If Ben Hogan himself could have witnessed what one of the three finalists for the NCAA-golfer-of-the-year award named after him was doing on the greens this week, he might have checked UW star Nick Taylor off the short list.
About the only thing that didn’t go swimmingly for the fifth-ranked Huskies by the end of the NCAA West Regionals on Saturday was Taylor’s struggles putting. The team’s No. 1 player missed short birdie putt after short birdie putt – with no remedy in sight.
His finish was respectable on the Olympic Course at Gold Mountain – tied for 19th at 2-over-par 218 – but was far from what the Canadian expected in his penultimate collegiate event.
And in the final round Saturday, his putting took to a new low.
“I hit the ball best I have in extremely long time,” Taylor said. “It’s very frustrating, so I’ll work on it. All I can say. I’ll go back to basic fundamentals, just making putts. When you miss that many, you want to get your confidence up, but it’s impossible when you’re on the course.”
He had three bogeys in a row to star the back nine Saturday. What encapsulated his week – his putting issues – was his first putt on a 40-foot attempt at the 12th hole that missed so badly, his lengthy comebacker for par was equally daunting.
Yet, the Huskies aren’t worried – they’re celebrating. Richard Lee became the school’s first regional champion. Chris Williams tied the Olympic Course record of 7-under 65. Darren Wallace apparently has rediscovered his mojo – all two weeks away from the NCAA Championships in Tennessee.
If the team can get vintage Taylor back – and the likelihood of that is pretty good – the UW is an established contender for the NCAA crown.
“He’s actually hitting the ball very well. He’s just not putting very well,” Thurmond said. “That’s happened to him before. He’s had days like today and he’s just worked his way through it, time and time again. His putting has been better than ever, he just kind of got in a funk this week. But he should be excited that he’s hitting the ball as well as he has.”