Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Men's Golf Opens Postseason Push at Pac-10 Championships
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: April 20, 2007
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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On the Tee:  Arizona heads to the 2007 Pac-10 Championships, April 23-25, at Eugene Country Club in Eugene, Ore. ... In seven spring events, the Wildcats have five top-five finishes, including four top-three efforts ... Since joining the league in 1978-79, Arizona has won the Pac-10 title three times (1987, 1991, 2004) and finished second seven times ... Arizona has finished fifth, third, first and second in the last four Pac-10 Championship appearances ... The Cats finished in fifth place in 1997, the last year that Oregon hosted this championship event.


The Rankings:  The Wildcats are ranked 22nd in the current (April 16) Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index and are unranked in the April 4 Golf World/Nike Coaches Poll.  Individually, senior Brian Prouty is top-ranked Wildcat nationally, checking in at No. 33 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.         71.81                 3/0                     62                  21

Josh Esler              Sr.         73.40                 0/3                     67                  30

Nathan Tyler           Sr.         72.33                 2/2                     67                  21

Josh Wilks              Sr.         72.83                 2/2                     68                  24

Pedro Oriol             Fr.         73.59                 2/2                     68                  29

Creighton Honeck Jr.          73.33                 1/1                     67                  24


A Look at the 2007 Pac-10 Championships: Held annually since 1960, the Pac-10 Men’s Golf Championships will be held Monday-Wednesday, April 23-25, (practice round April 22) at Eugene Country Club, a par 72, 7,033-yard layout in Eugene, Ore. Seventy-two holes will be played over the three days (36 Monday/18 Tuesday and Wednesday) with twosomes scheduled off the first and 10th tees at 8 a.m. PDT Monday. Ten teams are scheduled to compete: Arizona, Arizona State, California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington and Washington State. Four of those teams are ranked in the current Golf World/Nike Coaches Poll. Arguably the toughest test in all of college golf, each team will be made up of six players with the low five scores counting towards the team total in each round. Arizona finished fifth in this event last year with a 24-over 1,444 total. UA’s Henry Liaw, who tied for eighth place, was UA’s top individual with a 70-73-69-72=284 (E) tally.


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:  UA claimed fifth place at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational, April 15, after carding an even-par 288 in the final round. The Wildcats registered a three-day total of 852 (-12), to finish eight strokes behind tournament winner Oregon.

  Senior Josh Wilks and freshman Pedro Oriol tied for 17th with a 214 (-2) total. Wilks carded a two-over par 74 to close the event, while Oriol carded a two-under par 70 to finish as the only Wildcats in the top-20.

  Senior Nathan Tyler posted his lowest score of the tournament, a two-under par 70, on Sunday to finish in a tie for 23rd place. The Tucson native’s 215 (-1) total through 54 holes of play, tied him with teammate Brian Prouty, who also notched a one-under 215.


Last Year at the Pac-10 Championship:  The Wildcats shot a 13-over-par 368 in the fourth round and finished in fifth place at the 2006 Pacific-10 Conference Championships at the Canyons Course at Bighorn Golf Club.

  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 Cat to shoot par in Wednesday’s 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 Wednesday 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).

UA’s Brian Prouty posted an even-par 71, the Cats’ low round of the day, and moved into 13th place at 287 (+3).

Arizona Individuals                                                                     Top-Five Teams

T8.     Henry Liaw.................. 70-73-69-72=284 (E)                      1.   UCLA........................ 1420

12.     Ben Fox........................ 72-69-70-75=286 (+2)                    2.   Washington.............. 1432

13.     Brian Prouty................. 74-72-70-71=287 (+3)                    3.   Arizona State........... 1437

T23.   Josh Esler.................... 71-74-72-75=292 (+8)                    4.   USC.......................... 1442

T33.   Travis Esway............... 73-75-72-76=296 (+12)                  5.   ARIZONA................. 1444

T46.   Nathan Tyler................. 74-81-72-75=302 (+18)


Top Heavy: UA head coach Rick LaRose brings a lineup to the Pac-10 Championships that includes four seniors and a junior in its six-man lineup.  Don’t play the experience card too fast, as that group of upperclassmen has a total of 24 rounds of experience at the Pac-10 Championships.  Senior Josh Esler leads with 12 rounds of experience and a 73.33 stroke average in three prior appearances with a best finish of eighth in 2004.  Senior Nathan Tyler is next with eight rounds of experience and a 75.75 stroke average.  His best finish was a tie for 33rd place in 2004.  Senior Brian Prouty finished 13th at last year’s Pac-10 Championships, which was his lone appearance.  His three-over 287 finish at Big Horn equates to a 71.75 stroke average.  Senior Josh Wilks, junior Creighton Honeck and freshman Pedro Oriol makes their Pac-10 Championships debut on Monday.


