Feb. 21, 2011
TUCSON, Ariz. - Sometimes the big, round numbers jump out at you. Other times, they just kind of sneak up.
For University of Arizona director of golf Rick LaRose, the big, round number is a big one: 6,000 victories. Yes, that's six, zero, zero, zero.
Now in his 39th season as a Wildcat head coach and his 33rd as the men's golf head coach, LaRose has accumulated a career record of 6,003-2,422-70 (.711) in head-to-head competition on the golf course.
"Obviously, we've had great teams and great players," La Rose said. "A coach is only as good as his athletes and I've been fortunate to have coached a lot of great people. Secondly, you have to be at this a long time. No matter how you look at it, 6,000 is a very big number."
Won-loss records in golf are figured as follows: if a team wins an 11-team event, that team's record for the event is 10-0. The runner-up is 9-1, while the third-place team is 8-2.
Success and LaRose have worked hand-in-hand since his arrival in Tucson in 1973. Initially hired as the men's head water polo coach and assistant swim coach, he guided the water polo program to four NCAA regional championships and three fifth-place finishes at the NCAA Championships. His teams were never ranked out of the top six nationally and produced five All-Americans and one United States Olympian. LaRose compiled a 154-37-2 (.803) record as the UA water polo head coach (not counted in record listed above).
He took over the men's golf head coaching duties in 1978-79, and in that span has established Wildcat golf as one of the finest college golf programs. His golf teams have been ranked in the top 20 in 26 of those 33 seasons, including a string of eight consecutive years that the Cats were ranked in the top three nationally. Further, the team has been the nation's No. 1 team 13 different times, most recently during the 1997-98 campaign, when it was ranked No. 1 for the majority of the season.
With the double-duty as the head coach for both the Arizona men's and women's programs (1996-98, 2010), he led the women to the 1996 NCAA title and each squad was ranked No. 1 during those seasons. He also had a hand in coaching two-time NCAA Women's Golfer of the Year and 1996 national champion, Marisa Baena. His win-loss record (included in overall total) with the UA women is an impressive 633-113-2 (.848).
During the 2010 campaign he helped the UA women win the Pac-10 and NCAA West Regional championship and post a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Championships. During the run, Arizona finished ahead of the nation's top-ranked team three times in four opportunities.
He is the only coach in NCAA history to win both a men's (1992) and women's (1996) national championship.
LaRose's teams have won two NCAA titles, seven NCAA regional championships, four Pac-10 crowns and three Rolex Match Play titles. In addition to being the only coach in college golf to coach both a men's and women's NCAA championship team, he is also the only one to produce both a men's and women's Rolex Match Play and Pac-10 championship teams. His finishes at the NCAAs not only include the 1992 men's and 1996 women's titles, but six third-place, two fifth-place and two sixth-place efforts.
Since 1978, LaRose's golf teams have won 61 men's tournaments and 19 women's tourneys. He has also produced seven national players of the year, 11 Pac-10 Players of the Year, 68 All-Americans and 109 all-Pac-10 Conference performers.
On the national front, he has had a hand in coaching two United States Amateur winners (and three runner-ups), five United States Walker Cup players, a pair of Ryder Cup golfers, a U.S. President's Cup performer and three United States Publinx champions. Eighteen of his pupils have also represented the U.S. in international collegiate competition.
College golf hasn't always paid such attention to win-loss records, but with the recent addition of the .500 rule to the game - where a team has to have a cumulative record of .500 or better to qualify for NCAA postseason play - the focus has come back to how well teams do on a tournament-by-tournament basis.
Such a focus brought the nearness to 6,000 wins to LaRose's attention almost by accident. "I really had no idea I was even close until a friend brought it to my attention," he said. "With all the focus these days on wins and losses in college golf, I guess it's made some people look through the records a little more closely. Six-thousand wins? That's a lot of wins."
LaRose's current squad has shown a great deal of improvement this spring, collecting a win and a top-five finish in three tournaments to date. The Wildcats will next be in action, March 11-13, at the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters in Las Vegas, Nev.
Rick LaRose's Career at a Glance
Sport Years Wins Losses Ties Pct. Men's Golf 1978-present 5,370 2,309 68 .698 Women's Golf 1994-98, 2010 633 113 2 .848 Golf Totals 6,003 2,422 70 .711
Water Polo 1973-78 154 37 2 .803 Career Totals 1973-present 6,157 2,459 72 .713