Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Men's Golf Makes 21st Consecutive NCAA Championship Appearance
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: May 24, 2007
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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On the Tee:  Arizona opens play at the 2007 NCAA Championships, May 30-June 2, in Williamsburg, Va., and appears in the event for the 25th time and the 21st consecutive season ... Arizona is one of only two schools nationally to qualify for the national championships in every season since the regional format was adopted in 1989 ... In 24 previous NCAA Championship appearances, the Wildcats have one national championship (1992) and six top-five finishes.


The Rankings:  The Wildcats are ranked 24th in the current (May 20) Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index and are No. 23 in the may 16 Golf World/Nike Coaches Poll.  Individually, senior Brian Prouty is top-ranked Wildcat nationally, checking in at No. 50 on the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index.  Three other UA golfers are in the top 200.


The Probable Arizona Lineup:

Golfer                       Yr.         Avg.            Top 10/20          Low Rd.         Rounds

Brian Prouty            Sr.         71.82                 3/0                     62                  28

Josh Esler              Sr.         73.05                 0/5                     66                  37

Nathan Tyler           Sr.         71.96                 3/2                     67                  28

Josh Wilks              Sr.         72.71                 2/2                     68                  31

Pedro Oriol             Fr.         73.28                 2/3                     66                  36


A Look at the 2007 NCAA Championships:  Virginia Commonwealth University hosts 72 holes of stroke play over four days as part of the 110th NCAA Men’s Golf Championships at the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club’s Gold Course, a par 71, 6,817-yard layout. Arizona’s first round tee times begin at 7:37 a.m. EDT off the first tee on May 30. Thirty teams, including 21 teams ranked in the current Golf World/Nike Coaches Poll, and six individuals fill out the 156-man field. Here is the field listed by seed: 1. Georgia, 2. Tulsa, 3. Alabama, 4. UCLA, 5. Florida, 6. USC, 7. Lamar, 8. Georgia Tech, 9. Arizona State, 10. Tennessee, 11. Oklahoma State, 12. Stanford, 13. Georgia State, 14. Coastal Carolina, 15. East Tennessee State, 16. South Carolina, 17. Louisville, 18. Auburn, 19. Florida State, 20. Vanderbilt, 21. Duke, 22. Arizona, 23. Charlotte, 24. Texas Tech, 25. North Carolina, 26. Michigan State, 27. New Mexico, 28. Wake Forest, 29. Texas and 30. Minnesota. Individuals include Chance Pipitone, Pennsylvania; Kyle Stanley, Clemson; Tim Streng, Western Illinois; Zach Sucher, UAB; Daniel Summerhays, Brigham Young; and Dan Woltman, Wisconsin. Live tournament scoring will be available at


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:  The Wildcats posted a 17-under-par 271, the fourth-lowest round in school history, to finish in sixth place at the 2007 NCAA West Regional at Karsten Golf Course in Tempe, Ariz.

  Arizona’s 17-under day gave the team an 828 (-36) total and possession of sixth place in the 27-team field.  The effort clinched a berth in the 2007 NCAA Championships for the Wildcats, which is the program’s 21st consecutive appearance.  That is the second longest active streak in the nation and is tied for the fifth-longest streak in NCAA history.  Additionally, Arizona’s 36-under tally was the third lowest tournament total in school history.

  South Carolina topped the field with a 44-under total of 820.

  The Wildcats’ final-round efforts were led by freshman Pedro Oriol, who collected seven birdies on the way to a career-low 66.  The Madrid, Spain, native finished in a tie for 14th place at 11-under 205.  The 205 total was a career-low for Oriol.  Arizona State’s Benjamin Alvarado claimed individual medalist honors at 18-under 198.

  Josh Esler continued his run of stellar play in NCAA Regional action as he tied for 14th place at 11-under 205.  Over the last two seasons, the senior from Wauconda, Ill., is a combined 21 strokes under par in regional play. He carded a four-under 68 to finish with his fifth top-20 finish of the season.

  Brian Prouty finished three strokes behind at eight-under 208 to tie for 31st place.  Prouty carded a four-under 68 in the final round.  Nathan Tyler tied for 43rd place at five-under 211, while Josh Wilks tied for 76th place at one-under 215.  Wilks’ third-round 69 included five birdies.


Last Year at the NCAA Championships:  The University of Arizona men’s golf team shot a 10-over-par 298 in the final round and finished in 13th place at the 2006 NCAA Championships at the Crosswater Club at Sunriver Resort in Sunriver, Ore.

  Arizona’s 10-over effort dropped the Wildcats into 13th place at 16-over 1,168 in the field of 30 teams. Oklahoma State claimed the national championship with a nine-under par 1,143 total.

  Junior Josh Esler’s two-under 70 was the lone bright spot for the Wildcats, who posted its highest single-round total of the tournament on Saturday. The NCAA Championship appearance was the 20th consecutive for the Wildcats, the second-longest active streak in the country.

