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Men's Golf Closes 2001-02 Season With Third Straight Top-10 Finish at NCAA Championships
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 06/10/2002
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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June 10, 2002

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On the Tee: Arizona closed the 2001-02 campaign with its 16th consecutive appearance at the NCAA Men's Golf Championships and finished in a tie for ninth place ... It was UA's third straight top-10 NCAA finish ... Over the last three years, Arizona has been the top-finishing Pac-10 school at the NCAA Championships, and only one school west of the Central Time Zone has finished ahead of Arizona at any of those championships.

The Rankings: After opening the season as the nation's second-ranked team, Arizona finished the year with a No. 20 ranking by Golf World, 22th in the Precept/GCAA Coaches Poll and No. 23 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index. Golf World also selected UA junior Ricky Barnes as the nation's Preseason Player of the Year and included sophomore Chris Nallen in its "50 College Players to Watch" list. Individually, two UA players are ranked in the top 55 nationally in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index.

A Look at the 2002 Numbers: As mentioned above, Arizona extended its streak of consecutive NCAA Championship appearances to 16. Since moving to the Regional format in 1989, UA has also competed in all 14 NCAA Regional competitions ... Arizona posted a 297.31 stroke average in 13 team events this season. Included in that figure is a 72.55 countable stroke average, which is the lowest countable average in school history. As a team, Arizona earned five top-five finishes in 13 events and had 14 individual top-10 placings.

The Probable Arizona Lineup:

Golfer    	Yr.	Avg.	Top 10/20     Low Rd.	Events
Chris Nallen	So.	71.47	  5/6    	65	  14
Ricky Barnes	Jr.	72.13	  4/4   	67	  14
Reid Hatley	Jr.	73.21	  2/3   	67	  13
Kipp Riehle	Fr.	74.48	  1/1   	68	  13
Andy Connell	So.	75.29	  0/0   	69	   9

Head Coach Rick LaRose . . . completed his 24th 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, five Pac-10 crowns and three Rolex Match Play titles. In NCAA Championship play, he also has five third-place finishes, a fifth-place and two sixth-place efforts to his credit. Since 1978, his men's teams have won 47 tournaments and produced 39 All-Americans. He is assisted by John Knauer.

Last Time Out: Arizona closed action at the 2002 NCAA Men's Golf Championships tied for ninth place with a tournament total of 14-over-par 1150. The Wildcats posted a final-round 290 to move up two spots in the final standings. Ricky Barnes was Arizona's top finisher for the third consecutive year as he tied for 17th place with a 72-hole score of 283 (-1). Minnesota won the national title after shooting the second-best team round of the tournament in the final round, a 6-under-par 278, to complete the event at 1134 (-2). The Golden Gophers surpassed third-round leader Georgia Tech, who finished in second place at 1138 (+2). Despite his team's stumble to second place, Georgia Tech's Troy Matteson captured individual medalist honors, finishing with a four-round 276 (-8). Arizona tied with Tulsa for ninth, 16 strokes behind Minnesota. After taking eighth place in 2001 and third place in 2000, Barnes continued his streak of top-20 finishes at the NCAA Championships as he shared 17th place with five other golfers. The 6-foot-1 native of Stockton, Calif., shot his third round of the tournament at even par to finish the four-day tournament at 1-under-par 283. Also finishing in the top 25 for the Wildcats was Chris Nallen, who tied for 23rd place as he carded a final-round 72. The sophomore from Blairstown, N.J., completed the national championship tournament at even par. His performance this week lowered his season scoring average to 71.47, which ranks as the sixth-best mark in UA history. Reid Hatley closed his third season as a Wildcat with a 51st place finish at the NCAA Championships. Hatley shot 2-over-par 73 Saturday to bring his four-round total to 5-over-par 289. Andy Connell finished play at 12-over-par 296 to tie for 102nd place, an improvement of seven strokes in relation to par and his 19-over-par showing at the 2001 NCAA Championships. Kipp Riehle completed his first campaign with the Wildcats by tying for 124th as he shot 15-over-par 299 this week.

Death, Taxes and Ricky Barnes: Once again, Ricky Barnes proved his reliability as he was Arizona's top finisher at the NCAA Championships for the third straight season. His 71-71-70-71=283 (-1) placed him in a tie for 17th place and marked his third consecutive top-20 effort. Despite struggling with the putter all season, Barnes stepped it up when it mattered most, as he was UA's top finisher in each of the last four events. The run includes co-individual medalist honors at the 2002 NCAA West Regional.

Finishing On Top: Barnes' win at the West Regional marked the third straight season in which the Wildcats have had at least one individual medalist. It was also Barnes' fifth career win, which tied him for third place on the all-time UA victories list. The native of Stockton, Calif., will enter his senior season two wins shy of equaling the school record of seven set by Robert Gamez from 1986-89.

One-Two Punch: The duo of Chris Nallen and Ricky Barnes can certainly rank near the top of any pair of teammates on the collegiate level. Nallen's team-leading 2001-02 71.47 stroke average ranks sixth on the UA single-season scoring list, while Barnes' 72.13 mark ranks 12th. It gets even better on the career list, as Barnes (71.43) and Nallen (71.63) rank one and two respectively.

More Postseason Accolades: Nallen and Barnes were each named honorable mention All-America by the Golf Coaches Association of America. It marked the 11th consecutive season in which Arizona has had at least one All-America, and the fourth time in the last five years that the Cats have had multiple selections. It was the third time Barnes has received All-America distinctions and the second for Nallen. The pair also earned spots on the GCAA's all-Pacific Region squad.

All-Conference: Sophomore Chris Nallen and junior Ricky Barnes were each named all-Pacific-10 Conference in voting done by the league's head coaches. Nallen earned first team honors, while Barnes was included on the second team. It was the third career all-conference accolade for Barnes and the second for Nallen.

