Buzz surrounds Huskies at Pac-10s

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Excuse Washington men’s coach Matt Thurmond for being a little apprehensive. This hasn’t exactly been a run-of-the-mill week for his Huskies.

“The mood’s really good,” Thurmond said. “So good, I’m almost worried.”

The Huskies are coming off a 15-shot victory April 19 at the U.S. Intercollegiate in Palo Alto, Calif., their fourth title of the year, topping a fantastic field and breaking school records for single-round score and 54-hole score. If that wasn’t enough, Washington, No. 5 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, hosts the Pac-10 Championship on April 27-29 at Seattle Golf Club, just 15 miles from the UW campus. More than 40 local media members showed up at the team’s media day on Monday, and the team has been featured all week on local news and radio stations.

“I’ve gotten way, way too many e-mails saying, ‘Wow, you guys should be able to dominate the Pac-10,’ ” Thurmond said. “What we did at Stanford, as cool as it is, it has nothing to do with what’s going to happen at the Pac-10.”

Getting his squad ready for the conference championship might be tougher than it sounds. Motivating a team often is easier after a poor performance, Thurmond says, because players’ attention to detail is much higher. That’s why he hasn’t mentioned last week’s performance to his players at practice this week as they prepare for the Pac-10.

Still, it’s tough not to consider the Huskies the favorite.

“Some people might think we have pressure, but I think we have an advantage because we’re playing well,” junior Nick Taylor said.

He should know. Taylor closed with a career-low 63 at the U.S. Intercollegiate to top teammate Darren Wallace by a shot to win the individual title, his fourth of the season. Sophomore Tze Huang Choo finished third and was 10 under through two rounds, setting the school mark for 36-hole score. What’s more, eight Pac-10 teams were in the field at Stanford, giving the Huskies a leg up heading into the conference tournament.

Last year, Washington finished seventh at the Pac-10 Championship, 24 shots behind Arizona State and USC, who finished tied after 72 holes. The Sun Devils went on to win a playoff. The Huskies also finished seventh at the NCAA Championship.

Thurmond says he expects more than 1,000 spectators and nearly 100 volunteers per day at Seattle Golf Club next week. It’s the most support Taylor says he has seen in three years at UW. Even his high school golf coach from Abbotsford, British Columbia, outside Vancouver is coming down to watch.

“It’s been pretty awesome,” Taylor said. “If we play well, it will be something all of us will remember for the rest of our lives.”

• • •

Big 12 Championship Preview

Kansas State junior Mitchell Gregson was paging through the K-State Collegian last week in the student union and read something that floored him.

The Kansas State men’s golf team has won four events in a season for the first time in 23 years.

“I dropped my jaw at that,” Gregson said. “It was surprising.”

Gregson’s reaction is exactly how coach Tim Norris would have wanted it.

As the 55th-ranked Wildcats head into the Big 12 Championship April 27 at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan., Norris is leading the team’s low-key approach.

“I’m a less-is-more kind of guy,” Norris said.

Don’t expect any rah-rah speeches, bulletin board material or extra hours of preparation heading into the conference championship. The Wildcats are content to let top-ranked Oklahoma State, No. 12 Texas A&M, No. 15 Texas Tech and No. 22 Texas worry about that. The Wildcats like the position they’re in.

“It’s kind of neat having an underdog role,” Gregson said. “A lot of the bigger teams don’t know much about us. Hopefully we can make a name for ourselves in the upcoming weeks.”

Kansas State captured its fourth title of the season April 14 at the Missouri Tiger Intercollegiate. It’s a nice feather in the Wildcats’ cap heading into the conference championship. Last year, the Wildcats finished eighth at the Big 12 tournament and earned an at-large bid to the West Regional, where they finished 18th and did not advance to the NCAA Championship.

In fact, Kansas State has never been to the Big Dance. Senior Robert Streb went as an individual in 2006, and would like to take the entire team with him this year.

“We know we’re pretty good and we can compete with the good teams,” Streb said.

• • •

Southland Championship Preview

Texas-Arlington coach Jay Rees is trying to keep his emotions in check before the Southland Conference Championship, but gosh darn it, he’s ready to go.

“I’m trying to stay calm and patient,” Rees said. “But I’m excited. I know for the first time in a long time that we have equal talent to Lamar.”

Twenty-two times Lamar, No. 35 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, has won the conference title, and the Cardinals will be favored to do so again this year when the tournament starts April 27 at Comanche Trace Golf Course in Kerrville, Texas.

But don’t mess with Texas . . . Arlington.

“When we’ve been on this year, we’ve been really special,” Rees said. “Everyone knows what’s at stake.”