  Esler’s 70 gave him a 72-hole total of six-over 294, which tied him for 48th place. He was the highest-finishing Wildcat in the event.

  Three other Wildcats, Travis Esway, Brian Prouty and Henry Liaw, tied for 50th place at seven-over 295.

  Ben Fox finished tied for 66th place at 10-over 298. Fox carded a four-over 76 during the final round.

Arizona Individuals                                                                     Top-Five Teams

T48.   Josh Esler.................... 76-71-77-70=294 (+6)                    1.   Oklahoma State........ 1143

T50.   Henry Liaw.................. 76-73-71-75=295 (+7)                    2.   Florida...................... 1146

T50.   Brian Prouty................. 74-71-73-77=295 (+7)                    3.   Minnesota................. 1147

T50.   Travis Esway............... 74-68-73-80=295 (+7)                          Wake Forest............. 1147

T66.   Ben Fox........................ 72-76-74-76=298 (+10)                  5.   Kentucky.................. 1153

                                                                                                        13. ARIZONA................. 1168


Twenty Plus:  Arizona enters the 2007 Division I Men’s Golf NCAA Championships riding a streak of 21 consecutive appearances in the event, which is the second-longest active streak in the nation. Only Oklahoma State’s string of 61 berths (1947-present) tops Arizona’s efforts. No other school in the country has a streak of more than 10. During the streak, the Cats have 10 top-10 finishes, including the 1992 national championship.


Select Six: According to championship records, Arizona is one of only six programs in NCAA history to register 20 or more consecutive appearances in the Division I Men’s Golf Championships since 1939.


Tougher Than It Looks:  As mentioned above, Arizona carries the nation’s second longest streak of NCAA Championship appearances into this week’s affair.  Just getting this far can be a struggle.  Taking out the five longest active streaks (Oklahoma State, Arizona, Georgia, Georgia Tech and Florida/see box below), the remaining 25 teams in this year’s championship field account for 47 consecutive appearances.  The five programs mentioned above total 109.  By comparison, 20 teams in this year’s field have a string of two consecutive appearances or less.


When It Counts:  The Wildcats’ 36-under-par 828 total in the NCAA West Regional was the third-lowest tournament total in school history.  It was the first time in 13 stroke play events this year that all five UA players finished a tournament under par.  The Wildcats’ 828 tally was 13 strokes lower than any other tournament total this season.  It was one of seven under-par tournament tallies for the Cats this year.  Furthermore, of the three lowest tournament totals in program history, two have come in the 2006 and 2007 NCAA West Regional.  Over the last two seasons, UA is a combined 73 strokes under par in the NCAA Regional.


Another Scoring Note:  En route to the 36-under total at the West Regional, Arizona posted a 17-under 271 final-round total, which was the lowest single round for the program on a par-72 course since 1993.  The figure also equaled the fourth-lowest single round in school history.  Not surprisingly, UA posted four scores in the 60s during the round, which was the first time the Cats had accomplished that feat this season.  Three players in the UA regional lineup (Josh Esler, Pedro Oriol, Nathan Tyler) posted season-low tournament totals in the regional.


Not That Far:  The Wildcats close the 2006-07 campaign in Williamsburg, Va., a destination that is 1,966 miles from Tucson.  Three time zones and nearly 2,000 miles is quite a hike, but it’s not the longest road trip of the year.  In February, the Wildcats traveled 2,978 miles to play in the John Burns Intercollegiate in Wahiawa, Hawaii.


Distance Can Be a Factor:  On the surface, traveling across time zones might seem to be problematic.  The Wildcats seem to enjoy long journeys to close the season.  Since the turn of the century, four NCAA Championships have been played in the Eastern Time Zone (2001, ?'02, ?'04, ?'05).  UA has an average finish of eighth in those events, including a pair of third-place efforts.  In the three other years where the championships were held in another time zone (2000, ?'03, ?'06), Arizona’s average finish is 11th.


Red Numbers:  Arizona’s regional effort in which it posted three consecutive rounds under par in a single tournament marked just the third time this season that the Wildcats were able to accomplish the feat ?- Nov. 6-7 at the CordeValle Collegiate and April 2-3 at the National Invitational Tournament were the others. UA played the final 36 holes of the regional at 30-under par, a figure that ranked third in the 27-team field. Additionally, Arizona’s final-round 271 at the regional was easily the lowest final-round tally of the year.


All-Conference:  Seniors Brian Prouty and Nathan Tyler were recognized with all-Pac-10 honors in voting done by the league’s head men’s golf coaches. Prouty was a second team selection, while Tyler received honorable mention accolades.  It marked the first time that either player has be recognized with all-conference accolades.  Since joining the Pac-10 in 1978-79, Arizona men’s golf has had 91 student-athletes earn all-Pac-10 honors.