Weren’t We Just Here?:  Five of the six golfers to represent Arizona this week were also in Eugene a month ago at the Oregon Duck Invitational.  The Wildcats posted an 11-over 875 total to tie host Oregon for third place in that event.  Individually, Josh Wilks and Nathan Tyler both tied for sixth place at three-over 219.  Josh Esler tied for 12th place at four-over 220, while teammate Brian Prouty tied for 21st place at six-over 222.  Freshman Pedro Oriol tied for 36th place at 226 (+10).  Junior Creighton Hoenck was the lone Wildcat not to appear in the Oregon Duck Invitational.


Peaking:  The spring season has seen Arizona work itself into form, as the team has collected two ties for third and a fifth-place finish in its last three outings.  The team scoring average has improved 3.17 strokes per round over its fall scoring average to 288.33, and has been under par in four of seven tournaments since the turn of the calendar.  For the season, UA’s countable stroke average is 72.37, and that falls to 72.08 during fall competition.


Finding a Rhythm:  Fortunately, the Pac-10 Championships allow for a six-man lineup.  It gives the Wildcats another man to choose from.  It took 10 stroke play events for UA to settle on a five-man rotation.  The rotation of Prouty, Esler, Tyler, Oriol and Wilks has been in effect for the last three tournaments.  Prior to March 26, there was change aplenty in the UA lineup.  Of the Arizona roster, only three Wildcats, Josh Esler, Brian Prouty and Nathan Tyler, have made all of their 2006-07 appearances with the UA varsity.  Of that trio, Esler leads with 11 appearances.


Maybe It Was That Simple:  Look no further than rounds at par or better to see who makes up the UA lineup, as each of the top five players in that category will be in action this week.  Josh Esler (12), Brian Prouty and Nathan Tyler (11), and Josh Wilks and Pedro Oriol (10) all lead the team in that category.  Cumulatively, that group has shot par or better in 45.4 percent of its rounds played this season (54 of 119).  Individually, Prouty and Tyler lead the way with a 52.4 percent success rate of reaching or breaking par (11 of 21).


Leadership By Committee:  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 11 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, while Wilks, Tyler and Honeck have one each.


On His Shoulders, or Perhaps His Wrist:  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.


Mr. Experience:  He might be one of three seniors in the Wildcat lineup, but Josh Esler is leaps and bounds ahead of his teammates in one category:  experience.  The Wauconda, Ill., enters the Pac-10 Championships with 148 career rounds played, or 42 more than the next closest Wildcat (Tyler).  In those 148 rounds played, Tyler has a career stroke average of 73.57.  The experience helps because Esler’s final round stroke average this spring is 71.29 ?- the lowest on the team.


Coming On Strong:  Few Wildcats have enjoyed the kind of stretch that Josh Wilks is currently riding.  In his last four appearances, the senior from Tucson, Ariz., has an average finish of 14.5, with two ties for sixth place (including one at the Oregon Duck Invitational) and a tie for 17th place.  Over his last three outings, Wilks is averaging 72.33 strokes per round and has three rounds in the 60s.


A Steadying Influence: Through five appearances this spring, senior Nathan Tyler has been nothing if not steady in amassing a 71.67 stroke average.  In those tournaments, Tyler has a 72.20 stroke average in the first round, 71.00 in the second and 71.80 in the third.  In each round played, Tyler has the second-best stroke average on the squad.


Step Right Up: Freshman Pedro Oriol has come a long way since the fall to play his way into the regular lineup.  The native of Madrid, Spain, posted a 75.13 stroke average in three fall events, but has shaved 2.13 strokes off that this spring...lowering the mark to 73.00 in his last seven appearances.  All four of his top-20 finishes, including two top-10 efforts, have come since February.  He was just selected to represent the European team in the 2007 Palmer Cup matches.


Like Popeye: Much like the spinach-fueled cartoon hero, the Arizona golf team seems to be strong to the finish.  In seven spring events, Arizona has a 290.29 stroke average in the first round.  That drops to 286.43 in the second and 288.29 in the third round.  Good starts are key, as the Cats have finished under par as a team in three of four events this spring when playing the first round under par.

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