Hogan Award: Chris Nallen was named one of 20 semifinalists for the Ben Hogan Award, which honors the nation's outstanding male college golfer. The award, given by the Friends of Golf, Colonial Country Club and the Golf Coaches Association of America, is based on play from May 1, 2001-May 1, 2002.

International Competition: Chris Nallen was one of 12 collegiate players selected to participate in the 2002 USA vs. Japan Collegiate Golf Championships. The eight-man, four-woman competition will be held July 17-19 at the Glen Club in Glenview, Ill. Nallen is the third UA player to participate in the last two years, as Ricky Barnes and former Wildcat Natalie Gulbis helped the U.S. to victory last season. Last year, Team USA was coached by UA Director of Golf Rick LaRose and head women's coach Greg Allen.

Heading to the U.S. Open: Ricky Barnes earned a spot in the 2002 United States Open Championship after shooting a 70-67=137 (-7) to claim one of three qualifying spots in the sectional qualifier in Daly City, Calif. It will be Barnes' second career U.S. Open appearance, as he also competed in the 2000 event at Pebble Beach. This year's Open will be contested June 13-16 at Bethpage State Park's Black Course in Farmingdale, N.Y.

Regional Successes: Since the NCAA Regional format was instituted in 1989, Arizona has enjoyed a fair amount of success in the opening round of the NCAA postseason. The Cats have claimed five team titles, including three straight from 1991-93, and finished second last season. UA has also had four individual medalists: Robert Gamez (1989), Harry Rudolph (1992) Manny Zerman (1993), and Ricky Barnes (2002).

Sub-70: Chris Nallen has a knack of posting some low scores at the NCAA Championships. In his two career appearances (totaling eight rounds), the Blairstwon, N.J., native has carded four rounds in the 60s. He opened the 2002 championship event 69-68 before finishing at even-par 294 for the tournament.

Pleasant Surprise: Count freshman Kipp Riehle as one of Arizona's most pleasant surprises in 2001-02. After redshirting last year, he played in 13 events this season and ranked fourth on the team with a 74.48 stroke average. Though he struggled at the NCAA Championships, posting his third-highest total of the season, Riehle proved to be a solid No. 4 for the Cats, as he collected two top-20 finishes on the year. He carded three sub-par tournament totals, including a two-under 214 in his collegiate debut that earned him a tie for sixth place at the William H. Tucker Intercollegiate in September.

Holding Strong at No. 3: Junior Reid Hatley may be one of the most overlooked college golfers around, but few may be as valuable. The native of Spokane, Wash., ranked third on the team with a 73.21 stroke average, posted 15 rounds at par or better and tallied five top-20 finishes. It's no secret that when Hatley is playing well, Arizona is a much more imposing squad. The team may have played its best stretch of golf at the same time Hatley was in the middle of a stretch that saw him register four tournament finishes at par or better in six outings. He also has a 72.08 stroke average in three NCAA Championship appearances.

Stepping Up: Sophomore Andy Connell's efforts in the spring might be as important as any in helping the team qualify for its 16th consecutive NCAA Championship appearance. The Denver, Colo., native averaged 74.06 strokes in Arizona's last five tournaments, a figure that is 1.23 strokes lower than his season average. Nine of Connell's last 11 rounds counted in the team totals. Since April, Connell collected his best placement (T29), low tournament total (217/+1), set a season-low round (69), and collected all five of his sub-par rounds this season.

Adding Depth: Since winning a roster spot during fall tryouts and joining the squad in January, sophomore Nick Juszczak has added a little depth to the lineup. He made six appearances in the spring and ranked fifth on the team with a 74.50 stroke average. Juszczak carded his low tournament total of the season in his first event, the PING-Arizona Intercollegiate (217/+4), and followed that up with a top-10 finish in his next appearance. He recorded four rounds at par or better this spring, including a season-low 69 in the second round of the ASU Thunderbird/Savane Invitational in his last appearance of the year.

Gaining Experience: A pair of freshmen gained a tremendous amount of experience in 2001-02, as Nathan Lashley and Steven Eshbach combined to play in 51 rounds this season. Lashley, a Scottsbluff, Neb., product, ranked ninth on the squad with a 75.94 stroke average in 11 events, while his six rounds at par or better ranked fourth. Eshbach, a native of Bonita, Calif., averaged 76.16 strokes and collected one top-20 finish. Incidentally, Eshbach carded Arizona's second-lowest round of the year, a second round 66 at the PING-Arizona Intercollegiate in February.

Preseason Player of the Year: Junior Ricky Barnes was tabbed by Golf World magazine as the No. 1 men's college golfer in the nation. The Stockton, Calif., native has 13 top-10 finishes in his two-year career, including four victories. His 71.05 career stroke average is the lowest in school history. Sophomore Chris Nallen was named to the publication's "50 College Golfers to Watch" list.

Early Signees: UA men's golf coach Rick LaRose signed three student-athletes to National Letters-of-Intent during the November signing period. Zack Amole (Devner, Pa./Cocalico H.S.), Brett Carter (Phoenix, Ariz./Mountain Pointe H.S.) and Blaine Peffley (Lebanon, Pa./Cedar Crest H.S.) will join the Wildcat golf program in the Fall 2002.

What Returns for 2002-03: Led by its three top players, Arizona is scheduled to return 10 letterwinners for the 2002-03 season. In addition to Ricky Barnes, Chris Nallen and Reid Hatley, who have each earned All-America honors during their collegiate careers, each of the seven other returning letterwinners played in at least one varsity event in 2001-02. Tim Weiss, who ranked eighth with a 75.36 stroke average, and Brandon Smith, who ranked 10th with a 75.95 stroke average, were the Wildcats' only seniors.

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