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Field set for NCAA West Regional
Mark May 15-17 on your calendar if youre a Husky, golf enthusiast or just a casual sports fan because the NCAA Mens Golf West Regional hosted by the University of Washington is coming to Gold Mountain Golf Complex in Bremerton, the field of competitors set.
Pitting one-third of the nations top collegiate golfers against each other, the three-day NCAAs will bring world-class golf to Kitsap County.
Im really excited about the field weve got...(it has) huge names, huge programs (and is) extremely complete, seven-year UW mens golf coach Matt Thurmond said Tuesday, describing the 27 teams and six individuals, totaling 141 golfers, who will be in action beginning Thursday.
Drawing the No. 21-seed, the Huskies will join the University of Kentucky (No. 19) and the University of Wisconsin (No. 20) for a 7 a.m. tee time on the 10th hole, teeing off for the first of three 18-hole rounds.
Theyll be wide-eyed and nervous, anxious and excited, Thurmond said of the five players four of whom will make their NCAA regional debut representing the Purple and Gold. Its going to be a great test of golf.
Making its 13th consecutive NCAA regional appearance, UW will bring senior Zach Bixler and the four newcomers Nick Taylor, Darren Wallace, John Wise and Tze Huang Choo to Gold Mountain, looking to finish in the top 10 and advance to the NCAA championships, scheduled for May 28-31 in West Lafayette, Ind.
Were certainly shooting for advancing, Thurmond said, his team looking to get back to the championships after missing out last year for the first time in eight seasons.
Playing close to home and on a course theyre familiar with, the Huskies should have a slight advantage over the rest of the field.
Were familiar with the course and comfortable with it, Thurman said.
UW finished runner-up to Oregon State at the Husky Invite at Gold Mountain last October, the teams most recent tournament action on the course.
Widely known in the golf world as a tough-yet-fair course, Thurmond called Gold Mountain US Open-caliber and predicted the courses fast greens will result in high scores, especially for teams not accustomed to putting on quick surfaces.
Teams from the Southeast dont play greens these fast very often, he said, referring to squads like No. 3-seed Florida State and No. 5-seed Clemson, both expected to contend for the 2008 national title. At Gold Mountain, I expect the scores to be high.
No. 1 USC, No. 2 UCLA and defending champions No. 4 Stanford round out the fields top five teams.
While the field of teams is strong top to bottom, individual competition will be ripe too as six golfers whose teams did not qualify for a regional bid will square off, the top two advancing to nationals.
The depth of the individual field is very strong, Thurmond said.
Ranked No. 13 in the Golfweek Sagarin Performance Index Top 50 and winner of five consecutive events, Boise States Troy Merrit the 2008 WAC Player of the Year appears the favorite to win the individual competition.
Hes not just winning, hes winning by a lot, Thurmond said of Merritt, a Division II transfer.
With Gold Mountain playing host, this years regional competition also brings two local golfers Gig Harbors Kyle Stanley and Tacomas Andrew Putnam back to their old stomping grounds.
Stanley, a sophomore at Clemson and last years ACC Player of the Year, finished third in the 2007 East Regional, while Putnam, a freshman at Pepperdine, earned 2008 West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year honors. Both figure to play a key role on their respective teams success.
Admission to the event is free and Scott Alexander, Gold Mountain director of golf, hopes to see a nice spectator turnout.
Thats one of our goals, he said, to get people out here.
An autographed football by UW football coach Tyrone Willingham, tickets to the Oct. 18 UW-Oregon State football game, a set of golf clubs and other prizes will be available during daily drawing giveaways.