Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Arizona Looks For Conference Title After Last Week's Win At Stanford
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: April 25, 2001
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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April 25, 2001

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On the Tee: The Arizona men's golf team travels to Palo Alto, Calif., to compete in the 2001 Pacific-10 Conference Men's Golf Championships. The Wildcats last won the Pac-10 title in 1991 and has two league championships to its credit (1987). Arizona enters play this week with a bit more confidence after winning the U.S. Intercollegiate last week on the same Stanford Golf Course. Four of UA's top five golfers are ranked in this week's Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index.

The Rankings: As has been the case all season, the Wildcats remain ranked in all three major college golf polls. The Cats are ranked No. 18 in the MasterCard/CGF poll, No. 12 in the Golf World poll and No. 9 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. Individually, four UA golfers are ranked nationally. Ricky Barnes, the 2000 National Freshman of the Year, is ranked 21st in the MasterCard/CGF poll and 52nd in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. Joining Barnes in the national rankings is sophomore Reid Hatley, No. 43 in the MasterCard rankings and No. 91 in the Golfweek/Sagarin poll, while junior Cody Beyer is No. 61 in the MasterCard rankings and No. 73 in Golfweek/Sagarin rankings and freshman Chris Nallen is ranked 83rd in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings.

2001 Pacific-10 Conference Men's Golf Championships: Stanford University plays host to the 2001 Pacific-10 Conference Men's Golf Championships, April 27-29. The event will be contested at the Stanford Golf Course, a par 71, 6,786-yard facility in Palo Alto, Calif. The 72-hole tournament features 36 holes on Friday and 18 on Saturday and Sunday. An 8 a.m. PDT shotgun start will be used both days. To reward greater team depth, six players will be competing per team with five counting scores per round. In addition to Arizona, the following teams are scheduled to compete: Arizona State, California, Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, USC, Washington, Washington State, and host Stanford.

Head Coach Rick LaRose... is in his 23rd season at the helm of the Arizona golf program, coach Rick LaRose has established the Wildcats as one of the finest programs in the nation. The only college coach to win both a men's (1992) and women's (1996) NCAA Championship, LaRose's teams have won seven NCAA Regionals, five Pac-10 crowns and three Rolex Match Play titles. In NCAA Championship competition, he also has four third-place finishes, a fifth-place and two sixth-place efforts to his credit. Since 1978, his men's teams have won 44 tournaments and produced 55 All-Americans. He is assisted by John Knauer.

Last Time Out: The Arizona men's golf team continued its dominance at the U.S. Intercollegiate last Sunday, posting the lowest score of the day to win the event by 15 strokes. It was the team's first stroke play tournament win since last season's NCAA West Regional.

Entering the day with a five-stroke lead, all five UA golfers came it at par or better to propel the team to a final-round 280 (-4) and 837 (-15) total. Arizona's final-round 280 was its lowest closing total of the season. Led by freshman Andy Connell's 69, three UA golfers posted sub-par rounds, while two others finished at par. The Wildcats' 837 total was 15 strokes better than runner-up Arizona State (852) in the 18-team field.

With a final-round 71, freshman Chris Nallen claimed individual medalist honors. The Blairstown, N.J., native leads finished with a 54-hole total of 206 (-7) to top the field of 104 by four strokes. It was the first career victory for Nallen and topped his previous low tournament score by nine strokes. Nallen finished just ahead of teammate Andy Connell and Arizona State's Jeff Quinney, who tied for second place with a 210 (-3) total. Connell, who opened the event with a career-low 67, carded a final-round 69 to earn the best finish of his collegiate career.

Sophomore Ricky Barnes continued his solid play by finishing in a tie for eighth place at 212 (-1). It was Barnes' fifth top-10 finish of the season. Teammate Reid Hatley finished tied for 11th place with 213 (E), while junior Cody Beyer finished tied for 20th place at 215 (+2).

Also competing for the Wildcats as individuals were Ben Clark and Brandon Smith. Clark, who finished tied for 26th place at 217 (+4), equaled his low round of the season with a 69 in the first round, while Smith finished tied for 39th place at 220 (+7).

It was Arizona's second tournament victory of the year, and the team's first stroke-play win since last season's NCAA West Regional. Arizona captured the CGF Match Play National Championship in November.

