SEATTLE — The nation’s top-ranked men’s college golf team is coming to the Great Northwest next week to strut its top-dog ranking during the three-day NCAA Washington National Regional at Aldarra Golf Club in Sammamish, WA.
But another kind of dog, a Washington Husky, showed last week that it has plenty of bark — and perhaps even a bite or two — heading into the next-to-last tournament of the season.
The University of Southern California heads a list of 14 teams competing in the event that will be played May 15-17 on the 6,885-yard, par 71 course. The top five teams from each of the six regional sites and the top individual finisher not on an advancing team will advance to the National Championships, May 26-31 at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill.
The host-team UW Huskies, who are under the tutelage of first-year head coach Alan Murray, are ranked No. 5 in the tournament and coming off a morale-boosting third-place finish in the Pac-12 Championships. The Huskies are looking to claim their fourth regional title in program history. UW finished one shot out of the NCAA final last season and have advanced to the Championships in 15 of the past 18 years.
Other competing teams are: Kent State , Texas A&M, Florida State, Alabama, San Diego State, UTEP, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, Seattle University, Marquette and Bryant.
One thing the Huskies have going for them is home-course advantage. The team are members at the private Aldarra GC and regularly practice and play at the Tom Fazio-designed layout that tests even the lowest-handicap golfers that take it on.
“I think it’s a huge advantage,” Murray said. “It doesn’t hurt knowing a golf course as we’ll as we know (Aldarra). We feel it’s an advantage, but time will tell.”
Murray said his team is coming into the tournament playing some of its best golf of the season.
“We’re getting better as the year’s gone on and I think that’s what it’s all about,” he added. “It’s not how you start in this game, but how you finish. We feel that we’re in a good spot, being at home, and now it’s a matter of going out there and letting your clubs do the talking.”
The Huskies’ five-man lineup has yet to be finalized. Senior Corey Pereira, junior Frank Garber, and sophomores Carl Yuan and Henry Lee will be in the lineup, leaving three others competing for one opening during in-team qualifying.
“You’ll see a ton of great players here,” Murray said of the field. “All of the teams that are coming are excellent-program teams. They wouldn’t be here otherwise.”
Murray gave the NCAA golf officials a pat on the back.
“I think the Regional is one of the fairest tournaments of the year,” he said. “You just have to play well. It’s all about how you perform. I think guys well look for advantages and all that, but at the end of the day you just have to play well.”
And playing well enough to finish in the top five is what it’s all about at the Regional.