In 2005, Texas-Arlington won the Southland title, defeating Lamar by 28 shots. But that was the last time Rees says his team could stack up to the Cardinals. Lamar has won the conference title each year since, and the Cardinals finished third at the NCAA finals in 2007. At last year’s Southland Championship, the Mavericks finished a disappointing sixth, 31 shots behind Lamar.

But now the tables have turned. Arlington has been impressive this year, winning once and finishing runner-up three times. Junior Bobby Massa has had an All-America-type year, winning the Border Olympics in March and shooting 62 in the final round at the Turtle Bay Intercollegiate in November to finish third.

The Mavericks have been to a regional eight times in the last 10 years, and likely will receive an at-large bid again this year. Still, Rees wants a conference title.

“If we win this championship,” Rees said, “this will be the best team I’ve ever had.”

• • •

Ivy League Women’s Preview

Princeton seniors Susannah Aboff and Marlowe Boukis were so excited about the Ivy League Championship this weekend, they did something wild and crazy for most college students: They wrote their senior theses early.

“Hey, this is like the Super Bowl for us,” Princeton coach Amy Bond said.

Not that Ivy League students are your average college kids, but you get the point. (Boukis’ thesis on “pivotal deterrence” analyzed peacetime relations in Asia as it relates to intentional security in a unipolar world.)

While all seven Ivy teams will be at Atlantic City Country Club in Northfield, N.J., on April 24 as the conference event kicks off, most eyes will be on two squads: Harvard and Princeton.

Prior to last weekend, the Crimson had won eight events in a row dating back to last year, including a victory over the Tigers at their own Princeton Invitational in September. But the streak snapped April 18 at the Roar-EE Invitational, as Princeton topped Harvard by six shots for the victory.

The friendly rivalry will be ramped up even more this weekend, when the winner will advance to a NCAA regional; everyone else’s season will end.

“The regular season is important, but we know this is our biggest week,” Harvard coach Kevin Rhodes said. “To finally have it here, we’re looking forward to seeing what we’ve got.”

Harvard won its first league title last year, and Princeton’s Aboff earned medalist honors.

• • •

Five questions with LSU sophomores John Peterson and Megan McChrystal

1) Where’s the first place you take someone who has never visited LSU?

Peterson: “I would sit them right behind the Golden Girls at football game. They’re a dance group we have here. They’re all blonde, they’re all gorgeous and they’re all tan. I’m pretty sure they’d commit right after they see that. There’s nowhere better to be in Tigers Stadium than right behind the Golden Girls.”

McChrystal: “I’d definitely take them to a football game. It’s just amazing to have 92,000 fans packed into the stadium on a Saturday night. It gives you goose bumps.”

2) What has been your favorite road trip this year?

Peterson: “The John Hayt. We won, and we got to play that three-hole challenge at TPC Sawgrass. That was really fun. We were yelling and screaming and having a good time. You could never do that if you just went out there on a normal day. I hit into the water on No. 17. Andrew Loupe, my teammate, lipped out for hole-in-one.”

McChrystal: “I enjoyed our trip to Parrish, Fla., by Tampa (for the Central District Invitational). We stayed with host families. It was a good spring season opener for us. I’m from Florida, so my dad came. I enjoy being back in Florida. Plus, we all played really well in the tournament.”

3) What’s been your favorite class this semester?

Peterson: “I’m pretty terrible in class (laughs). My consumer health class would have to be my favorite. We’ve learned how to eat better without spending a lot of money. It’s kind of for poor college students.”

McChrystal: “I’m not crazy about any of them. I get to choose from econ, bio, ISDS (information systems and decision sciences) or English. I’d have to say econ has been the most interesting. The class has taken a different look at the market and the economy that I really had not paid attention to before.”

4) Since you’ve been at LSU, what has been your best non-golf highlight?

Peterson: “My first deer I shot with a bow. It was about as big as the neighbor’s dog, but it was still pretty cool. It was last September during bow season. It was a really big rush. I was way more nervous over that shot than I was over any putt this year. That is a fact.”

McChrystal: “Last year, my freshman year, our football game vs. Florida. We won in the last 30 seconds of the game. The stadium just went crazy. You couldn’t hear anything. Your ears just hurt. It was the best football game I’ve ever been to. I’ll always remember that. It was the best time I’ve ever had at LSU.”

5) What are you looking forward to most about the summer?

Peterson: “Just hanging out. I’m not playing much golf – maybe three tournaments. I just like to take it easy – do some water skiing, maybe some hog hunting.”

McChrystal: “Going home, having some time off, spending time at the beach, the U.S. Women’s Open qualifier, and going back to the U.S. Women’s Am to do better than I did last year.”

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