Men's Golf Enjoying Unprecedented Success
May 13, 2010
SEATTLE - Washington Husky men's golf coach Matt Thurmond doesn't necessarily like to brag, but these days it is kind of hard not to. It seems like every week his team is reaching new heights on the golf course and pulling in different awards and honors never bestowed upon Huskies.
Add in that every day Thurmond arrives to work at the UW he gets to step foot into one of the best on-campus golf facilities and it's hard to not buy into the belief that the ninth-year coach is leading a charmed life.
The list of firsts that the Huskies have achieved this season is a long one. With the team's latest Pac-10 Championship in April in which the Dawgs rallied from seven strokes back in the last day of competition, coach Thurmond guided his squad to its first-ever back-to-back conference titles.
Add in Nick Taylor's second-consecutive Co-Pac-10 Golfer of the Year honor (another UW first) and Chris Williams' Co-Freshman of the Year honor (yep, another first) and it is clear Washington is on an unprecedented run.
Thurmond is hoping to add yet another first on May 24 when the Ben Hogan Award winner is announced at Colonial Country Club. His superstar senior Taylor is one of three finalists and perhaps considered the favorite.
Thurmond can't put his finger on ONE reason why his team is reaching unparalleled heights right now. Instead, he contributes the team's success to a multitude of reasons.
'If there's anything we've done right in this program, it is that we realize everything matters,' explained Thurmond. 'There are so many little things. It's not the big things.
'It's taking the extra time in the relationship with your players. It's going to practice every day and being present being there with them. It's connecting the past with the future and learning from the guys who've played before and creating a culture where there's learning and people are able to grow and be inspired together.'
Not only has Thurmond been able to help inspire his team to three Pac-10 titles over the last six years, but he has led the Huskies to seven of their eight best finishes in NCAA Championship history. Since taking over the program in June of 2001, he has pushed the Huskies to five top-10 finishes at the NCAAs. He also coached James Lepp in 2005, the first Husky to ever win the NCAA Individual Championship. Now that Thurmond has guided the Huskies to near the pinnacle, he expects his team to continue its run of excellence.
'I think we have a really cool culture and there is a really high expectation of winning. That's the way I am, that's the way we are, that's the way I was taught to be, that's the way the University of Washington should be,' says Thurmond. 'We should expect to win and be great.'
The lone obstacle that the UW has yet to break through is winning the NCAA team championship. Led by seniors Taylor, Richard Lee and Darren Wallace, and talented freshmen Williams and Charlie Hughes, the team starts its quest for an NCAA Championship next Thursday, May 20th at Bremerton's Gold Mountain Golf Course. This team is perhaps the best squad ever assembled in UW history and definitely Thurmond's deepest. With a No. 1 seed and No. 4 overall ranking by Golfweek.com, this squad is poised to make another run at a top finish.
'Every year you don't win a national championship there will be some disappointment,' said Thurmond. 'At the same time we don't define ourselves or our worth as a program by where we finish in this tournament. There are a lot of really great teams out there.'
For the longest time, Washington wasn't considered to be in the conversation of 'great teams out there.' But, with hard work, stellar recruiting, strong support from the university, community and donors, Thurmond has made Husky golf relevant on the national landscape.
He's even went a step further and shaped the Huskies into arguably one of one of the top five programs in the nation. And that's not bragging. That's the truth.