College golf: Washington's Jonathan Sanders quietly builds standout career
Jonathan Sanders is best described by his coach as reliable and consistent, traits that have earned appreciation from teammates on the Washington men's golf team, but not a lot of attention.
But when it really mattered last May at the NCAA men's golf regional at Gold Mountain in Bremerton, Sanders was spectacular.
With UW looking like it might not finish in the top five and advance to the NCAA championships, Sanders holed out a 60-yard wedge shot for an eagle on the second hole (his 11th of the day).
The roar from the crowd could be heard holes away. It seemed to lift his teammates, who also got hot, and UW moved up two spots into fifth on the final few holes.
"That was the most fun I've ever had," said Sanders, who shot a 4-under 68 that day. "We had a lot of people out watching us. A lot of our friends from school drove up there to watch. It was special."
Even on that day, Sanders was upstaged by senior star Cheng-Tsung Pan, who shot a 67 and won the event. But Sanders has been a key player on the team since joining UW as a highly touted recruit from New Community Jewish School in West Hills, Calif.
In Sanders' freshman season, the team was led by Chris Williams, the top-ranked amateur in the world. Pan, who also attained status as the world's top amateur, was the big star the past two seasons.
But with Pan having graduated and Sanders being one of just three seniors, he is getting much more attention, and rightfully so. He picked up his third career win this month in the Redhawk Invitational at Chambers Bay in University Place, becoming just the seventh Husky to win at least three times.
"It's been awesome, just being able to learn from guys like Willy my freshman year and Pan for three years," said Sanders, who began golfing at about age 4 and has a brother who played golf at Pepperdine. "They definitely deserved to be in the spotlight, and it made it easy for me. I was able to just kind of do my own thing."
Sanders' thing is putting up counting scores event after event. The top four of five scores in each round count toward a team's total.
"I don't get really hot or really cold," said Sanders, whose biggest win came in the 2014 NCAA regional. "I'm pretty steady, that's kind of how my game's always been. Just always being able to shoot a score that counts is something I pride myself on -- even if I'm having a bad day just being able to grind out something that can help the team."
Along the way, Sanders has 15 top-10 finishes, sixth-best in school history.
Sanders joins Pan, Williams, Mackenzie, Taylor, Vincent and Pereira with at least three wins for the Huskies. Quite a list.— UW Men's Golf (@UW_MGolf) April 5, 2016
He also thrives in the classroom, where he has a 3.5 cumulative grade-point average, and is majoring in communications and political science. He was one of 10 finalists for the Byron Nelson Award, given annually to a graduating senior who excels on the course, in the classroom and in the community.
"He's very good at all of those things," UW coach Matt Thurmond said. "He does what he needs to do in everything he does. It's not a natural thing for him to be a vocal leader, but he's a leader in how he acts and how he lives, and the players look up to him."
Thurmond said Sanders' strength is from tee to green, and his "wedge play is at an elite, world-class level." Thurmond said Sanders drives the ball farther than you would expect from a player who is 5 feet 8 and 140 pounds and added that putting is the area he most needs to improve.
"Putting is so important, and everyone needs to get better, but that's something I've struggled with at times," said Sanders, who will turn pro this summer. "I wouldn't say I'm a bad putter, but I'm not one of the better putters."
Sanders' goal is for UW to get back into the NCAA championships, held May 27-June 1 in Eugene, Ore., and be one of eight teams to advance to match play.
"I haven't had that opportunity in match play yet, so that is the ultimate goal," he said. "We've got the players, we just haven't really had the timing. It's when Frank (Garber) plays really well, Corey (Pereira) and I don't play very well. Or Corey and I play well, but our (Nos.) 4 and 5 guys don't. So it's been just kind of a timing issue, not a lack of talent or anything. If we time it right, we can win any tournament."
This article was written by Scott Hanson from Seattle Times and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.