May 22, 2003
On the Tee: Following runner-up finishes at the Pac-10 Conference Championships and the NCAA West Regional, the University of Arizona looks to go one better at the 106th NCAA Men's Golf Championships, May 27-30 in Stillwater, Okla. ... Such a finish would be the program's second national championship (1992) ... The Wildcats are appearing in its 17th consecutive NCAA Championships, the third-longest active streak in the nation ... Arizona has four team victories in eight events this spring ... Over the last three season, only one school west of the Central Time Zone has finished ahead of Arizona at the NCAA Championships, and the Cats have posted top-10 finishes in each of those appearances.
The Rankings: The Wildcats remain ranked in the top 10 in all three major college golf polls. Arizona is ranked seventh in the current (May 7) Precept/GCAA Coaches Poll, and sixth in both the (May 20) Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index and (May 16) Golfworld Coaches Poll. Four UA golfers rank in the top 120 of the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, including two in the top 11: Ricky Barnes (ninth) and Chris Nallen (11th). Golfweek also tabbed Barnes, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, as the nation's fourth-ranked collegiate player and included junior Nallen in its "50 College Players to Watch" list.
A Look at the 2003 NCAA Championships: Oklahoma State University hosts the 2003 NCAA Men's Golf Championships, May 27-30. Seventy-two holes of stroke play will be contested over four days at Karsten Creek Golf Course in Stillwater, Okla., a par-72, 7,301-yard layout. Tee times begin at 7 a.m. CDT each day off the No. 1 and No. 10 tees. Thirty teams are scheduled to compete in this championship: Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, Augusta State, Clemson, Duke, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Oklahoma State, Oregon, San Diego State, South Carolina, Southern California, SMU, Tennessee, Texas, UCLA, UNLV, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, Washington, and Wichita State. Six individuals make up the rest of the 156-man field, and include: William Ted Brown (Virginia Commonwealth), Brett Callas (Houston), Stephen Carroll (Colorado), Travis Bertoni (Cal Poly), Ryan Gildersleeve (South Alabama), and Issac Weintraub (San Jose State).
The Probable Arizona Lineup:
Golfer Yr. Avg. Top 10/20 Low Rd. Events Ricky Barnes Sr. 71.50 8/1 66 12 Chris Nallen Jr. 71.33 9/3 66 14 Andrew Medley Sr. 73.04 1/2 67 8 Reid Hatley Sr. 73.47 2/2 65 13 Brian Woolf Sr. 73.97 1/1 68 10
Head Coach Rick LaRose . . . is in his 25th 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 51 tournaments and produced 39 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. He is assisted by John Knauer.
Last Time Out: Led by the senior tandem of Ricky Barnes and Reid Hatley, Arizona men's golf team posted the low round of the day May 17 to finish in second place at the 2003 NCAA Men's Golf West Regional. Barnes and Hatley, the two most experienced players on the Wildcat roster, combined for a seven-under-par tally on the day to help Arizona post a final-round 285 (-3) and finish the three-round tournament with an 865 (+1) total. UA, which finished one stroke behind tournament-winner UCLA (864/E), and Washington were the only schools in the field of 27 to post a sub-par round in this tournament. Barnes' final-round 67(-5) briefly equaled the Washington National Golf Club course record and moved him into sole possession of third place at the West Regional with a three-round total of 211 (-5). That record was topped by Pepperdine's Michael Putnam later in the day with an eight-under 64. A co-individual medalist at last year's NCAA West Regional, Barnes finished three strokes behind New Mexico's Michael Letzig, who carded a 208 (-8) total. Hatley carded a final-round two-under 70 to finish in a tie for 24th place at 219 (+3). The third-round score was Hatley's lowest in his last three events, and the tie for 24th was his best placing at the regionals since a tie for fifth place as a freshman in 2000.
2002 NCAA Championship Review: 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). 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 native of Stockton, Calif., shot his third round of the tournament at even par to finish the four-day event at 283 (-1). 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 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.
No Stranger to This Town: The 2003 NCAA Men's Golf Championships mark Arizona's second appearance at Karsten Creek Golf Course in the last seven months. Earlier this season, Arizona finished in third place at the Ping/Golfweek NCAA Preview, Oct. 7-8. The Wildcats carded a 10-over-par 298 in the final round and finished the 54-hole event with an 893 (+29) total. Arizona was one of just six teams in the field of 15 to post a sub-300 total over the final 18 holes. Augusta State won the event at 880 (+16). Individually, senior Ricky Barnes fired a final round one-under 71 to tie for third place at 217 (+1). Augusta State's Emmett Turner captured individual medalist honors with a three-under 213 total. He was the only golfer in the field of 75 to finish under par. Fellow UA senior Reid Hatley carded a one-under 71 to finish tied for 13th place at 222 (+6).
