Wildcats Close 2004-05 with NCAA Championship Berth
Tap-Ins: Arizona closed the 2004-05 season at the NCAA Men’s Golf Championships, which was the program’s 19th consecutive appearance ... In addition to being the second-longest active streak in the nation, the Wildcats are one of only two schools nationally to qualify for the national championships in every season since the regional since the format was adopted in 1989 ... Several other streaks continued for the program in 2004-05 as well: 27 seasons with a national ranking, 14 seasons with at least one All-America selection, six seasons with at least one first-team all-conference pick, six seasons with at least one individual medalist, six seasons with at least one top-10 national ranking, and three seasons with at least one team victory.
The Rankings: The Wildcats opened the 2004-05 season ranked as high as fourth nationally and in the top 20 in all three major college golf polls, and finished the season ranked 16th in the Bridgestone/GCAA Coaches Poll and 22nd in the Golf World Coaches Poll. After completing nine team events this spring, UA finished at No. 25 on the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index. Individually, senior Nathan Lashley ranked 49th nationally on the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, the highest-ranked Wildcat.
The Regular Arizona Lineup:
Golfer Yr. Avg. Top 10/20 Low Rd. Events
Nathan Lashley Sr. 71.70 5/1 66 13
Henry Liaw So. 71.90 5/2 66 14
Josh Esler So. 73.65 1/1 67 14
Travis Esway Fr. 73.03 1/3 66 13
Brian Prouty So. 73.76 0/3 67 7
Head Coach Rick LaRose . . . completed his 27th 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 56 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: Arizona shot a 27-over-par 307 and fell into 17th place after 54 holes of the NCAA Championships.
UA’s 27-over-par 307 effort left the team in 17th place with a three-round total of 885 (+45), which means the Wildcats missed the 54-hole cut by two strokes. It was UA’s highest single-round team total at the Championships since a final-round 311 (+23) in 2003. It also marked Arizona’s worst finish since 2003, when the Cats also finished 17th.
Senior Nathan Lashley finished the 72 holes with a 10-over par 290. It was his first appearance at the Championships. He won the right to play in the final round as one of six individuals by claiming one of two remaining spots in a three-man playoff prior to Saturday’s final round. Lashley’s 290 total put him in a tie for 27th place.
All-American Effort: Nathan Lashley and Henry Liaw were named to the PING All-America team June 10 by the Golf Coaches Association of America. Both players were honorable mention selections and included among a list of 61 student-athletes to receive first, second, third, or honorable mention recognition. Arizona has had at least one All-American in each of the last 14 seasons, including multiple selections in 10 of those seasons. Since 1967, UA has had a total of 49 golfers earn All-America accolades.
A Finalist: Assistant coach John Knauer was named a finalist for the Jan Strickland Assistant Coach of the Year Award presented by TaylorMade-adidas Golf, it was announced May 27 by the Golf Coaches Association of America. Knauer was one of three finalists for the honor, which is given to the NCAA Division I, II, III or NAIA assistant coach that has excelled in working with student-athletes both on the course and in the classroom.
All-Region Honors: Nathan Lashley and Henry Liaw were named to the PING all-Pacific Region team. The duo were two of 18 student-athletes to receive the regional recognition. Joining them on the all-Pacific Region team were Travis Bertoni, Cal Poly; Alejandro Canizares, Arizona State; Andres Gonzales, UNLV; Rob Grube, Stanford; Ben Hayes, USC; Daniel Im, UCLA; Ryan Keeney, UNLV; Liam Kendregan, St. Mary’s (Calif.); James Lepp, Washington; Tyler Ley, USC; Pat Moore, Arizona State; Ryan Moore, UNLV; Alex Prugh, Washington; Michael Putnam, Pepperdine; Brendan Steele, UC Riverside; and Travis Whisman, UNLV. It was the first time that Lashley had earned all-region honors and the second such accolade for Liaw.
Strong Representation: The University of Arizona men’s golf program will be well represented when the United States Golf Association hosts the 2005 United States Open Championship, as six former Wildcats have qualified for the 156-man field. Four of those players qualified through sectional qualifiers, while two others received exemptions.
Jim Furyk, Robert Gamez, Jason Gore, Chris Nallen, Ted Purdy and Rory Sabatini will all compete for the 105th U.S. Open Championship, June 16-19, at the Pinehurst Resort’s No. 2 Course in Pinehurst, N.C.
Current Wildcats Brian Prouty and Nathan Lashley also competed in the USGA’s sectional qualifiers. Prouty, a sophomore from Tucson, finished as the third alternate at the Littleton, Colo., sectional qualifier with a 69-75?-144 total, while Lashley carded a 75-71?-146 at the same qualifier. Just two days earlier, those two competed for Arizona at the 2005 NCAA Men’s Golf Championships in Owings Mills, Md.
