On the Tee: Arizona opens play at the 2006 NCAA West Regional, May 18-20, as the host at Omni Tucson National Golf Club in Tucson ... The Cats didn’t have far to travel, as the course is about 15 miles from campus ... This is the fourth time that Arizona has hosted the West Regional (1992, 1994, 1999) ... UA appears in an NCAA Regional for a record 18th consecutive season ... Arizona is one of seven schools nationally to appear in every regional since the format was adopted in 1989 ... The Wildcats have four top-five finishes and one team victory this season, which came April 9 at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational.
The Rankings: The Wildcats opened the 2005-06 season ranked 22nd nationally and are currently ranked 25th in the current (April 27) Bridgestone/GCAA Coaches Poll and No. 26 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index. Individually, junior Henry Liaw is the top-ranked Wildcat nationally, checking in at No. 54 on the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index. Classmate Josh Esler comes next at No. 163.
A Look at the 2006 NCAA West Regional: The University of Arizona hosts 54 holes of stroke play over three days at Omni Tucson National Golf Course, a par 72, 7,200-yard layout. Tee times are TBA. Twenty-seven teams, including seven conference champions and eight teams ranked in the current Bridgestone/GCAA Coaches Poll, and six individuals fill out the 141-man field. Here is the field listed by seed: 1. Florida, 2. Arizona State, 3. Brigham Young, 4. East Tennessee State, 5. Baylor, 6. Alabama, 7. Arizona; 8. San Diego State, 9. North Carolina State, 10. Washington, 11. New Mexico, 12. Stanford, 13. Houston, 14. Pepperdine, 15. Louisville, 16. Denver, 17. Santa Clara, 18. New Mexico State, 19. Fresno State, 20. UC-Irvine, 21. Nevada, 22. San Diego, 23. Cal Poly, 24. Western Kentucky, 25. Loyola Marymount, 26. Jackson State, and 27. Bucknell. Individuals include Graham DeLaet, Boise State; Dustin Pimm, Utah; Chadd Cocco, Saint Mary’s; Ryan Witz, Washington State; Ryan Wood, Long Beach State; and Derrick Whiting, Colorado State. The top-10 teams and two individuals advance to the 109th NCAA Championships, May 31-June 3, at the Crosswater Club at Sunriver Resort in Sunriver, Ore.
The Probable Arizona Lineup:
Golfer Yr. Avg. Top 10/20 Low Rd. Events
Henry Liaw Jr. 71.86 4/2 66 13
Brian Prouty Jr. 73.37 2/1 67 9
Josh Esler Jr. 73.32 0/4 68 11
Ben Fox Fr. 72.44 1/3 67 9
Travis Esway So. 73.55 0/0 69 11
Head Coach Rick LaRose . . . is in his 28th season at the helm of the Arizona golf program, and in that span has established the Wildcats as one of the nation’s elite programs. 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, six Pac-10 crowns and three Rolex Match Play titles. In NCAA Championship play, he also has six third-place finishes, a fifth-place and two sixth-place efforts to his credit. Since 1978, his men’s teams have won 57 tournaments and produced 46 All-Americans. LaRose, who has coached two U.S. Amateur champions, was inducted into the Golf Coaches Association of America Hall of Fame on Jan. 22, 2003. He is assisted by John Knauer.
Last Time Out: The University of Arizona men’s golf team shot a final-round 13-over-par 368 and finished in fifth place at the 2006 Pacific-10 Conference Championships, April 24-26, at the Canyons Course at Bighorn Golf Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
Arizona’s 13-over tally was easily its highest of the tournament and gave the Wildcats a 24-over 1,444 total and a fifth-place finish. UA’s final-round total was its worst over the four rounds by five strokes.
Brian Prouty was the only Wildcat to shoot par in the final round.
UCLA won the event with an even-par 1,420 total, 12 strokes in front of runner-up Washington. The Bruins’ Daniel Im claimed individual medalist honors with a four-round 277 (-7).
Junior Henry Liaw was Arizona’s top finisher for the fifth time in seven spring events. Liaw carded a one-over 72 in the final round and finished tied for eighth place with a four-round 284 (E) total. Freshman Ben Fox, who started the day in a tie for third, carded a three-over 75 and finished in 12th place at 286 (+2).
Last Year at the NCAA West Regional: The Wildcats tallied a final-round, four-over-par 284 and jumped into a tie for eighth place at the NCAA West Regional, May 19-21, in Palo Alto, Calif., and qualified for its 19th consecutive NCAA Championship appearance.
After a horrid second round, which saw the team post a 16-over-par total and put its qualifying efforts in jeopardy, Arizona rebounded nicely by posting the four-over 284, and qualified safely with a three-day total of 863 (+23).
Once again, senior Nathan Lashley set the pace for the Wildcats, as he finished in a tie for second place after a final-round 69 (-1). His three-under 207 total was three strokes off the pace set by Stanford’s Rob Grube, who fired a final-round 65 (-5) to claim individual medalist honors at six-under 204.
UA sophomore Henry Liaw finished in a tie for 22nd place with a four-over 214 total, while fellow classmate Josh Esler and freshman Travis Esway finished tied for 56th place at nine-over 219 and tied for 80th place at nine-over 219, respectively.