A Cinderella Story: For 72 holes during the second week of April, Ricky Barnes stood toe-to-toe with golf's greatest players at its most prestigious event and did not back down in finishing in 21st place April 13 at the 67th annual Masters Tournament. The senior from Stockton, Calif., posted a final-round 73 (+1) to finish with a four-round 69-74-75-73=291 (+3). He finished 10 strokes behind eventual winner Mike Weir, who needed a one-hole sudden death playoff to defeat Len Mattiace, at 281 (-7). One of three amateurs to make the 36-hole cut, Barnes' 291 total qualified him as the low-finishing amateur. Ultimately, his 291 total was one stroke away from qualifying for the 2004 Masters, as the top 16 finishers plus ties automatically qualify for next year's event. That exemption included players at 290 (+2) or better.
The Big Show: Barnes' finish at The Masters was no fluke. It was his fourth career appearance in a professional tour event (2000 and 2002 U.S. Open), and his second this season. On March 2, Barnes tallied a final-round 70 to finish in a tie for 18th place at the Chrysler Classic of Tucson. He carded a 69-70-68-70=277 (-11) to earn his first career PGA Tour top-20 finish. Incidentally, Barnes has a 72.83 stroke average in those four PGA Tour appearances (12 rounds).
Hall of Famer: University of Arizona director of golf Rick LaRose was inducted into the Golf Coaches Association Hall of Fame on Jan. 22. Joining LaRose in the Class of 2002 is UNLV head coach Dwaine Knight. The duo was officially inducted at the GCAA's National Awards Dinner at the Sheraton World Resort in Orlando, Fla. To be selected to the GCAA Hall of Fame, a coach must be nominated by his peers, and then selected by the Hall of Fame Committee. Knight and LaRose were the 70th and 71st members of the GCAA Hall of Fame, which honors a coach for his record on the golf course, as well as his contributions to the game, student-athletes and school.
Ben Hogan Award Co-Winners: Along with Oklahoma State's Hunter Mahan, Ricky Barnes was named co-winner 2003 Ben Hogan Award, which is presented annually to the top NCAA Division I, II, III, or NAIA golfer. The award covers all collegiate and amateur competitions during the last 12 months. The award was presented by The Friends of Golf and Colonial Country Club, in cooperation with Bank of America and the Golf Coaches Association of America. The winners were announced on May 9 and received the honor May 19 at Colonial Country Club. It marked the third time in school history that a UA golfer has earned national amateur-of-the-year accolades, as Eric Meeks (1988) and Robert Gamez (1989) received the honor from Titleist/Golfweek.
All-Pac-10: Four members of the University of Arizona men's golf team were recognized May 1 with all-Pacific-10 Conference honors in voting done by the league's head coaches. Highlighting the announcement was Ricky Barnes' selection as the 2003 Golfer of the Year. Barnes, Reid Hatley, Andrew Medley and Chris Nallen each earned all-conference honors. Barnes and Nallen were selected to the first team, while Hatley and Medley garnered honorable mention accolades. UA golfers have earned such recognition 79 times since joining the league in 1978-79. It was Barnes' second Pac-10 Golfer of the Year award. He also shared the award in 2001.
NCAA Championship History: In addition to winning the 1992 national championship, Arizona has made 20 previous appearances in the NCAA Men's Golf Championships with the first coming in 1941. Under the direction of head coach Rick LaRose, the Wildcats have appeared in 17 consecutive NCAA Championships, as mentioned earlier the third-longest active streak in the nation. Only Oklahoma State (57) and Clemson (22) have made more consecutive NCAA Championship appearances.
Always Near the Top: All told, Arizona collected nine top-three finishes in 13 team events this season. The Wildcats have really heated up this spring, as the club has won four of eight events. Individually, Arizona has 19 top-10 finishes to its credit with Chris Nallen (9) and Ricky Barnes (8) leading the way. How good is this duo? Barnes and Nallen, who ranks one and two on the Arizona career stroke average list, have earned top-10 finishes in the same event six times in 2002-03, including a 3-4 finish at the NCAA West Regional.
Winner's Circle: The four tournament victories in 2002-03 is as many as the program tallied in the previous three seasons combined. It is also the most wins in a single season since the 1991-92 edition of the Wildcats won six tournaments en route to the 1992 national championship.
National Rankings: Entering these Championships ranked sixth in the country, the Wildcats have consistently earned top-10 rankings throughout the 2002-03 campaign. Arizona has been ranked as high as No. 2 nationally, which marks the fourth consecutive year in which the Wildcats have been ranked in the top three nationally at some point of the season. In fact, Arizona has been nationally ranked in every season since 1978-79 and has been in the top-10 in each of the last 17 seasons.
Low Numbers: In addition to four tournament wins, the statistics certainly point to some solid numbers. In eight spring events, Arizona has posted below-par team totals in 15 of 25 rounds (60 percent) played. The team's spring countable stroke average (71.57) is 1.45 strokes lower than it was in four scoring events this fall (73.02), which leads to an improvement of 5.80 team strokes per round. Along the way, three of the Cats' tournament totals rank among the 10 lowest on record, including the 23-under-par 829 that won the PING-Arizona Intercollegiate on Feb. 4. Overall, Arizona's stroke average ranks seventh among all NCAA Division I programs and its current 72.00 countable stroke average is the lowest in school history.