Last Season's Pac-10 Championships: The 10th ranked University of Arizona men's golf team finished fifth at the 2000 Pac-10 Golf Championships at the Karsten Golf Course (Par 72, 7,027 yards). The Wildcats recorded a 72-hole total of 3-over-par 1443 after closing with a 362.

Arizona State finished first by 37 shots after carding a tournament record 56-under-par 1384 total to win its sixth consecutive Pac-10 Conference championship. Oregon State was second at 19-under-par 1421, California was third at 12-under 1428 and Oregon was fourth with an 8-under 1432 total.

Individually, ASU's Paul Casey led wire-to-wire to win his third straight Pac-10 title. He was the only golfer in the field to have all four rounds in the 60s and won by 10 shots with a tournament record 23-under-par 265 total (66-65-67-67). Oregon State's Tim Mickelson was second at 13-under-par 275 (72-70-64-69).

Arizona freshman Ricky Barnes tied with Oregon State's John Lepak for third, marking the highest finish by an Wildcat golfer at the Pac-10 Championships since Jason Gore finished first in 1994. Barnes, who concluded the tournament by shooting a 70 this afternoon, joined Lepak at 10-under-par 278. Barnes' third place finish was his fourth top-five finish of the season, all of which came in his last six tournaments.

UA senior Derek Gillespie had his best round of the tournament, posting a final-round 68. That score move him up from 13th to finish in a tie for seventh at 8-under-par 280. His tie for seventh marked the best performance during his career at the Pac-10 Championships.

The rest of the Arizona lineup included sophomore Cody Beyer, who tied for 30th at 3-over-par 291 (70-73-74-74), freshman Reid Hatley, who tied for 45th at 8-over-par 296 (74-73-72-77), freshman Patrick Norris, who tied for 50th at 13-over-par 301 (76-73-78-74) and senior Scott Moore, who tied for 52nd at 14-over-par 302 (77-72-77-76).

LaRose Named U.S. Head Coach: The Golf Coaches Association of America has selected University of Arizona Director of Golf Rick LaRose as the head coach for the United States team in the 2001 U.S.-Japan Collegiate Matches.

The competition, which is scheduled to take place July 2-5, 2001, at Verde Sano Golf Club, located in Sano shi, Tochigi, Japan. The annual matches consist of a Walker Cup format between collegiate teams from Japan and the United States.

The United States' eight-man, four-woman team for the event will be announced later this spring. Nine of LaRose's UA players have competed in this event since 1990.

Match Play National Champions: The University of Arizona's men's golf team defeated fifth-seeded Georgia Tech by a score of 3-2 on Sunday to claim the team title at the 2000 CGF National Intercollegiate Match Play Team Championships.

The Wildcats, seeded No. 3 in the tournament, defeated UNLV, 4-1, in the semifinals Nov. 11 and Northwestern, 3-2, in the first round to advance to the title match.

Sophomore Reid Hatley, junior Cody Beyer and freshman Chris Nallen all won their matches against the Yellow Jackets. Hatley scored a 1-up victory over Wes Latimer. Beyer came away with a 2 and 1 win over Troy Matteson, while Nallen defeated Kris Mikkelson with a final of 3 and 1. Sophomore Ricky Barnes dropped a close match to Bryce Molder, losing 1-up.

The tournament championship was Arizona's second CGF Match Play title. The Wildcats won the inaugural Match Play Championships in 1996.

The Winner: Freshman Chris Nallen earned individual medalist honors at last week's U.S. Intercollegiate, posting a career-low tournament total of 206 (-7). Nallen is one of two Wildcats to win individual titles this season, joining Ricky Barnes, who captured the Savane College All-America Golf Classic in November. Nallen's 206 total was the third-lowest tournament total this season for a UA golfer this season, ranking behind Barnes' 196 at the Savane All-America and Cody Beyers' 204 at the Golf World/Palmetto Dunes Invitational. Nallen's victory means that UA has had a freshman win medalist honors in each of the last two seasons (Barnes).

A Share of the Lead: With a strong spring, Ricky Barnes is now tied for the team lead with 16 rounds at par or better this season. He shares that lead with fellow sophomore Reid Hatley. Barnes has been at par or better in 11 of 15 rounds this spring, while Hatley registered nine of his 16 rounds in the fall.

