Q&A: Washington coach Matt Thurmond

Washington coach Matt Thurmond (left) and Nick Taylor at the Isleworth Collegiate Invitational last October.

The guys wearing the purple pants were my preseason pick to win it all, and after talking to Washington coach Matt Thurmond, he confirmed why. These guys never stop working. The Huskies, No. 5 in the latest Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, shot 16-under 268 in the final round April 3 to win the ASU Thunderbird Invitational.

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Washington coach Matt Thurmond (left) and Nick Taylor at the Isleworth Collegiate Invitational last October.

Coach, your team has come close to winning so many tournaments this year, but in the end, you guys typically came up short. What does a victory at the Thunderbird mean to you and your guys?

Yeah, the first three tournaments of the spring I think we lost by a total of five shots, so we were playing pretty well but just not getting the job done. The night before the final round here (Thunderbird) I was thinking we really don’t have a chance to win like Isleworth, we’re just playing for pride here, and ironically, it’s the one tournament we come back and win. I think it will take a little of the sting away from the other tournaments we let slip away. This one was just such a significant comeback to beat a lot of great teams by that many on the final day, and to shoot that low was a really good deal for us.

Now that we determine the NCAA champion via match play, were you or your team concerned when you lost to New Mexico in Round 1 of the Callaway Collegiate Match Play? Do you need to change the game plan somehow?

At the time it didn’t feel great, and it still doesn’t. You have to look at New Mexico, though, and you notice they beat everyone that they played. Then you take a look at it and say they are pretty good and perhaps it wasn’t as big of an upset as it looks. It’s the way the math works in those match play deals. You have five matches needing to win three of them, and it wasn’t a team issue. We had a couple of guys play really well, but it just wasn’t enough. Every time we lost a match we had two guys win pretty easily. That loss didn’t make us worry; if anything, it just makes us hungrier and better, and we’re not having any type of confidence issues as a result.

You can make a case for nine out of the 10 teams in the Pac-10 Conference being national-title contenders. In all your time being involved in college golf, can recall any single conference being that dominant?

In my time, certainly there has never been a conference like with what we have seen in the Pac-10 this year. It’s amazing. You can look at what happened this past weekend and Arizona is leading going into the final round, and they are I think the ninth-ranked team in our conference right now? They’re also a team that is really good and has won this year. It’s amazing. It’s good for our players, it’s fun, it makes everyone better. Some people get frustrated, saying, Man this is really tough. I just think it makes everyone better, and I just hope it’s not a one year thing and that it lasts a long, long time, because this has been a lot of fun.

When you start the season as a top-5 team in the country, with people picking you to win it all, how do you keep the pedal to the medal? How do you try to make the team constantly better and never stay content with where the team is at?

That’s a tough thing that we battle all year. Not for lack of motivation, because I think our guys have worked really hard. This year we have worked as hard as ever with as much purpose as ever, but generally with the same bunch of guys as last year we haven’t necessarily had that hunger, that real attitude, that real swagger with something to prove to people. Even though we haven’t played all that well we still have stayed in the top 5, and I have started to wonder when are we going to crank it up? Maybe this week they finally just got so tired of it and decided to go out and get it. Whether it’s Asher saying we are a thumbs down and saying we can’t win it, or a team in seventh place heading in to the final round – whatever it was, they finally went out with a bit of swagger and did what we hoped they would do all year. It’s tough. Everything we do this year is building up to try and win a Pac-10 and national title.

As the season starts to wind down, what are things you think the Huskies need to work on heading into the postseason?

We take a lot of pride in our wedge play, and frankly our wedge play has been very average. The teams we are playing this year are out-wedging us, and we don’t like that. We will really be practicing our wedge play a lot. It’s an area we have to be great at.

Washington is the best team in the country when it comes to ping pong. Can you give us an update as to who holds the No. 1 ranking in the world of college golfers playing ping pong?

Yeah, Kevin Spooner is still the world’s No. 1 in our ping pong rankings. Although, I have heard some things about this guy from East Tennessee State that has beaten everybody on his team with a paint scraper. We will try to set up some type of exhibition between the two. We haven’t played a lot of ping pong, though, lately. We have been playing some hoops as a team. I think Coach Thurmond falling so far in the power rankings has really hurt the team in ping pong. I need to practice more.

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