Fast Starts Not Necessary: While a good start is always appreciated, it isn't completely necessary for success. In Arizona's eight starts this spring, the club is averaging 288.72 strokes per round in its first round of play (72.18 countable stroke average), easily making the opening round the team's worst statistically. UA's best scoring round is the second, where the Cats average 282.56 strokes (70.64). That is slightly better than its third-round average of 287.04 (71.76). Statistically speaking, Arizona averages 6.4 strokes below par in rounds two and three.
Finds College Golf to His Liking: Even though he has a pair of top-25 finishes this season on the PGA Tour, 2003 Co-Ben Hogan Award winner Ricky Barnes has had his share of success on the college level. In his last four collegiate appearances (13 rounds), Barnes is averaging 70.85 strokes per round and has four top-four finishes. In fact his finishes at the Oregon Duck Invitational (3rd), National Invitational Tournament (T2nd), the Pac-10 Championships (T4th) and NCAA West Regional (3rd) are his best finishes of the season. Six of his 10 rounds in the 60s this season have come in his last four appearances.
Quite a Leader: As Ricky Barnes prepares for his final collegiate appearance, he does so with a chance to add two noteworthy accomplishments to his list of achievements. Barnes has posted three straight top-20 NCAA Championship finishes and could become the first UA golfer to register four consecutive top-20 finishes at the NCAA Championships. Furthermore, Barnes is also trying to become the first UA player to be the top finisher at four straight NCAA Championships.
Not to be Outdone: Junior Chris Nallen has been nothing short of outstanding since his arrival in Tucson back in the fall of 2000. The Blairstown, N.J., native currently leads the Wildcats in events played (14), rounds played (39), stroke average (71.33), top-10 finishes (9), rounds in the 60s (12) and rounds at par or better (27). He has been UA's top finisher in seven events this season and his 11-under 205 total at the ASU Thunderbird/Savane Invitational April 12 equaled the eighth lowest total in school history. How good is he? Nallen's 71.53 career stroke average is the second lowest in University of Arizona history.
Plays Like a No. 1: While his teammate may get a lot of attention, few golfers have been as consistently good as Chris Nallen. Not only has he been the Wildcats' top finisher in seven events this season, but has also been one of UA's top two finishers in 10 of 12 team scoring events in 2002-03. And in one of the two events where he was UA's No. 3 finisher, he still collected a tie for 10th place (National Invitational Tournament). This season, 34 of his 36 rounds played in team competition (94.4 percent) have counted toward the team total, including all 25 rounds this spring.
Welcome Aboard: Maybe it's just coincidence, but since senior Andrew Medley joined the squad at the start of the spring season, the team has started to roll. The mid-year transfer from the University of Mississippi has been a welcome addition to the lineup. In eight appearances, Medley has one top-10 and two top-20 finishes to his credit to go with a 73.04 stroke average, a figure that ranks third on the squad. He was under par in his first two tournaments and tied for fifth place April 1 at the National Invitational Tournament. Medley also posted a 17th place finish at the Pac-10 Championships.
Return Engagement: While this will be the first NCAA Championship for Andrew Medley in a University of Arizona uniform, it will not be his first Championship appearance. While a sophomore at the University of Mississippi, Medley carded a respectable two-round total of 73-74=147 (+3) at the 2001 Championships in Durham, N.C., where his Rebels did not make the 36-hole cut.
Mr. Consistency: Senior Reid Hatley has been the model of consistency, posting a 73.22 career stroke average. That's 0.22 lower than his stroke average this spring (73.44). Nine of his 13 rounds at par or better in 2002-03 have come this spring, including four of his five rounds in the 60s. Hatley has a 72.08 stroke average in three previous NCAA Championship appearances, including a tie for 15th place as a freshman in 2000.
Finds Success: Reid Hatley was one of two UA golfers to post a top-15 finish at last fall's Ping/Golfweek NCAA Preview on this same Karsten Creek course. He shot 78-73-71=222 (+6) to finish tied for 13th place and collect one of his four top-20 finishes this season. In fact, it was his play at Karsten Creek that spurred a run of four consecutive top-20 finishes. He narrowly missed out on a top-20 effort at the NCAA West Regional with a tie for 22nd place.
Pleasant Surprise: Senior Brian Woolf has been a staple in the Wildcat lineup this season, as his 73.97 stroke average is 2.05 strokes lower than his career mark entering 2002-03 (76.02). All told, he has competed in 10 events this season, which is a career high. Woolf has competed as a member of the UA varsity in six of eight events this spring an posted a 74.05 stroke average.
Early Signees: Arizona men's golf coach Rick LaRose signed three student-athletes to National Letters-of-Intent during the November signing period. The trio, will attend the school and play golf for the Wildcats beginning in the fall of 2003, includes Henry Liaw of Rowland Heights, Calif., Ben Marsh of Phoenix, Ariz., and Josh Esler of Wauconda, Ill.