A Quicker Solution:  On a team where it took 10 stroke play events to settle on a regular lineup, a quick glance at the rounds at par or better statistical category could have expedited the process.  Not surprisingly, each of the top five players in that category will be in action this week.  Nathan Tyler (17), Josh Esler (16), Brian Prouty (15), Josh Wilks (14) and Pedro Oriol (14) all lead the team in that category.  Cumulatively, that group has shot par or better in 49.4 percent of its rounds played this season (76 of 154), and the quintet was 14-of-15 in that category during the West Regional.  Individually, Tyler leads the way with a 60.7 percent success rate of reaching or breaking par (17 of 28).


Take Your Turn:  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 13 varsity stroke play events this season, a total of six different players have been the Wildcats’ top finisher.  Pedro Oriol leads with four, just ahead of Brian Prouty’s three.   Nathan Tyler has two, while Josh Wilks, Josh Esler and Creighton Honeck have one each.


His Time to Shine:  There must be something about the NCAA regional that appeals to Josh Esler.  Whatever the reason, the senior has proven the ability to go low when the pressure is on.  In the 2006 and 2007 West Regionals, Esler is a combined 21 strokes under par.  His two lowest tournament tallies are regional efforts and his career-low round of 66 was registered during the second round of this year’s event in Tempe.  That six-under score was paramount to UA’s qualifying efforts, as the Cats jumped from 12th place after the first round to eighth after the second.


It (Nearly) All Rides With Him:  While UA’s lineup may feature four seniors, it does not have a lot of NCAA Championship experience.  All told, Arizona brings a total of 18 rounds played at this event.  Nearly two-thirds of that experience rides with Josh Esler (11 rounds played).  He is also the most-experienced Wildcat in the field with 155 career rounds played.  Fellow senior Brian Prouty has the other seven rounds of experience, while three players are making their NCAA Championship debut this week.


Back At It:  Tucson, Ariz., native Brian Prouty posted an eight-under 208 at the West Regional to tie for 31st place.  It was a solid effort that featured rounds of 70, 70 and 68, which marked the first time he notched three consecutive under-par rounds in an event since April 2-3.  The eight-under tally was a welcome sight, as Prouty was a combined six strokes over par in his previous four tournaments played.  The effort left him with a 71.82 stroke average, a figure that leads the team.


Strong Start:  Left wrist surgery cost senior Brian Prouty to miss the entire fall season, but he certainly rebounded with a flourish.  He won his first event of the season ?- the PING-Arizona Intercollegiate on Jan. 30 ?- with a 14-under 199 total.  Perhaps the rehabilitation was worth it because Prouty registered a 62 (-9) in his first round back 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 men’s 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.  He has a 71.38 stroke average over his last 13 rounds played.


Final Round Fury:  Few Wildcats have shown the ability to close out tournaments as well as Josh Wilks.  In his 10 appearances this season, Wilks has a final-round stroke average of 70.90, which is the lowest on the team.  Of his six rounds in the 60s this season, four have come over the final 18 holes, including a 69 at the West Regional.  The senior from Tucson, Ariz., has extended that to his overall play of late, as he is averaging 72.31 strokes over his last 16 rounds played.


Count On Him:  Senior Nathan Tyler quietly has become the Wildcats’ most consistent performer.  After carding a season-low 211 (-5) total at the West Regional, it extended to four his string of tournaments under par, which is the longest such streak on the squad.  In that span, Tyler has a 71.00 scoring average.  Look for Tyler to shine at the 72-hole NCAA Championships.  He was Arizona’s top finisher at the Pac-10 Championships, where he posted a four-round total of three-under 285.


Break Out:  Pedro Oriol seemed to respond to the pressure of postseason play, as he carded an 11-under 205  to tie for 14th place at the NCAA Regional, which was his best placing since March.  On the season, he has five top-20 finishes, including a pair of top-10 efforts, to tie for the team lead in that category.  Earlier this spring, the Madrid, Spain, product enjoyed a three-tournament run that saw him finish fourth, third and 11th.  His 11-under effort at the regional was easily the lowest tournament total of the season for the freshman, and his final-round 66 was his low round of the year.


On the Leaderboard:  Arizona’s quintet of golfers has done well in terms of top-10 and top-20 finishes this season.  Nathan Tyler and Brian Prouty share the team lead with three top-10 efforts, while Tyler, Josh Esler and Pedro Oriol each have a total of five top-20 finishes.  Josh Wilks is one behind with four.  Of the 29 top-20 finishes recorded by Wildcat golfers this season, 19 of those were posted by the lineup scheduled to compete this week.


Remarkably Consistent:  Now in his 29th year as the Arizona mentor, Rick LaRose has proven himself to be a championship caliber coach with 21 consecutive NCAA Championship appearances.  LaRose took over the program in 1979 and needed eight seasons to ea

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