By Craig Smith
The nation’s top-ranked team and some of the best college golfers in the country will be at Aldarra Golf Club outside Fall City, May 15-17 when the University of Washington hosts an NCAA men’s regional.
Admission for spectators is free. It is a chance to view the Tom Fazio-designed private course that is hosting the event with an eye toward gaining more notoriety and moving toward inclusion in the national conversation of “best 100 courses.”
The UW is seeded fifth for the tournament, from which the top five teams will advance to the NCAA championships. The Huskies are coming off a tie for third at the Pac-12 tournament where they tied with top-ranked USC. Defending NCAA champion Oregon won the tournament.
The Huskies will have a home-course advantage because, in a special arrangement, Husky players have membership privileges at the Tom Fazio-designed course.
“I think it’s a huge advantage,” said Alan Murray, the first-year Husky coach. “It doesn’t hurt knowing a golf course as well as we know Aldarra. We feel it’s an advantage, but time will tell.”
The Huskies seem to be peaking at the right time.
“We’re getting better as the year has gone on,” Murray said. “It’s not how you start in this game but how you finish. We feel that we’re in a good spot, being at home, and now it’s a matter of going out there and letting your clubs do the talking.”
Four spots on the five-man UW lineup are set – senior Corey Pereira, junior Frank Garber and sophomores Carl Yuan and Henry Lee. In-team qualifying will determine the final spot.
The Huskies will be host to 13 other teams and five individuals on the 6,885-yard, par-71 Aldarra layout. Advancing with the top five teams to the national championships May 26-31 at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill., also will be the top individual on each team that doesn’t qualify.
The regional field includes Husky neighbor Seattle University, which won the Western Athletic Conference tournament and is seeded 12th for the regional. In addition to top-ranked and top-seeded USC, the field in order of seeding includes: Kent State (ranked No. 12), Texas A&M (ranked No. 13), Florida State, UW, Alabama, San Diego State, UTEP, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, SU, Marquette and Bryant.
Washington has won three regional titles. Last year, the Huskies finished one shot shy of qualifying for the NCAA championship. The Huskies have advanced to nationals 15 of the past 18 years and 26 times overall.
Many teams from schools on the semester system will be done with their studies by tournament time, but the Huskies and other schools on the quarter system will be dealing with academic matters as well as golf during tournament week.
Aldarra is one of six regional sites this year. Asked to describe outstanding holes on the course, Murray said the entire course is “awesome” and noted, “The par-3’s are phenomenal on the back nine.” Aldarra is built on the site of the Boeing family farm. The course is outside Fall City but within the city limits of Sammamish. There are no homes on the course.
Aldarra General Manager John Freitas said, “These are future PGA Tour stars and I want to see how they handle the golf course.” He said the tournament also will increase visibility of Aldarra. He said PGA Tour and Champions Tour pros have played Aldarra then said, “I can’t believe I haven’t heard about this course.”
Spectator rules for the tournament include no jeans, no tobacco use or vaping and no cell phone use.