UW Golf Getting It Done With Northwest Flair

May 28, 2010

SEATTLE -- Perhaps the most tiresome question that Washington men's golf coach Matt Thurmond gets asked is 'How does your program succeed despite the rain?' Inevitably, every press gathering the question is raised and every time he's asked, Thurmond politely smiles and delivers a similarily-themed answer.

'It takes a little strength to get out there sometimes, but we do,' says Thurmond. 'It takes a special kind of player to compete under tough conditions and we like having those type of golfers in our program.'

What Thurmond has built is a program that is centered around Northwest talent with golfers accoustomed to the less than ideal year-round golf conditions. The five-man roster that he used at the NCAA West Regional consisted of three players that call British Columbia home and one each from Washington and Idaho. He will use that same lineup of Nick Taylor (Abbottsford, B.C.), Richard Lee (Bellevue, Wash.), Darren Wallace (Langley, B.C.), Charlie Hughes (Maple Ridge, B.C.) and Chris Williams (Moscow, Idaho) at the NCAA Championships at The Honors Course in Tennessee starting June 1.

Last week's NCAA West Regional is a perfect case in point to succeeding despite the weather. Bremerton's Gold Mountain had unseasonably cold weather and plenty of rain to dampen the spirits, but Washington did not let that effect them on the golf course. They turned the drastic conditions heavily into their favor combining to shoot a 20-under par, while USC and Illnois were the next closest teams at +9.

'May is usually a pretty good month, so this is uncommon,' said the senior Taylor, winner of the 2010 Ben Hogan Award. 'We've grown up in this stuff so it doesn't bother us. We embrace it and we're out there working hard. It can be slightly annoying, but we work through it.'

Taylor may be the poster boy of dispelling the myth that weather can stunt a player's career and ability to improve as a golfer in the Northwest. He was named college golfer of the year on Monday and has earned two All-American honors and hopes to add a third after next week's NCAA Championship. He is near the top of nearly every Husky individual record list and is the top amateur golfer in the world right now.

Washington's team success has been strong since Thurmond took over the program nine seasons ago. He has led them to the NCAA Championships in eight of those years and even had the NCAA Individual Medalist James Lepp -- another product of British Columbia -- in 2005.

The results have long shown that there is no correlation between bad weather and bad golf. And it's not just Washington dispelling the weather myth. The University of Oregon, five hours south of Seattle, is the No. 1 overall seed at the NCAA Championships.

'Like Matt always says, anyone can go play in the sun,' says Taylor. 'If you're playing in the rain you're getting tougher and you're going to beat those guys playing in the 80-degree heat year round when the weather gets tough on the golf course.'

The Huskies are fine with the disbelief shown by outsiders at the golf team's success. They have been proving for nearly a decade that if you're expecting a bunch of depressed, pale-skinned golfers to take the links when you face Washington, you're sadly mistaken and the Huskies may stick it to you on the golf course.

Whether the sun is shining or not, depends on Mother Nature.

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