The Husky golf teams find themselves in a similar position: perched high in team and individual rankings. So high, in fact, that the phrase “national champion” can’t help but creep into conversation.
“I don’t know that we’ll continue to talk about it, but that was our expectation from the start,” says Mary Lou Mulflur, ’80, coach of the No. 1-ranked women’s team. Likewise, men’s coach Matt Thurmond notes that the subject is familiar to his No. 6-ranked squad. “I don’t need to remind them or put it on bulletin boards.” Leading the way for the men’s team is the trio of senior Chris Williams, sophomore Cheng-Tsung Pan and junior Trevor Simsby, all of whom were named to the watch list for the Ben Hogan Award, the highest honor in men’s collegiate golf. Williams has spent the last several months as the world’s top-ranked amateur, while Pan now sits atop the collegiate rankings. The women’s team is a young one. Leading the way is sophomore SooBin Kim, ranked second among collegians, and freshman Charlotte Thomas, named the Pac-12’s Women’s Golfer of the Month in September.
While some express surprise that these powerhouse programs are situated in the Northwest, the coaches think it may actually be an advantage. “The assumptions are that if you have perfect weather all the time, you’re going to build more skill,” notes Thurmond. “I think it might be the opposite.” Mulflur adds that the perception that this isn’t a golf hotbed puts a “chip on the shoulder” of her team. Whatever the motivation, both teams will have plenty of opportunity to display their resilience as they face the gauntlet presented by their Pac-12 competition. “You’re well seasoned by the time you get to the post-season,” assures Thurmond. Both coaches believe that their teams still have room for improvement—and expect it. Short of making any assumptions, Mulflur guarantees: “It’s going to be a fun ride.”—Paul Fontana