May 9, 2002
On the Tee: After a disappointing seventh place finish at the Pacific-10 Conference Championships, Arizona gets a chance to rebound as the No. 9 seed at the 2002 NCAA West Regional, May 16-18, in Albuquerque, N.M. ... UA is making its 14th consecutive NCAA Regional appearance ... Arizona has six top-five finishes in 11 team events this year.
The Rankings: After opening the season as the nation's second-ranked team, Arizona currently holds down a No. 20 ranking by Golf World, 22th in the Precept/GCAA Coaches Poll and No. 22 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index. Golf World also selected UA junior Ricky Barnes as the nation's Preseason Player of the Year and included sophomore Chris Nallen in its "50 College Players to Watch" list. Individually, two UA players are ranked in the top 80 nationally in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index. In case you wondered, Arizona is tied for sixth place nationally in the GCAA Fans Poll.
A Look at the 2002 NCAA West Regional: The University of New Mexico hosts the 2002 NCAA West Regional, May 16-18 at The Championship Course, a par 72, 7,368-yard layout. The 27-team, six-individual field includes USC, Texas, Minnesota, Fresno State, Washington, New Mexico, Pepperdine, San Diego State, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Ohio State, UCLA, Washington State, UC-Irvine, Pacific, UNLV, Stanford, Arizona State, Texas Tech, California, BYU, Colorado State, Illinois State, Detroit-Mercy, IUPUI and Central Connecticut State. Nine of those teams are ranked in the May 2 Precept/GCAA Coaches Poll. The 54-hole event features 18 holes each day with play scheduled to begin at 7:12 a.m. MDT. The top 10 teams and two individuals will advance to the NCAA Championships, May 29-June 1, in Columbus, Ohio. Arizona has won this event five in its history (1989, '91, '92, '93, 2000) and finished second last year.
The Probable Arizona Lineup:
Golfer Yr. Avg. Top 10/20 Low Rd. Events Ricky Barnes Jr. 72.46 3/3 67 12 Chris Nallen So. 71.29 5/6 65 12 Reid Hatley Jr. 73.12 2/3 67 11 Andy Connell So. 75.60 0/0 69 7 Kipp Riehle Fr. 74.44 1/1 68 11 or Tim Weiss Sr. 75.36 1/0 70 8
Head Coach Rick LaRose . . . is in his 24th season at the helm of the Arizona golf program, and in that span 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 play, he also has five 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 57 All-Americans. He is assisted by John Knauer.
Last Time Out: Arizona carded its worst round of the tournament in the final round and finished in seventh place at the 2002 Pac-10 Men's Golf Championships. Arizona's final-round 378 (+18) was seven shots higher than its third-round total and dropped the team into seventh place with a four-round 1,482 (+42) total. It marks just the third time in the last 16 years that the Wildcats have failed to finish in the top half of the 10-team field. No Arizona golfer finished at par or better in the final round. UA's total was 41 strokes off the pace of league champion USC, who won the event for the second consecutive season with a 1,441 (+1) total. Individually, UA's Ricky Barnes finished in sixth place with a 287 (-1) total. The junior from Stockton, Calif., carded a final-round 73 (+1) to end any chances of him successfully defending his 2001 Pac-10 title. Barnes was the only Wildcat to finish the 72-hole event under par and finished just three strokes behind individual medalist Jim Seki of Stanford.
Last Year at the NCAA West Regional: The University of Arizona men's golf team shot a one-over-par 289 in the final round and finished in second place at the 2001 NCAA West Regional. The Wildcats earned its 15th consecutive berth in the NCAA Championships. Arizona's final-round 289 (+1) was good enough to give the squad a three-round total of 867 (+3) for the tournament and clinch runner-up honors. Arizona State won the 27-team event by 15 strokes with an 852 total (-12). UC-Irvine, Pacific and South Carolina rounded out the top five. UA freshman Chris Nallen continued his run of strong play and finished the tournament tied for fourth place at 213 (-3). The Blairstown, N.J. native, who has been under par in seven of his last 10 rounds, has top five finishes in each of his last three tournaments. He finished five strokes behind co-winners Kyle Thompson of South Carolina and Matt Jones of Arizona State, who each finished with a three-round total of 208 (-8). Also playing well for the Wildcats was junior Cody Beyer. He equaled his best finish of the season with a tie for sixth place at 214 (-2). Beyer fired a final-round 69 en route to his second top-10 finish of the year. Teammate Reid Hatley finished tied for 34th place at 222 (+6). He shot a final-round 73. Sophomore Ricky Barnes posted a one-over-par 73 and moved up 22 spots on the leader board Saturday. His 223 total (+7) tied him for 38th place in the 141-man field. Freshman Andy Connell finished in a tie for 77th place with a 227 total (+11).
Arizona Individuals Team Finish T4. Chris Nallen 70-69-74=213 (-3) 1. Arizona State 852 T6. Cody Beyer 73-72-69=214 (-2) 2. Arizona 867 T34. Reid Hatley 75-74-73=222 (+6) 3. UC-Irvine 871 T38. Ricky Barnes 71-79-73=223 (+7) 4. Pacific 872 T77. Andy Connell 75-74-78=227 (+11) 5. South Carolina 880
All-Conference: Sophomore Chris Nallen and junior Ricky Barnes were each named all-Pacific-10 Conference in voting done by the league's head coaches. Nallen earned first team honors, while Barnes was included on the second team. It was the third career all-conference accolade for Barnes and the second for Nallen.
Hogan Award: Sophomore Chris Nallen was named one of 20 semifinalists for the Ben Hogan Award, which honors the nation's outstanding male college golfer. The award, given by the Friends of Golf, Colonial Country Club and the Golf Coaches Association of America, is based on play from May 1, 2001-May 1, 2002.
