HUTCHINSON, Kan. – No team at this men's NCAA Championship has traveled farther to get here than No. 8-ranked Washington. In an eight-day span, the Huskies flew 7,569 miles.
There is one benefit, of course.
“We get to keep our (sky) miles at least,” head coach Matt Thurmond said. “That’s good for the boys.”
This is becoming a postseason tradition that Thurmond probably could do without.
Last year, Washington flew to Tallahassee, Fla., for regionals, then back to Seattle, then finally to the NCAA finals outside Atlanta. As a weary No. 5 overall seed, they tied for 16th and failed to advance to the match-play bracket.
This year, they woke up at 3 a.m. local time Tuesday for a flight to Raleigh, N.C., for regionals. The team finished the three-round event in second place, 17 shots behind Georgia Tech, but Thurmond couldn’t even watch sophomore Jonathan Sanders win the individual title – they were rushing to get back to the airport. With the quick turnaround to nationals (four days), they didn’t want to wait around until Sunday for a flight home.
After practicing earlier this week at Seattle Golf Club and Aldarra Golf Club, they boarded another 5:30 a.m. flight Wednesday bound for Wichita.
“Sometimes when the deck is stacked against you a little bit,” Thurmond said, “it makes you prepare a little bit more. It’s almost a little bit better.”
Because teams are allowed only one official practice round, the Huskies spent Wednesday afternoon in Wichita, playing in a Putt-Putt tournament, taking a few cuts in the batting cages, playing video games and chowing down at Hog Wild Pit BBQ
Scenic hole here pic.twitter.com/slLXffIYst— UW Men's Golf (@UW_MGolf) May 21, 2014
“If we had our way,” Thurmond said, “everyone would just show up the night before and tee it up at 7 a.m. The time you’re here before you can compete, it is just torture.
“These guys are racehorses; they’re ready to go. Two practice rounds, to me, was like, ‘Get me to the tournament already.’”
The Huskies didn't make a site visit to Prairie Dunes prior to this week, but Thurmond and two assistants took a two-day, 54-hole trip in late March.
Many teams played this links-style course either after their final fall tournament or during a soft spot in the spring schedule. The Big 12 Championship has been played here several times in the past two decades, including in 2009, ’11 and ’13.
Does Thurmond feel like his team is at a disadvantage?
“So what, that other teams know something else?” he said. “They’ve still got to hit the shots.
“Maybe they’ve got bad memories of the place. They look up on these holes and think of bad things. My guys see these holes for the first time and think they can play out here. That’s not the worst thing, either.”