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Huskies ready to make a run at national title

Chris Williams finished off the Washington men’s golf team’s most recent test with a flourish. His eagle on the final hole won the Huskies that tournament, the NCAA Southwest Regional.

But now Williams and the Huskies will face their toughest challenge yet: a six-day tournament that will decide if they are remembered as a good team or as the best team in the country.

Coming off their impressive regional win in Oklahoma, the Huskies are seeded eighth for the national championship meet this week in Pacific Palisades, Calif., to be played at Riviera Country Club. The tournament will consist of 30 teams each playing 54 holes of stroke play and runs from Tuesday to Thursday. The top eight teams will then advance to three rounds of match play between Friday and Sunday to crown the national champion.

“There are sort of two tournaments in one,” head coach Matt Thurmond said in a text. “We need three solid days to make it into the top eight. Then the second tourney starts. We need patience, stamina, and consistency.”

In their last time out on the course, Williams propelled the Huskies to their regional championship in Norman, Okla. His 18th-hole eagle in the final round won the tournament — both for the Huskies as a team and for Williams as an individual — and successfully held off a charge from top-ranked Texas, which enters the NCAA tournament as the nation’s No. 1 seed.

In addition to the Longhorns, there are many other teams that may pose a significant threat to the Huskies’ title hopes. Both No. 2 seed Alabama and No. 3 seed Cal are coming off conference titles and regional victories of their own. Fifth-seeded UCLA and No. 6 seed USC play their home matches at the extremely difficult Riviera Country Club and thus know the course well. And the Huskies’ playing partners, No. 7 seed Oregon and No. 9 seed Stanford, are both very good teams who could make a run for the championship.

It won’t be easy for the Huskies to win the UW’s first team national championship. But Thurmond believes they can win it nonetheless.

“We don’t worry much about what winning would mean,” Thurmond said. “We just need to do what we can.”

Even if they struggle this weekend, the 2012 season has been a spectacular one for the UW. After missing a berth in nationals by one spot last year, the Huskies are back in a familiar place, having been to the NCAAs each of the three previous years. The UW finished fourth in both 2009 and 2010 and the program’s best result came in 2005, when the Huskies finished in third place.

Williams is not the only Husky who is coming off a great tournament in Oklahoma. Freshman Cheng-Tsung Pan has been a stalwart for the Huskies all season long, and he came in fourth at the UW’s regional. Like Williams, Pan is a member of the All-Pac-12 First Team. Sophomore Trevor Simsby, meanwhile, established himself as a mainstay for the UW over the course of the season, showing his improvement in Oklahoma by finishing in a tie for 10th.

Also golfing for the UW will be junior Charlie Hughes, who was a second-team All-Pac-10 player in 2011, and senior Ty Chambers, the only senior on the squad.

Reach reporter Daniel Rubens at sports@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @drubens12

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