Arizona Individuals Team Finish
T2. Nathan Lashley.................. 66-72-69=207 (-3) 1. UNLV....................................... 846
T21. Henry Liaw........................ 71-72-71=214 (+4) 2. New Mexico............................ 849
T56. Josh Esler.......................... 72-75-72=219 (+9) 3. Washington............................. 854
T80. Travis Esway.................. 75-77-72=224 (+14) 4. UCLA....................................... 857
T107. Kipp Riehle....................... 74-77-77=228 (+18) Arizona State.......................... 857
T8. ARIZONA................................ 863
Seventh Heaven: Since the NCAA adopted the current three-regional format in 1989, Arizona is one of seven schools nationally to appear in each of the 17 previous events (Arizona State, Clemson, North Carolina, Oklahoma State, USC and UNLV are the others). In terms of regional victories, Clemson leads with seven, while Arizona, Arizona State and Oklahoma State have five wins a piece. The Cats last won the regional in 2000 and have finished in the top-three places three times in the last five seasons.
Individually Speaking: In the 17-year history of the NCAA Regional, five Arizona players have captured individual medalist honors at the regional: Robert Gamez (1989), Harry Rudolph (1992), Manny Zerman (1993), Ricky Barnes (2002) and Chris Nallen (2004). Rudolph’s 15-under 201 tally to win in 1992 is a Wildcat best in regional play by an individual medalist.
A Considerate Host: 2006 marks the fourth time that Arizona has hosted the NCAA West Regional and each time the event has been contested at Omni Tucson National Golf Club. While par has remained at 72 each time Tucson National has hosted a regional, this year’s layout, listed at 7,200 yards, will be the longest faced by the players. Previously the course was set up for 7,167 yards (1992), 7,087 (1994) and 7,025 (1999). Here is a quick look at each year’s results:
Year Champion Arizona Finish Individual Medalist
1992 Arizona (838/-26) 1st (838/-26) Harry Rudolph, Arizona (201/-15)
1994 UNLV (849/-15) 4th (866/+2) Edward Fryatt, UNLV (207/-9)
1999 Arizona State (854/-10) 9th (891/+24) Jeff Quinney, Arizona State (209/-7)
All-Conference Picks: Three University of Arizona men’s golfers were honored with all-Pacific-10 Conference accolades, in voting released May 5 by the league’s head coaches. Henry Liaw received second-team all-conference honors, while Josh Esler and Ben Fox were honorable mention selections. It marks only the third time in the last 28 years that Arizona has not had at least one first team all-conference selection. Since joining the Pac-10 in 1978-79, Arizona golfers have earned a total of 89 all-league accolades with 44 of those being first-team selections.
You Can’t Tell the Players Without a Scorecard: Settling on a lineup has been difficult for the Wildcat coaching staff because so many players have seen action. Over the course of 11 stroke play events this season a total of 11 different players have made up the UA varsity lineup. In fact, Arizona has used the same five-man lineup in back-to-back events just once this season. Additionally, only junior Henry Liaw has seen action in all 12 varsity appearances.
The Ex(perience) Factor: UA golf fans can hope that experience won’t be too big of a factor when the NCAA West Regional begins on May 18 because the Wildcat lineups features a total of 12 rounds of NCAA Regional experience, and all of those reside with two players (Henry Liaw and Josh Esler, six each). At least 40 percent of the UA lineups will be making its regional debut this week. Perhaps playing at home will serve as an equalizer.
Going Lower: Arizona’s countable stroke average has hovered above or around 72.00 for the entire season, and currently sits as 72.53. Recently, however, that figure has begun to fall. Over Arizona’s last three events, including the Pac-10 Championships where the low five scores from six players are counted each round, the squad’s countable stroke average drops to 71.39.
Not Much in the Way of Statistical Fluctuation: As mentioned above, Arizona’s season-long countable stroke average currently sits at 72.53. During seven spring events, the Cats’ countable stroke average by round has been nothing, if not consistent. UA’s first round countable stroke average is 72.28 (289.12 as a team), 72.48 in the second round (289.92) and 72.34 (289.36) in the third. That’s less than one team stroke difference (0.8) per round over a total of 22 rounds played.
No Surprise There: Junior Henry Liaw is the most experienced Wildcat with 116 rounds played in his two-plus seasons in Tucson. Liaw leads the team in appearances (13), rounds played (37), stroke average (71.86), top-20 finishes (6), low round (66), low tournament total (202/-11) and rounds at par or better (20). Additionally, 33 of his 34 rounds played in team events (97.1 percent) have counted towards the team total.
A Stabilizing Factor: Practically a fixture in the lineup since his freshman season, junior Josh Esler is enjoying the best statistical season of his career with a 73.32 stroke average to with four top-20 finishes (one more than his first two seasons combined) and a career-best six rounds in the 60s. Furthermore, he’s tied for second on the team with 12 rounds at par or better. In nine career competitive rounds played at Omni Tucson National, Elser has a 73.00 stroke average.
Making a Charge: Freshman Ben Fox makes his third appearance with the UA varsity as part of the countable lineup at the NCAA West Regional. The Studio City, Calif., product has done well to earn the spot, as he ranks second on the team with a 72.44 stroke average and has been within two strokes of par or better in six of eight tournaments this season. In six spring events, Fox’s stroke average falls to 71.81, a figure that trails only Henry Liaw (71.73) since the calendar changed to 2006. Fox carries a 71.20 stroke average over his last 10 rounds played.
Good Timing: Tucson native Brian Prouty is enjoying a solid statistical season in which he has amassed career bests in appearances (9), rounds played (27) top-10 finishes (2), low tournament (205/-8), rounds at par or better (10) and low finish (third). In 27 rounds played this season, he has a respectable 73.37 stroke average, but that mark falls to 70.90 over his last 10 rounds played.
A Top-10 Finish... would give Arizona its 20th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Championships. That would continue the second-longest active streak in the nation, trailing only Oklahoma State’s 59 entering 2006.