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Originally published May 27, 2013 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 28, 2013 at 2:33 PM

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Husky men's golf team riding strong wave into NCAA Championship

These are good times for the Washington men's golf team, and it could get a lot better this week. Momentum is on the Huskies' side as they...

Seattle Times staff

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These are good times for the Washington men's golf team, and it could get a lot better this week.

Momentum is on the Huskies' side as they begin play Tuesday in the NCAA Championship at Capital City Club in Atlanta.

On May 18, sophomore Cheng Tsung-Pan was the individual winner at the NCAA regional in Tallahassee, Fla., leading UW to a second-place finish.

Then, last Monday, senior Chris Williams won the Hogan Award, college golf's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.

"It was an amazing week for our program," said UW coach Matt Thurmond. "You want to be saving your best for last. I think we are very good, maybe the best team we have ever had."

Washington is the No. 5 seed in the 30-team field. After three rounds, an individual winner is crowned and the top eight teams move on to match play. The Huskies have made it to the match-play portion three times since that format started in 2009, but lost in the first round each time.

UW knows the course, having finished fifth last fall in the PING-Golfweek Preview in a field of 15 teams, 14 of which were ranked in the top 25. Williams, the top-ranked amateur in the world, and Pan, the world's No. 6 amateur, tied for second that week.

"They are both big-time players, and big-time players show up when it matters the most, so I expect them both to do really well," Thurmond said.

Also playing this week for UW are senior Charlie Hughes, junior Trevor Simsby and freshman Jonathan Sanders.

Hughes, a four-year starter with a grade-point average of 3.59 in business, tied for 14th at the NCAA regional.

"Charlie is our secret weapon, because people don't realize how good he's playing," Thurmond said. "He will surprise people. He's playing better than he has his whole career.

"Charlie is the ultimate student-athlete, and there is only so much mental energy to go around between golf, school and leadership. Golf was one of just many parts in his life, but these past couple of months he has really dedicated himself to the game, and he is such a driven person, he can accomplish anything."

Simsby was among the best players in the country in the fall and then went into a slump for almost two months beginning in March, finishing no better than 47th in four straight events. But he rebounded with a fifth-place finish in the Pac-12 Championship and a 25th-place finish at the NCAA regional.

"Trevor hit rock bottom, and he had to take a complete inventory of his game," Thurmond said. "He went back to the basics, looking at all the things he needs to do to play well. I think it was actually a good experience for him. Sometimes, when you start playing well, it starts to seem easier than it is."

California and Alabama are the top seeds, and Thurmond said they "are as good as we have seen in college golf in a long time," but the Huskies won't be intimidated by anyone.

"Those two teams have a target on their back, but we're happy with that," Thurmond said. "We think we're right there with them."

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