Tuning Up: Following Barnes' lead, the Wildcats are steadily improving play with each tournament this spring. In five spring events, Barnes is averaging 70.73 strokes per round, 1.12 strokes lower than his average in the fall. As a whole, the team has also picked up play, lowering its scoring average (285.47) by 4.80 stokes in the spring. This spring, 10 of UA's 15 team rounds have been below par.

One-Two Punch: In addition to Chris Nallen's strong showing at the U.S. Intercollegiate, freshman Andy Connell also put forth a strong effort with a runner-up finish. Connell carded scores of 67 (a career low)-74-69 en route to a 210 total (-3) to finish tied for second. It was Connell's third top-10 finish of the year and lowered his season stroke average to 74.58.

Finding the Positives: After posting an eighth-place finish at its own PING-Arizona Intercollegiate, the team has done a good job this spring of posting solid finishes. The team has an average finish of fourth in four events in an average field of 18. The team's stroke average per round in those three events is 284.08.

Among the Leaders: Arizona has nine top-10 finishes in 10 team events this season. The Cats have posted top-10 efforts in all five spring tournaments to date, including last week's win.

Making an Adjustment: Whatever is said in the clubhouse after the first 18 holes must work because the Wildcats' stroke average in the second round of spring tournaments is 4.8 shots lower than its first round average. UA has opened five spring events with a stroke average of 288.20. That mark falls to 283.40 in the second round and rises slightly to 284.8 in the third round of play.

One Cool Freshman: Chris Nallen has quietly become one of the top freshmen in the country. Nallen has played in the No. 4 position in all 10 varsity events this season and ranks fourth on the squad with a 72.38 stroke average. He has one victory and a top-20 finish to his credit and his 15 rounds at par or better rank third on the squad. He was the only UA player at the CGF Match Play National Championships to win all three of his singles matches. He is ranked No. 83 nationally in the most recent Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index.

Mr. Consistency: Arguably Arizona's most consistent player all season, Cody Beyer has improved his play of late. Averaging 72.23 strokes per round (No. 2 on the team) this year, he has earned top-20 finishes in each of his last four starts. He is ranked No. 61 individually in the most recent CGF/MasterCard rankings.

Looking for a Fifth: While the majority of the UA lineup has remained the same, the Cats are still looking for a reliable player to fill in at the No. 5 position. Since the fall, the Nos. 1-4 positions have been manned by Ricky Barnes, Cody Beyer, Reid Hatley and Chris Nallen. Each of those players have played solid golf, posting a cumulative 72.05 stroke average with 10 top-10 finishes. Finding a consistent No. 5 has been the key to success this season, as Brandon Smith, Ben Clark, Andy Connell and Tim Weiss have each attempted to occupy the role. That quartet has a cumulative 74.40 stroke average.

At the Top: Sophomore Reid Hatley remains one of the UA leaders in several statistical categories. Joining Barnes as the only player to see action in 11 events this year, Hatley ranks third in stroke average (72.38), second in top-10 finishes (3), and tied for first in rounds at par or better (16). He is ranked No. 43 individually in the most recent CGF/MasterCard rankings.

Record-Setting Effort: Ricky Barnes, a sophomore from Stockton, Calif., earned his first tournament victory of the year at the Savane College All-America Golf Classic on No. 21 by posting a record-setting total of 196 (-17) to win the event by six strokes. He broke the previous tournament scoring record by five shots. Barnes carded three consecutive rounds in the 60s (63-67-66) to clinch his third career win. He joins a list of former Classic winners, including Jerry Pate (1974), Davis Love III (1984), Notah Begay (1994) and Tiger Woods (1995). The 196 total was also a UA low score for a tournament winner.

Not a Bad Fall: The Wildcats finished the fall with a 290.27 stroke average and No. 10 national ranking. Leading the way was sophomore Ricky Barnes, who posted a 71.86 stroke average in five scoring events. All told, seven UA golfers had stroke averages of 74.00 or less.

1999-2000 In Review: From beginning the year not ranked in the preseason top-25 to finishing third and just two strokes behind the leaders at the NCAA Championship, the 1999-2000 Arizona men's golf season was one that will go down as one of the most rewarding in the program's history. Continuing to improve every step of the way with a top-five lineup that consisted of two seniors, a sophomore and two true freshmen, the Cats won two tournaments, including the NCAA West Regional, and placed second four times. After its unexpected third place showing at the NCAA Championships, Arizona ended the season ranked sixth in the country and was the highest ranked Pac-10 Conference team in the final poll.

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