April 22, 2003
On the Tee: Arizona begins its postseason push at the 2003 Pacific-10 Conference Championships, April 28-30, at Oakmont Country Club in Glendale, Calif. ... This year's event marks Arizona's 25th appearance at the Championships since joining the league in 1978-79 ... The Cats' tournament history includes 12 top-three finishes and team championships in 1987 and 1991.
The Rankings: The Wildcats remain ranked in the top 10 in all three major college golf polls. Arizona is ranked third in the current Precept/GCAA Coaches Poll, , sixth in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index and seventh in the Golfworld Coaches Poll. Individually, five UA golfers are ranked in the top 170 of the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, including two in the top-15 slots: Chris Nallen (11th) and Ricky Barnes (13th). Golfweek also ranked Barnes, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, as the nation's fourth-ranked collegiate player and included junior Nallen in its "50 College Players to Watch" list.
A Look at the 2003 Pac-10 Championships: UCLA hosts the 2003 Pac-10 Championships, April 28-30. Arguably the toughest conference championship in collegiate golf, not only because of the participants, but also the format. Four rounds will be played over three days with six competing golfers per team with five scores counting towards the team total (instead of the usual four). The three-day event will be contested at Oakmont Country Club in Glendale, Calif., a par-72, 6,736-yard layout. Tee times begin at 7:30 a.m. PDT each day with 36 holes scheduled for Monday, April 28, and 18 holes each on Tuesday-Wednesday, April 29-30. Of the 10 teams scheduled to compete (Arizona, Arizona State, California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington and Washington State), four are ranked in the top 20 of the current Precept/GCAA Coaches Poll: Arizona (3rd), UCLA (10th), Arizona State (18th) and Washington (20th). UCLA last hosted the Pac-10 Championships in 1993.
The Probable Arizona Lineup:
Golfer Yr. Avg. Top 10/20 Low Rd. Events Ricky Barnes Sr. 71.56 6/1 66 10 Chris Nallen Jr. 71.22 8/2 66 12 Andrew Medley Sr. 72.61 1/1 67 6 Reid Hatley Sr. 73.31 2/2 65 11 Brian Woolf Sr. 73.63 1/1 68 8 Kipp Riehle So. 74.14 1/3 68 7
Head Coach Rick LaRose . . . is in his 25th 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, 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 51 tournaments and produced 39 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. He is assisted by John Knauer.
Last Time Out: Chris Nallen posted a career-low 205 total April 12 to finish in third place individually at the ASU Thunderbird/Savane Invitational. Nallen carded a final-round 67 (-5) to finish the 54-hole tournament with a 205 (-11) total and tie for third place. For Nallen, it was a career low and tied him for eighth place on Arizona's low 54-hole total in relation to par list. It also tied for eighth lowest total at the ASU Thunderbird/Savane Invitational since the tournament moved to a three-round format in 1988. TCU's David Schultz topped the 104-man field with a 15-under-par 201 total to win the event by three strokes. Arizona, playing without reigning U.S. Amateur Champion Ricky Barnes who was competing in The Masters, posted its second-lowest total of the season in finishing in a tie for seventh place. All three of its rounds were below par, but even its 20-under 844 total wasn't enough to keep pace in an event where the top-10 individuals posted 28 of 30 rounds below par and the top-five teams were a combined 153 strokes below par. Tournament host Arizona State topped the 19-team field with an 824 (-40) total. In addition to Nallen's efforts, sophomore Kipp Riehle collected his third top-20 finish of the season with a tie for 17th place at 209 (-7), which was a career low. Seniors Reid Hatley and Andrew Medley tied for 59th place at 217 (+1), while Brian Woolf tied for 71st place at 219 (+3).
2002 Pac-10 Championships Review: 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. UA'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 marked 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 Wildcat finished at par or better in the final round. Individually, Ricky Barnes finished in sixth place with a 287 (-1) total. He carded a final-round 73 (+1) to end any chances of 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.
A Cinderella Story: For 72 holes during the second week of April, Ricky Barnes stood toe-to-toe with golf's greatest players at its most prestigious event and did not back down in finishing in 21st place April 13 at the 67th annual Masters Tournament. The senior from Stockton, Calif., posted a final-round 73 (+1) to finish with a four-round 69-74-75-73=291 (+3). He finished 10 strokes behind eventual winner Mike Weir, who needed a one-hole sudden death playoff to defeat Len Mattiace, at 281 (-7). One of three amateurs to make the 36-hole cut, Barnes' 291 total qualified him as the low-finishing amateur. Ultimately, his 291 total was one stroke away from qualifying for the 2004 Masters, as the top 16 finishers plus ties automatically qualify for next year's event. That exemption included players at 290 (+2) or better.
The Big Show: Barnes' finish at The Masters was no fluke. It was his fourth career appearance in a professional tour event (2000 and 2002 U.S. Open), and his second this season. On March 2, Barnes tallied a final-round 70 to finish in a tie for 18th place at the Chrysler Classic of Tucson. He carded a 69-70-68-70=277 (-11) to earn his first career PGA Tour top-20 finish. Incidentally, Barnes has a 72.83 stroke average in those four PGA Tour appearances (12 rounds).
