Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
2011-12 Men's Golf Year-In-Review
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: June 07, 2012
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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June 7, 2012

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In the Clubhouse: The Arizona men's golf team competed in the 2012 NCAA Southwest Regional, making its 25th postseason appearance in the last 26 seasons, including 23 NCAA Regional berths since the format was adopted in 1989 ... Along the way, the Wildcats picked up one team win - Jan. 31 at the Arizona Intercollegiate - and earned 12 individual top-10 finishes.

The Rankings: The Wildcats finished the season ranked 61st in the final (June 2) Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, and received votes in the last recent (week of May 21) Golf World/Nike Coaches Poll. Individually, junior Juan Pablo Hernandez was the top-ranked Wildcat nationally, checking in at No. 159 on the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index. Sophomore Erik Oja was next at No. 181.

The Regular Arizona Lineup:

Golfer          	Yr.	Avg.	Top 10/20	Low Rd.	Rounds
Juan Pablo Hernandez	Jr.	72.56	   4/3  	  66	  43
Erik Oja        	So.	72.65	   4/3  	  66	  43
Tucker Wadkins   	Fr.	74.28	   1/1  	  67	  40
Trent Redfern   	Jr.	74.97	   1/1  	  67	  37
Philip Bagdade  	Sr.	74.90	   0/1  	  68	  30

Head Coach Rick LaRose . . . completed his 34th season at the helm of the Arizona golf program, and in that span 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 a combined nine NCAA Regionals, six Pac-10 crowns and three Rolex Match Play titles. In NCAA Championship play, he also has six third-place finishes, two fifth-place and two sixth-place efforts to his credit. Since 1978, his men's teams have won 62 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, and the Arizona Golf Hall of Fame on Nov. 23, 2009. He was assisted by Andy Barnes.

Last Time Out: UA finished in a tie for ninth place at the 2012 NCAA Southwest Regional in Norman, Okla. The Wildcats, seeded 11th in the field, shot a final-round 302 (+14) total on May 19 to tie San Diego for ninth place in the 14-team field with a 902 (+38) total. Washington carded a five-over-par 293 to win the regional with an 860 (-4) total, four strokes ahead of second-place Texas. UW's Chris Williams shot a final-round 68 to come from behind and claim individual medalist honors with a 209 (-7) total. Arizona was led by junior Juan Pablo Hernandez, who tallied a one-over 73 and finished in a tie for 35th place at 226 (+10). His 73 was Arizona's low round of the day and moved him 15 spots up the leaderboard. Sophomore Erik Oja was the Cats' top finisher, tying for 24th place at six-over 222. He was Arizona's top finisher in five of UA's last six events. He finished two shots ahead of teammate Tucker Wadkins, who tied for 31st place at eight-over 224. The result capped the 39-year coaching career of Rick LaRose, including the last 34 seasons as Arizona's golf coach, who had announced April 24 that he was retiring at season's end.

A Numbers Game: As mentioned above, the NCAA Regional appearance was the final one for Rick LaRose as the Arizona golf coach. In a game defined by numbers, LaRose's accomplishments practically boggle the mind. In addition to winning a pair of national championships, he also won more than 6,100 head-to-head matches at a better than .700 winning percentage. Further, LaRose's teams won seven NCAA regional championships, four Pac-10 crowns and three Rolex Match Play titles. Since 1978, his golf teams have won 62 men's tournaments and 19 women's tourneys, producing seven national players of the year, 11 Pac-10 players of the year, 68 All-Americans, 109 all-Pac-10 Conference performers, two United States Amateur winners and five United States Walker Cup players. Prior to taking over as the men's golf coach in 1978, LaRose spent five seasons as UA's men's water polo coach and posted a .803 winning percentage in that span. His 39-year tenure at Arizona is the second longest for a head coach in school history.

Pac-12 All-Academic: A total of four Arizona golfers were named to the Pac-12 Conference's All-Academic team, which was released June 7. Senior Kenji Hernandez and sophomore Erik Oja were selected to the first team, while junior Trent Redfern was a second-team pick and senior Philip Bagdade was an honorable mention honoree. Bagdade (2010, `11, `12), Hernandez (2010, `11, `12) and Redfern (2011, `12) have now earned multiple conference all-academic accolades in their respective careers.

Atop the Leaderboard: Arizona is no stranger to the top of the leader board, especially as a team. The Wildcats claimed the Arizona Intercollegiate, Jan. 31, by a stroke with an 835 (-17) total. It was the 72nd win in program history and the first since February of last year. It marks the third straight season in which the Wildcats have won at least one team tournament.

Top Cat: When it comes to leading the squad, no Wildcat was better than sophomore Erik Oja, who closed the season by being the top-finishing UA player in seven events, including five of the last six outings. He tied for 24th place at the 2012 NCAA Southwest Regional, May 17-19 in Norman, Okla., with a six-over 22 total. Over the last six tournaments played, Oja led Arizona with a 71.63 scoring average. He finished the year with a 72.65 stroke average, a figure that was 1.59 strokes lower per round than his average as a freshman.

