Huskies show focus on the task at hand
Lance Ringler and Asher Wildman preview the Ping/Golfweek Invitational.
Richard Lee was on a putting green this past weekend while the University of Washington football team was finishing off its momentous upset of USC. He didn’t miss the action, though.
Lee left the game at halftime, and walked about 100 yards to the golf team’s indoor practice facility to work on his game in preparation for this weekend’s Ping/Golfweek Invitational. Lee watched the end of the football game on the flat-screen TVs that surround the synthetic putting surface.
With the windows open, Lee and his teammates heard the roar when Erik Folk kicked a last-minute field goal to beat the then-No. 3 Trojans, 16-13.
“It was almost like we were there,” head coach Matt Thurmond said.
The extra preparation will come in handy as Lee and the Huskies face their biggest test of the young season at this weekend’s Invitational, though it will be no upset if they win. Expectations are high as Washington, Golfweek’s No. 3 preseason team, gets a rare opportunity to host the nation’s top teams in the Pacific Northwest.
“We know how good we are,” Lee said. “We don’t have to prove we deserve a high ranking. We just have to go out and do what we do.”
The Huskies are one of five preseason top-10 teams in the field, along with No. 2 Oklahoma State, No. 4 Texas A&M, No. 5 Arizona State and No. 9 Alabama. Other top-30 teams include No. 12 LSU, No. 14 TCU, No. 16 USC, No. 23 Colorado State and No. 29 UNLV.
The Invitational won’t be Washington’s most grueling event this year, though. Last week, the Huskies played 54 holes in one day for the Steve Lane Invitational, an annual intrasquad tournament at Tumble Creek Golf Course in Suncadia, Wash.
Nick Taylor shot 1-under 212 to beat freshman Chris Williams by three shots.
Ping/Golfweek Invitational Preview
“It shows us that 36 holes in a day is nothing,” Thurmond said. “I thought it would be a nice rite of passage for our program. It promotes the value of being in good shape and helps develop mental stamina.”
Washington returns every starter from its 2009 Pac-10 Championship team, but will have two freshmen in its Invitational lineup.
Taylor, the No. 1 player in the Golfweek/amateurgolf.com World Amateur Rankings; Lee, a Golfweek preseason second-team All-American; and ’09 Pac-10 individual champion Darren Wallace will be joined by freshmen Williams and Charlie Hughes.
“If people don’t know them, they should,” Thurmond said of his freshmen, neither of whom played an extensive national junior schedule. Williams did finish third at the ’08 Junior World Championship, and he was second in stroke play at this year’s Pacific Northwest Amateur. Hughes, from Canada, finished in the top 10 of stroke play at this year’s U.S. Junior.
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Dangerous Frogs: TCU men’s coach Bill Montgiel said he is “cautiously optimistic” as his team opens its season at the Preview. The Frogs, No. 14 in Golfweek’s preseason rankings, are a team that could make noise this season, many coaches have said .
The Frogs are without last year’s No. 1 player – James Sacheck, who graduated – but that spot could be filled by Travis Woolf, who won the Southwestern Amateur and made match play at the Western Amateur and U.S. Amateur.
“I couldn’t be happier for a guy,” Montgiel said about Woolf’s success. “He’s the kind of guy that goes to bed at 9:30 every night, is the first to the course and the last to leave.”
Woolf will be joined at Gold Mountain by Tom Hoge, who finished T-3 at last year’s NCAA Championship, Scott Roudebush and Swedish freshmen Daniel Jennevret and Pontus Gad.
The Frogs finished strong last season, tying for first at the Mountain West Conference Championship, then finishing T-4 at the NCAA South Central Regional and ninth at the NCAA Championship.
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Course closing: LSU announced Sept. 18 that its home course, The University Club, will undergo a 10-month renovation later this year. The course will be closed around Dec. 1, with a goal of reopening it in September 2010. The course was built in 1998.
Driving areas will be tightened with the addition of fairway bunkers, lakes, trees and native areas. The course will be stretched to 7,500 yards.
“You want them to play a golf course that’s going to challenge their game off the tee,” former LSU All-American David Toms said. “Not just into the greens and second shots, but also around the greens. You want them to be able to show up at other golf courses and be prepared to play at that level.
“I think what happens now is we have corridors so wide here, ... that when they show up at a golf course with a lot of water hazards and a lot of trees, they’re not sure what to think about it and they’re not comfortable. The first thing you want to do is shrink down the driving areas to make them more narrow so that you might not necessarily hit driver every hole.”
Said head men’s coach Chuck Winstead, “It’s the right step and the logical step for the golf programs. This golf course, when it is complete, will allow us to recruit the elite, but it will also give those elite players a place where they can play on a daily basis that will test all aspects of their game.”
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Watch this, guys: Three Division I coaches are teeing it up this week at the USGA State Team Championship. San Diego head coach Tim Mickelson, Mississippi State head coach Clay Homan and Oklahoma State associate head coach Alan Bratton are competing through Friday at The Country Club of St. Albans in St. Louis.
This is the third consecutive State Team for Homan, winner of the 1994 and 2005 Mississippi Amateurs and ’07 Mississippi Mid-Amateur. Bratton, the ’06 Oklahoma Amateur champ, was medalist at the ’07 State Team event, shooting 9-under 207.
Mickelson finished T-8 at this year’s Porter Cup and was runner-up in stroke play at the ’08 U.S. Mid-Amateur.
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Old hat for Garza, not for Owls: Wichita State senior Dustin Garza carried his winning ways into the 2009-10 season, opening with a victory at the UTA/Waterchase Invitational. He shot 8-under 208 (68-70-70) for a two-stroke victory over Rice’s Michael Buttacavoli. Garza won four times last year and was a third-team All-American.
Rice won the team competition by two shots but isn’t quite as accustomed to victory. It was the Owls’ first team title in 11 years. Current head coach Drew Scott was a fifth-year senior when Rice won the ’98 Sacramento State Invitational.
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A look ahead
What: The Wolverine at Radrick Farms
Where: Radrick Farms Golf Club, Ann Arbor, Mich.
When: Sept. 26-27
Why it’s important: Michigan’s run to the semifinals was one of the surprise stories of last season’s NCAA Championship. Can the Wolverines keep it up? Their home event will be a good time to find out. Arkansas, No. 13 in Golfweek’s preseason rankings, is the top team in the field, and will be joined by Baylor, Purdue, Louisville, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
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Where: Gold Mountain Golf Complex (Olympic), Bremerton, Wash.
When: Sept. 27-28
Why it’s important: Location, location, location. No, it’s not at the site of this season’s NCAA Championship (The Honors Course in Tennessee), but Gold Mountain will provide a good test. If Washington, No. 3 in Golfweek’s preseason rankings, is as good as advertised, it should contend in its home state. Other top teams will see how their games hold up in a different climate as they make a rare appearance in the Pacific Northwest.