Hall of Famer: University of Arizona director of golf Rick LaRose was inducted into the Golf Coaches Association Hall of Fame on Jan. 22. Joining LaRose in the Class of 2002 is UNLV head coach Dwaine Knight. The duo was officially inducted at the GCAA's National Awards Dinner at the Sheraton World Resort in Orlando, Fla. To be selected to the GCAA Hall of Fame, a coach must be nominated by his peers, and then selected by the Hall of Fame Committee. Knight and LaRose were the 70th and 71st members of the GCAA Hall of Fame, which honors a coach for his record on the golf course, as well as his contributions to the game, student-athletes and school.
Ben Hogan Award Semifinalists: Ricky Barnes and Chris Nallen recently were named semifinalists for the 2003 Ben Hogan Award, which is presented annually to the top NCAA Division I, II, III, or NAIA golfer. The award covers all collegiate and amateur competitions during the last 12 months. Arizona was the only program in the nation to have two semifinalists.
The award is presented by The Friends of Golf and Colonial Country Club, in cooperation with Bank of America and the Golf Coaches Association of America. The Hogan Award selection committee will name five finalists on April 25. The winner of the Hogan Award will be announced on May 9. The presentation will be made at Colonial Country Club on May 19.
Streaking: All told, Arizona has collected seven top-three finishes in 11 team events this season. The Wildcats have really heated up this spring, as the club has won four of six events. The four tournament victories in 2002-03 is as many as the program tallied in the previous three seasons combined. It is also the most wins in a single season since the 1991-92 edition of the Wildcats won six tournaments en route to the 1992 national championship.
Playing Well: In addition to four tournament wins, the statistics certainly point to some solid numbers. In six spring events, Arizona has posted below-par team totals in 13 of 18 rounds (72.2 percent) played. The team's spring stroke average (284.00) is 8.09 strokes lower than it was in four scoring events this fall (292.09). Along the way, three of the Cats' tournament totals rank among the 10 lowest on record, including the 23-under-par 829 that won the PING-Arizona Intercollegiate on Feb. 4. Overall, Arizona's 287.07 stroke average ranks fourth among all NCAA Division I programs. UA's current 71.77 countable stroke average is the lowest in school history.
Strong in the Middle: Statistically speaking, the second round is Arizona's most productive. UA has a 279.83 stroke average (69.96 countable) in the second round of its spring tournaments, nearly six shots lower than either the first (285.67/71.41) or the third (286.50/71.63) rounds. In fact, Arizona has been under par as a team in the second round of all six spring events.
Warming Up: After spending a week traipsing through the azaleas of Augusta, the adjustment back to college golf may be a bit difficult. But Ricky Barnes has sharpened his game of late. In his last two collegiate appearances (six rounds), Barnes has tallied a 70.33 stroke average, including three rounds in the 60s. He has a third-place finish and a tie for second in those events. Barnes has four top-10 finishes in five spring in 2002-03.
Not to be Outdone: Junior Chris Nallen has been nothing short of outstanding since his arrival in Tucson back in the fall of 2000. The Blairstown, N.J., native currently leads the Wildcats in events played (12), rounds played (32), stroke average (71.22), top-10 finishes (8), rounds in the 60s (11) and rounds at par or better (23). He has been UA top finisher in seven events this season and his 11-under 205 total at the ASU Thunderbird/Savane Invitational April 12 equaled the eighth lowest in school history. Just how good is Nallen? Over the last three seasons, no UA player has a stroke average lower than his 71.51.
Welcome Aboard: Maybe it's just coincidence, but since senior Andrew Medley joined the squad at the start of the spring, the team has started to roll. The mid-year transfer from the University of Mississippi has been a welcome addition to the lineup. In six appearances, Medley has one top-10 and one top-20 finish to his credit to go with a 72.61 stroke average, a figure that ranks third on the squad. He was under par in his first two tournaments and tied for fifth place April 1 at the National Invitational Tournament.
Mr. Consistency: Senior Reid Hatley has been the model of consistency, posting a 73.18 career stroke average. That's exactly 0.01 higher than his stroke average this spring. Seven of his 11 rounds at par or better in 2002-03 have come this spring, including four of his five rounds in the 60s.
A Pleasant Surprise: After playing in just one tournament last fall, senior Brian Woolf has made solid contributions to the lineup this spring. Posting a stroke average that is currently 2.03 strokes lower than his career average entering the season, Woolf has seen action in four of six varsity events this spring. In those tournaments, he's tallied a 73.42 stroke average.
Early Signees: Arizona men's golf coach Rick LaRose signed three student-athletes to National Letters-of-Intent during the November signing period. The trio, will attend the school and play golf for the Wildcats beginning in the fall of 2003, includes Henry Liaw of Rowland Heights, Calif., Ben Marsh of Phoenix, Ariz., and Josh Esler of Wauconda, Ill.
Of Note: Arizona has made 16 consecutive NCAA Championship appearances.