Regional Successes: Since the NCAA Regional format was instituted in 1989, Arizona has enjoyed a fair amount of success in the opening round of the NCAA postseason. The Cats have claimed five team titles, including three straight from 1991-93, and finished second last season. UA has also had three individual medalists: Robert Gamez (1989), Harry Rudolph (1992) and Manny Zerman (1993).
We Like It Here: Over the years, UNM's The Championship Course has been a friendly site to the University of Arizona. The Wildcats claimed its 1991 NCAA West Regional crown and the 1992 national championship on the course. Earlier this season, Arizona finished third as a team at the William H. Tucker Intercollegiate, the Lobos in-season event also hosted on The Championship Course.
Quick Turnaround: Arizona heads into the Regional hoping that its performance at the Pac-10 Championships was an aberration. After posting five consecutive sub-par rounds heading into the event, the Cats failed to reach par in any of the four rounds and finished seventh. As a whole, Arizona has played steady golf during the latter portion of the schedule, as seven of the squad's nine sub-par team rounds have come in spring competition.
Consistent Finisher: Even though he managed just one round at par or better at the Pac-10 Championships, Chris Nallen's five-over 293 enabled him to finish in a tie for 19th place. The sophomore has finished in the top 20 in 11 of 12 events this season, including five in the top 10. He leads the team with a 71.29 stroke average and has been the Cats' top finisher in six events.
Snapping Out of It: Ricky Barnes may finally be ready to post some low scores. After struggling for much of the season with his putter, the junior from Stockton, Calif., was the only Wildcat to finish under par at the Pac-10 Championships. Barnes carded a 70-73-71-73=287 (-1) to finish in sixth place. He has been UA's top finisher in the last two events and has a 70.86 stroke average over his last two tournaments (seven rounds). He enters the NCAA West Regional with a 72.46 stroke average this season, 1.41 strokes higher than his career stroke average entering the year. Barnes has been under par in five of his last seven rounds.
Rock Solid: Junior Reid Hatley continues to be one the least-heralded golfers in the UA lineup, but his contributions out of the No. 3 spot are paramount success. Remarkably consistent, Hatley has picked up the pace lately by posting a 72.57 stroke average over the last nine events (28 rounds). Included in that span are 13 rounds at par or better, which have helped Hatley to a pair of top-10 and three top-20 finishes.
Return Engagement: Freshman Kipp Riehle is one of two players in contention for UA's final roster spot at the NCAA Regional. If he qualifies for the postseason event, the Phoenix native has a nice track record at The Championship Course. Riehle made his collegiate debut at the William H. Tucker Intercollegiate, Sept. 21-22, and tallied a 74-69-71=214 (-2) total to finish in a tie for sixth place. His final placement and total in relation to par were both season bests.
Stepping Up: Sophomore Andy Connell's efforts in the spring might be as important as any in helping the team qualify for its 16th consecutive NCAA Championship appearance. The Denver, Colo., native averaged 73.50 strokes in helping Arizona earn top-five finishes at the PING-U.S. Collegiate Championships and the ASU Thunderbird/Savane Invitational. Good things can happen for the Cats if Connell is playing well out of his spot in the lineup. All four of his rounds counted at the Pac-10 Championships. Since April, Connell has collected his best placement (T34), low tournament total, set a season-low round (69), and collected all four of his sub-par rounds this season.
Adding Experience: It's possible that Arizona could have a senior in the lineup for the first time since the Las Vegas Collegiate (March 8-10) if Tim Weiss qualifies for the remaining spot in the lineup. Despite playing just 22 rounds this season, Weiss' 98 career rounds ranks third on the squad behind Ricky Barnes (120) and Reid Hatley (115). In two varsity appearances this year, Weiss has a 75.17 stroke average, including a tie for 21st place at the Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate where he carded a four-over 217 total.
In the 60s: Arizona golfers have carded 22 rounds in the 60s during the 2001-02 campaign. Individually, Nallen leads the way with eight, Barnes has four, and freshman Kipp Riehle has three.
Preseason Player of the Year: Junior Ricky Barnes was tabbed by Golf World magazine as the No. 1 men's college golfer in the nation. The Stockton, Calif., native has 13 top-10 finishes in his two-year career, including four victories. His 71.05 career stroke average is the lowest in school history. Sophomore Chris Nallen was named to the publication's "50 College Golfers to Watch" list.
Early Signees: University of Arizona men's golf coach Rick LaRose signed three student-athletes to National Letters-of-Intent during the November signing period. Zack Amole (Devner, Pa./Cocalico H.S.), Brett Carter (Phoenix, Ariz./Mountain Pointe H.S.) and Blaine Peffley (Lebanon, Pa./Cedar Crest H.S.) will join the Wildcat golf program in the Fall 2002.
A Quick Look Back at the Fall Schedule: Arizona collected two top-five finishes in four fall team events, including a fourth-place effort at the Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate in October. Playing with a lineup that featured two freshmen and no seniors for the majority of the fall, the Wildcats improved its scoring average with each passing tournament and finished the fall with a 291.00 stroke average. Sophomore Chris Nallen collected two top-10 and three top-20 finishes in five individual events and finished with a team-leading 71.53 stroke average.
2000-01 In Review: Arizona closed another highly-successful season with its 15th consecutive berth in the NCAA Championships. The Cats finished third for the second straight season. No team west of the Central Time Zone has finished ahead of UA at the NCAA Championships in the last two years. Arizona earned two team championships in 2000-01, including the CGF Match Play National Championship in November, and three individual wins. Ricky Barnes and Chris Nallen were named to the 2000-01 GCAA NCAA Division I Ping All-America team on June 3.