Two to Tango: It took a bit of final-round scrambling at the West Regional, but Arizona enters the 2005 NCAA Men’s Golf Championships riding a streak of 19 consecutive appearances in the national championship event, which is the second-longest active streak in the nation. Only Oklahoma State’s string of 59 consecutive appearances (1947-2005) tops Arizona’s efforts. Arizona averages a 10th-place finish at the NCAA Championships during the streak.
Academic Pursuits: Sophomore Brian Prouty was an honorable mention pick for the Pac-10 men’s golf all-Academic team. He was one of 27 student-athletes within the conference to earn all-academic distinction.
At Baggage Claim: One thing that Arizona did not bring to the NCAA Championships was extensive postseason experience, as the five-man lineup had a combined eight rounds of national championship experience. Only sophomores Henry Liaw and Josh Esler, who finished tied for 44th and in 77th places, respectively, last season, have any such experience. The rest of the lineup, senior Nathan Lashley, sophomore Brian Prouty, and freshman Travis Esway, all made their championship debuts in 2005.
By the Slimmest of Margins: Arizona managed to tie for eighth place at the NCAA West Regional and keep itself out of the 10th-place playoff by a single stroke. That winning margin, if you will, was provided by a Henry Liaw nine-foot birdie putt on the ninth hole, which was Arizona’s 18th hole of the day. After playing their first nine holes on May 21 at a cumulative four-over par, the Cats buckled down and played their back nine at even par, finalized by Liaw’s heroics. “I kind of knew the situation,” Liaw said of that clinching putt, “so it was the longest nine-footer I’ve ever faced. When it caught the right edge and fell in, I just gave it a big fist pump.”
International Experience: Wildcat sophomore Henry Liaw will be among the 12-person team scheduled to represent the United States in the 2005 Fuji Xerox USA vs. Japan Collegiate Golf Championship, July 13-15, at the Stanford University Golf Course in Palo Alto, Calif. Liaw is the ninth Arizona men’s golfer to represent the U.S. in the series a total of 10 times, and the third in the last five years. Ricky Barnes (2000-01) and Chris Nallen (2001-02) each played in the international competition following their sophomore seasons as well.
All-Conference Picks: Four University of Arizona men’s golfers were honored with all-Pacific-10 Conference accolades, in voting released by the league’s head coaches. Henry Liaw (first team) and Nathan Lashley (second team) received all-conference honors, while Travis Esway and Kipp Riehle were honorable mention selections. It marks the fifth consecutive season, and the 25th time in the last 27 years, that Arizona has had at least one first team all-conference selection. Since joining the Pac-10 in 1978-79, Arizona golfers have earned a total of 86 all-league accolades with 44 of those being first-team selections.
Many Options: With just one senior in the regular lineup and an 18-man roster that includes 15 freshmen or sophomores, it’s no surprise that the UA lineup is subject to change. No fewer than 15 players saw action this season, including six junior varsity events, and there have been nine different players to see action for the Wildcat varsity (not counting appearances as individuals). Henry Liaw was the only Wildcat on the roster to see action in all 14 varsity events as a member of the countable lineup.
Improvement was Slow and Steady: After getting off to a rough start in the fall, the UA golfers consistently scored lower as the season progressed. In four fall stroke play events, the Wildcats averaged 294.45 strokes per round as a team and finished seventh or worse in three of those tournaments. Conversely, the team posted a 287.04 stroke average in nine events this spring (adjusted for the play six, count five Pac-10 Championships) and finished in the top five in six of those nine starts. All told, Arizona’s countable stroke average in 28 rounds this spring was 71.76. To further the point, UA golfers tallied just 10 individual rounds at par or better in the fall compared with 56 this spring.
Kiddie Corps: Featuring a lineup made primarily of a senior, three sophomores and a freshman through most of the season, to say that Arizona was a young team in 2004-05 may have been an understatement. Freshmen and sophomores played 142 of 200 (71.0 percent) competitive rounds for the Wildcats this season. Over the past two seasons, underclassmen played 261 of the 405 rounds (64.4 percent) for Arizona. Learning on the fly hasn’t held the program back, as the Cats tallied five tournament wins since the start of the 2003-04 campaign, including the 2004 Pac-10 Men’s golf championship and top-three placings at the 2004 NCAA West Regional and NCAA Championships.
A Definite Shade of Green: As mentioned earlier, UA entered the 2005 NCAA Men’s Golf Championships with a lineup anchored by four underclassmen and only two players with previous championship experience. A youthful lineup hasn’t hurt Arizona at the national championship. Dating back to the 2000 Championships, 60 percent (18 of 30 players) of the Wildcat lineup in that event has been made up of either freshmen or sophomores. In that span, underclassmen have been the UA majority in every year but one, 2004, and that club finished in 17th place.
