On the Tee: Arizona heads to the 2007 NCAA West Regional, May 17-19, at Karsten Golf Course in Tempe, Ariz. ... In eight spring events, the Wildcats have five top-five finishes, including four top-three efforts ... Since the regional format was adopted in 1989, Arizona is tied with Oklahoma State for second nationally with six regional wins ... Arizona has finished tied for first, tied for eighth, third, and second in its last four NCAA Regional appearances.
The Rankings: The Wildcats are ranked 22nd in the current (May 7) Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index and are No. 24 in the April 25 Golf World/Nike Coaches Poll. Individually, senior Brian Prouty is top-ranked Wildcat nationally, checking in at No. 44 on the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index. Four other UA golfers are in the top 200.
The Probable Arizona Lineup:
Golfer Yr. Avg. Top 10/20 Low Rd. Rounds
Brian Prouty Sr. 72.12 3/0 62 25
Josh Esler Sr. 73.47 0/4 67 34
Nathan Tyler Sr. 72.16 3/2 67 25
Josh Wilks Sr. 72.82 2/2 68 28
Pedro Oriol Fr. 73.73 2/2 68 33
A Look at the 2007 NCAA West Regional: Arizona State University hosts 54 holes of stroke play over three days at the Karsten Golf Course, a par 72, 7,057-yard layout. As the ninth seed in the event, UA has tee times from 11:47 a.m.-12:25 p.m. PDT from the first tee on May 17 and from 7:17-7:55 a.m. from the 10th tee on May 18. Twenty-seven teams and six individuals fill out the 141-man field. Here is the field listed by seed: Stanford (1), UCLA (2), UNLV (3), USC (4), East Tennessee State (5), Brigham Young (6), Arizona State (7), Wake Forest (8), Arizona (9), UC Irvine (10), South Carolina (11), Washington (12), Vanderbilt (13), Augusta State (14), Pepperdine (15), San Diego State (16), New Mexico (17), Oregon State (18), Colorado State (19), Oregon (20), California (21), Nevada (22), Denver (23), Pennsylvania (24), Detroit (25), Bucknell (26) and Monmouth (27). The six individuals are Brian Locke, Loyola Maryount; Dustin Pimm, Utah; Darrin Hall, San Diego; Michael McRae, Saint Mary’s; Geoff Gonzalez, Cal Poly; and Thomas Petersson, Pacific. The top-10 teams and two individuals advance to the 110th NCAA Championships, May 30-June 2, at the Golden Horseshoe Golf Course in Williamsburg, Va.
Head Coach Rick LaRose . . . is in his 29th 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 eight 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 58 tournaments and produced 47 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 five-over-par 365 to finish in sixth place at the 2007 Pac-10 Championships at Eugene Country Club in Eugene, Ore.
Arizona’s plus-five round gave the team a 72-hole total of 1,457 (+17). Only one of UA’s six golfers was under par in the final round. USC topped the 10-team field by 36 strokes after four rounds with a 1,389 (-51) total.
As was the case all week, the Wildcats were led individually by senior Nathan Tyler, who finished in a tie for ninth place at three-under 285. Tyler, who was the only Wildcat under par, carded a three-over 75 over the final 18 holes to slip into the tie for ninth place. It was his third top-10 finish of the season and his best finish in three career appearances at the Pac-10 Championships. USC’s Jamie Lovemark captured individual medalist honors with a 19-under 269 total.
Senior Josh Wilks tallied UA’s low round of the day, a three-under 69, and finished in a tie for 24th place at three-over 291. Brian Prouty and Josh Esler finished within one stroke of each other after 72 holes with Prouty tying for 36th place at seven-over 295 and Esler tying for 41st at eight-over 296.
Last Year at the Pac-10 Championship: Arizona and Florida engaged in a scoring duel Saturday that left the rest of the field in the dust as the teams shared the team championship at the 2006 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf West Regional at Omni Tucson National Golf Course.
The host Wildcats and Gators combined for 46 birdies and three eagles en route to topping the field by 13 strokes. After 54 holes of action, Arizona and Florida carded identical 37-under-par totals of 827. Washington, which tallied the low round of the day at 271 (-17), and Arizona State tied for third place at 24-under 840. North Carolina State finished in fifth place at 845.
The regional win was the sixth NCAA regional crown for Arizona, which is the second most in the country, and the third for Florida. Additionally, the 37-under-par tally matched an Arizona school record for low tournament total in relation to par, while setting a new Florida scoring record.
On a day in which all five players for both teams finished under par, Arizona and Florida separated themselves from the rest of the 27-team field early. Arizona, which held a three-stroke lead entering the final round, and Florida were a combined 17-under after nine holes.
The top-seeded Gators held a two-stroke lead heading into the last two holes before the Wildcats’ Josh Esler single-handedly closed the gap with an 18-foot birdie putt on No. 17 and a 12-footer on No. 18 to clinch a tie for the team title.
Florida freshman Billy Horschel and Nevada senior Casey Watabu tied for individual medalist honors with 13-under 203 totals. Horschel carded a six-under 66 Saturday, while Watabu fired an eight-under 64, the low individual round of the tournament, to top the 141-man field.