What a Difference a Year Makes: Juan Pablo Hernandez was Arizona's most consistent player, leading the team in scoring average (72.56), rounds at par or better (21), rounds counted toward the team total (41/95%), and sharing the lead in top-10 (4) and top-20 finishes (3). Perhaps most impressively, the junior from Mexico City, Mexico, has turned himself into a very productive player. As a sophomore, Hernandez posted a 75.00 stroke average, collected one top-10 and two top-20 finishes and had 10 rounds at par or better. A year later, his stroke average dropped by 2.44 stroke per round and the aforementioned statistical categories showed dramatic improvements. His runner-up finish Jan. 31 at the Arizona Intercollegiate was the best placing by a UA golfer this season, and he finished the season as UA's top-ranked golfer on the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index. He joined Erik Oja as the only two Wildcats to see action in all 43 varsity rounds.

Under Par: Twice during the 2011-12 campaign Arizona finished a tournament under par - a 17-under 835 to open the spring at the Arizona Intercollegiate and a four-under 836 to close the regular season at the Wyoming Cowboy Classic. All told, the Cats registered eight under-par rounds as a team in 12 stroke play events with the lowest single round in relation to par, 277 (-7), occurring twice on Jan. 30 as the Cats played 36 holes to open play at the Arizona Intercollegiate an event the squad eventually won by a shot.

UA head coach Rick LaRose (left) capped his 34-year tenure as the Wildcats' men's golf coach with another NCAA Regional appearance. Juan Pablo Hernandez (right) finished the year with Arizona's lowest stroke average.

A Strong Push: Freshman Tucker Wadkins capped his collegiate debut campaign very well, posting a 72.50 stroke average over his last 10 rounds, including five rounds at par or better. The native of Dallas, Texas, competed in 13 events (40) rounds and collected 13 rounds at par or better and one top-10 and one top-20 finish. Further, his 74.28 stroke average is tied for 24th in school history for freshmen. Of the 23 players ahead of him on the list, only 10 played as many as Wadkins' 40 rounds as a freshman.

Making A Move: It's not unexpected that the three guys with the most rounds played were also the leaders when it came to spring scoring averages. And that's exactly what happened when Erik Oja, Juan Pablo Hernandez and Tucker Wadkins posted 72.48, 72.65 and 73.61 stroke averages, respectively, in 29 combined spring appearances. When compared to their season-long stroke averages, Wadkins showed the most improvement, posting a spring stroke average that was 0.67 strokes lower. As a team, Arizona's countable stroke average was 73.05 in 10 spring events, an improvement of 0.5 strokes per round over its four fall events.

Good Starts: If one was to look for the Wildcat most likely to post a good first-round number, look no further than freshman Tucker Wadkins, who has been at par or better in the opening round in four of his last six tournaments, averaging a 70.83 in those first six 18-hole treks. However, as a team, the round-by-round statistics show that Arizona was more of a second-round club. In 14 stroke play events, the Wildcats' lowest scoring round on average is the second with an adjusted average of 290.52. The Cats average 290.92 strokes in round one and post a third-round average of 296.60. Not surprisingly, Arizona's low round of any tournament was registered in the second round seven times (including one tie), while it's high round appeared in the third seven times.

Strong to the Finish: Senior Philip Bagdade made the most of his opportunity, as 24 of his 30 rounds played in 2011-12 came this spring. In that span, the native of Eugene, Ore., posted a 74.75 stroke average and collected his lone top-20 finish of the season. He is the only Arizona Wildcat on the roster to make three career NCAA Regional appearances. A respectable 79 percent (15-of-19) of his varsity rounds played counted towards the team total. Also a standout off the course, Bagdade was the recipient of the UA Athletic Department's C.A.T.S (Commitment to an Athlete's Total Success) Life Skills Career Achievement Award for his community service efforts.

Low Tournament Totals: When it came to low tournament totals, here are the five lowest registered by the Wildcats in 2011-12. The best individual finish among these five scores was registered by Juan Pablo Hernandez, who finished in second place at the Arizona Intercollegiate.

203 (-7), Brenden Redfern, April 9-10, at Wyoming Cowboy Classic; 66-73-64
206 (-7), Juan Pablo Hernandez, Jan. 30-31, at Arizona Intercollegiate; 69-66-71
206 (-4), Tucker Wadkins, April 9-10, at Wyoming Cowboy Classic; 67-70-69
208 (-5), Tucker Wadkins, Jan. 30-31, at Arizona Intercollegiate; 70-69-69
211 (-5), Erik Oja, March 22-23, at Barona Collegiate Classic; 69-73-69

A Noteworthy Accomplishment: As shown above, Brenden Redfern's seven-under 203 total at the Wyoming Cowboy Classic was UA's low 54-hole total of the season, but it also put the freshman in some elite company. The aggregate total equaled the 14th lowest score in school history, while Redfern's final-round, six-under 64 on April 10 equaled the ninth-lowest aggregate round in school history and was UA's low round of the season.

Similar Features: Brothers Trent and Brenden Redfern posted similar numbers during the season. Trent, a junior, finished 2011-12 with a 74.97 stroke average with 10 rounds at par or better and a low round of 67. Brenden, a freshman, tallied a 75.05 stroke average with seven rounds at par or better, including a low round of 64. The natives of Austin, Texas, each collected one top-10 and one top-20 finish. The duo combined to play 76 rounds in 2011-12, and 62 of those rounds were played at the same events.

In Flux: With only two players - Juan Pablo Hernandez and Erik Oja - seeing action in all 14 varsity events, it would be a safe assumption that UA's regular lineup saw more than its fair share of change over the course of the 2011-12 campaign. But that wasn't quite the case, as only eight players saw action as part of UA five-man or six-man lineups. Another seven players competed alongside the varsity, competing in events as individuals.

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