Moving Up: Nathan Lashley’s stellar play this spring certainly has dropped his stroke average to a career low, but it’s also done wonders for his collegiate rankings. He started the spring season ranked 109th in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, and just prior to the postseason (April 18), Lashley was ranked 88th nationally. In the three tournaments since (Pac-10 Championships/NCAA West Regional/NCAA Championships), the Scottsbluff, Neb., product moved himself further up the rankings, finishing in 49th place with a rating of 71.08. Lashley also finished the season ranked 44th nationally in the final Golfstat rankings for adjusted stroke average.
Finishing Strong: Nathan Lashley certainly saved his best golf for his senior season, as his 71.70 stroke average is 2.51 strokes lower than his career average entering the season. In nine spring events, his stroke average fell to 71.21, including four top-five finishes. Ten of his 13 career rounds in the 60s came this season, and his tally of six top-20 finishes this year easily surpassed his career total (4) entering 2004-05. Lashley was stellar at the Pac-10 Championships (April 25-27), carding rounds of 68, 72, 68 and 69 to post a seven-under 277 total. The 277 tally was the sixth-best 72-hole aggregate total in school history and his best finish at the Pac-10 meet. It was also his second-lowest tournament total in relation to par in his four-year career. He was almost as good at the NCAA Regionals, finishing in a tie for second place with a three-under 207. Lashley was Arizona’s top finisher in all three postseason events.
One Solid Sophomore: Sophomore Henry Liaw led the team, or is tied for the lead, in nearly every statistical category of note: top-10 finishes (five) rounds at par or better (18) and rounds in the 60s (11). His 2004-05 stroke average is the same as in his All-American effort (71.90) last year. The product of Rowland Heights, Calif., was the Cats’ top finisher in six of 13 stroke play events in 2004-05, while 35 of his 39 rounds played (87.7 percent) counted towards the team total. Liaw also proved to be a bellwether. In the five events where Liaw opened with a score in the 60s, Arizona’s team stroke average was 285.93 and the team’s average finish was 4.4. In the eight events where he didn’t break 70, the team’s stroke average was 292.96 and the average finish is 7.5. Through his first two seasons at Arizona, Liaw’s 71.90 career stroke average ranks third on the school’s career chart, trailing only Chris Nallen (71.19, 2000-04) and Ricky Barnes (71.48, 1999-2003).
First-Round Phenom: Count sophomore Josh Esler as a first-round type of guy. While his season-long stroke average was a respectable 73.65 in a team-leading 40 rounds played, he’s shown a tendency to play his best golf during the first 18 holes. In 13 stroke play events, his first-round stroke average is 73.12, a figure that is 3.61 strokes lower than his average in all other rounds combined. Esler has posted or equaled his tournament-low score seven times in the first round of those 13 events played. In two career NCAA Championship appearances, his first round scoring average is 72.00, while his scoring average for the rest of the event is 77.40.
Steady Under Pressure: It didn’t take long for freshman Travis Esway to make his presence felt as he earned individual medalist honors at the Ron Moore Invitational, Sept. 27-28, in his first collegiate event. Esway carded a 12-under 204 (a team low in 2004-05) total and became the first of two UA individual medalists this year. He competed in 13 tournaments in 2004-05, posted a 73.03 stroke average and collected four top-20 finishes. One of those top-20 finishes came at the Pac-10 Championships where he finished in a tie for 19th place with a three-over 287 total that included a first-round 68.
Quite a Debut: It’s not often that a player gets to make his varsity debut at the NCAA Championships, but that is exactly what happened to sophomore Brian Prouty. He shot a 15-over 225 at the Championships to finish in a tie for 85th place. In seven appearances this season, Prouty posted a 73.76 stroke average and collected three top-20 finishes. He put 10 career collegiate events under his belt before finally cracking the varsity lineup.
Keeping Busy: In the 49 days between his collegiate golf appearances (April 12-June 1), Brian Prouty managed to keep himself busy in a few noteworthy events. He finished second at the U.S. Open Local Qualifier, May 17, with a four-under 68 at Tucson Country Club. Prouty also captured the Tucson City Amateur Championship, May 1, with a 71-67-71-64=273 (-11) total to win by two strokes.
On the Horizon: Coach LaRose and his staff signed four student-athletes to National-Letters-of-Intent during the November signing period. Benjamin Fox from Studio City, Calif.; Nicholas Park from Ithaca, N.Y.; Joseph Porter from Scottsdale, Ariz.; and Josh Wilks from Tucson, Ariz., will join the squad next fall.