Arizona Individuals Top-Five Teams
T5. Josh Esler.................... 69-69-68=206 (-10) 1. ARIZONA................... 827
T9. Ben Fox........................ 71-68-68=207 (-9) Florida........................ 827
T18. Henry Liaw.................. 74-66-69=209 (-7) 3. Arizona State............. 840
T22. Brian Prouty................. 69-70-71=210 (-6) Washington................ 840
T38. Travis Esway............... 70-73-70=213 (-3) 5. North Carolina State... 845
All-Conference: Seniors Brian Prouty and Nathan Tyler were recognized with all-Pac-10 honors in voting done by the league’s head men’s golf coaches. Prouty was a second team selection, while Tyler received honorable mention accolades. Since joining the Pac-10 in 1978-79, Arizona men’s golf has had 91 student-athletes earn all-Pac-10 honors.
Karsten Course Notes: Back in 1998, the last year Arizona State hosted the NCAA West Regional, Arizona placed fourth with a 10-over-par 874 tally. UA’s Andy Barnes (T6th/214) and Rory Sabbatini (T9th/215) each collected top-10 finishes individually. Jumping ahead to 2007, Arizona finished fifth at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational on April 15, held at the same Karsten Course with a 12-under 852 total. Included in that effort was a second-round 277 (-11), which was Arizona’s lowest round in relation to par this season.
Quite a Field: One-third of the NCAA West Regional field is a former national champion. Yes, nine of the 27 teams in the field have won at least one national championship in its program’s history (Arizona, Arizona State, California, Pepperdine, Stanford, UCLA, UNLV, USC and Wake Forest. Additionally, the field includes 10 teams that won conference championships this season.
A Quicker Solution: On a team where it took 10 stroke play events to settle on a regular lineup, a quick glance at the rounds at par or better statistical category could have expedited the process. Each of the top five players in that category will be in action this week. Nathan Tyler (14), Josh Esler (13), Josh Wilks (12), Brian Prouty (12) and Pedro Oriol (11) all lead the team in that category. Cumulatively, that group has shot par or better in 44.6 percent of its rounds played this season (62 of 139). Individually, Tyler leads the way with a 56 percent success rate of reaching or breaking par (14 of 25).
On a Rotational Basis: UA head coach Rick LaRose said of his team earlier this season, “We’ve got a bunch of blue collar guys.” That’s just the way they’ve performed this season ?- with no superstars. In the 12 varsity stroke play events this season, a total of six different players have been the Wildcats’ top finisher. Brian Prouty and Pedro Oriol have three apiece, Tyler has two, and Wilks and Creighton Honeck have one each.
Strong Start: Left wrist surgery cost senior Brian Prouty to miss the entire fall season, but he rebounded with a flourish. The Tucson, Ariz., native won his first event of the season ?- the PING-Arizona Intercollegiate ?- with a 14-under 199 total. Perhaps the rehab was worth it because Prouty registered a 62 (-9) in his first round en route to an eventual four-stroke win. He followed that up with a tie for fourth place at the John Burns Intercollegiate on Feb. 23 with an eight-under 208. The red-hot start vaulted Prouty to the No. 1 ranking in the Golf Week/Sagarin Performance Index, the first UA golfer to achieve the feat. He also earned Pac-10 Golfer-of-the-Month honors for February 2007. To date, Prouty’s victory at the PING-Arizona Intercollegiate is UA’s only individual medalist honor of the season. He has a 72.00 stroke average over his last 10 rounds played.
Clutch: Trailing by two strokes with two holes to play in last season’s NCAA West Regional, Josh Esler stepped up and carded birdies on both holes to clinch a tie for the team title. They weren’t your garden-variety birdies either. Esler knocked in an 18-footer on No. 17 and followed with a 12-footer on No. 18. In addition to the pressure that would normally accompany such an effort, Tucson National’s par-4 18th hole played as the most difficult during the regional ?- an average of +0.43 strokes above par for the three-round event. He is also the most-experienced Wildcat in the field with 152 career rounds played.
Finishing Strong: Few Wildcats have shown the ability to close out tournaments as well as Josh Wilks. In his nine appearances this season, Wilks has a final-round stroke average of 71.11, which is the lowest on the team. Of his five rounds in the 60s this season, three have come over the final 18 holes. The senior from Tucson, Ariz., has extended that to his overall play of late, as he is averaging 72.46 strokes over his last 13 rounds played.
Top of the List: Senior Nathan Tyler was Arizona’s top finisher at the 2007 Pac-10 Championships with a three-under 71-70-69-75=285 total to tie for ninth place. It was his third top-10 placing of the season, which tied him for the team lead, and his fourth under-par tournament total of the season. Over his last three events (10 rounds), the Tucson, Ariz., product has a 71.20 stroke average.
In His Last Visit: Freshman Pedro Oriol’s last visit to the Karsten Course was a good one, as he tied for 17th place with a 214 total. The two-under tally was a season low for the native of Madrid, Spain.
What’s at Stake: Arizona hopes to extend its string of consecutive NCAA Championship appearances to 21 with a finish of 10th or better this weekend. Entering the regional, UA’s streak of 20 straight championship appearances is the second longest active streak in the nation. Only Oklahoma State’s string of 60 tops Arizona’s efforts.