble Taylor for his junior season with the Huskies.

'We'll see how it goes. The course might knock him down a bit,' Thurmond said. 'It does that to a lot of people.'

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