Not many former Pacific-10 Conference champions play the next season regularly in the No. 4 spot.
That is the kind of season Canadian Darren Wallace has had for the Washington Huskies in 2009-2010.
After winning the conference title last season at Seattle Golf Club, a continued breakthrough was expected to carry over for Wallace this season. It didn’t happen. His driver betrayed him. Putts weren’t falling.
His best finish was a tied-for-12th at the season-opening Topy Cup last fall. That was where two of his six under-par rounds this season were posted.
His 73.18-stroke scoring average ended up being fifth-best on the team.
On Thursday, after his opening 2-under-par 70 at the NCAA Division I men’s West Regional on the Olympic Course at Gold Mountain Golf Complex, he was asked if the Pac-10 championship seemed like many moons ago.
Cordially, he smiled at the thought of it.
“It does the way I’ve played lately,” he said.
UW coach Matt Thurmond said he’s seen Wallace make small gains in the past couple weeks, especially with his putting.
And on the Olympic Course, errant drives are often forgiven.
“I thought this course sets up well for him,” Thurmond said. “He hasn’t been hitting his driver real straight, but there’s enough room off the tees here.”
After starting with an early bogey on the first hole, Wallace finished up his front nine with three birdies in five holes, including both par-5s.
He’s a big-time type player. He comes up when it really matters. He’s a guy you want to have on your squad,” Thurmond said. “If Darren Wallace can play the way he can play, we’re going to be really, really tough to beat.”