On the Tee: Arizona heads to the 2005 NCAA West Regional, May 19-21, in Stanford, Calif., for a record 17th consecutive season ... UA is one of six schools nationally to appear in the regional since the format was adopted in 1989 ... The Wildcats have top-five finishes in six of seven tournaments this spring to go along with a tournament win in fall competition.
The Rankings: The Wildcats opened the 2004-05 season ranked as high as fourth nationally and in the top 20 in all three major college golf polls, and are currently ranked 18th in the Bridgestone/GCAA Coaches Poll and 22nd in the Golf World Coaches Poll. After seven team events this spring, UA checks in at No. 23 on the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index. Individually, sophomore Henry Liaw is ranked 47th nationally on the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, the highest-ranked Wildcat.
A Look at the 2005 NCAA West Regional: Stanford University hosts 54 holes of stroke play over three days at the Stanford University Golf Course, a par 71, 6,742-yard layout. Tee times are TBA. Twenty-seven teams, including 10 conference champions and 10 teams ranked in the current Bridgestone/CGAA Coaches Poll, and six individuals fill out the 141-man field. Here is the field listed by seed: UNLV (1), New Mexico (2), Auburn (3), Arizona State (4), UCLA (5), Arizona (6), Brigham Young (7), South Carolina (8), USC (9), Washington (10), Louisiana State (11), Pepperdine (12), San Diego State (13), UC Riverside (14), Saint Mary’s, Calif. (15), Stanford (16), Texas-Arlington (17), Colorado State (18), Cal Poly (19), Fresno State (20), Oregon (21), Denver (22), South Alabama (23), Illinois State (24), Samford (25), Princeton (26) and Central Connecticut State (27). Individuals include Jeff Hood, California; Garrett Sapp, UC Irvine; David Kim, San Jose State; Kenny Ebalo, Southern Utah; Danny Bowen, New Mexico State; and Tyler Goulding, Air Force. The top 10 teams and two individuals advance to the 108th NCAA Championships, June 1-4, in Owings Mills, Md.
The Probable Arizona Lineup:
Golfer Yr. Avg. Top 10/20 Low Rd. Events
Henry Liaw So. 71.64 5/2 66 12
Nathan Lashley Sr. 71.87 4/1 66 11
Josh Esler So. 73.62 1/1 67 12
Travis Esway Fr. 72.67 1/3 66 11
Kipp Riehle Sr. 73.58 1/1 68 6
Head Coach Rick LaRose . . . is in his 27th 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, 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 56 tournaments and produced 44 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: Arizona finished third at the Pac-10 Championship after a final-round 354 (-1) pushed the team into title contention, April 25-27 in Walla Walla, Wash.
The Wildcats shot an eight-over-par 1428 and trailed Washington, who claimed the title over Arizona State by virtue of a better sixth-man tally in the final round, by three strokes at the end of the 72-hole event.
Individually, senior Nathan Lashley led the Wildcats, finishing in second place. The native of Scottsbluff, Neb., carded a 68-72-68-69=277 (-7) over the four rounds.
Joining Lashley in the Top 20 was sophomore Henry Liaw who shot 68 in the final round to finish the tournament tied for 14th place (75-75-67-68=285) and freshman Travis Esway who tied for 19th (68-76-71-72=287).
Last Year at the NCAA West Regional: Anchored by the lone senior in the lineup, Arizona was good enough to earn a berth to the 2004 NCAA Championships.
Chris Nallen, the Wildcats’ most experienced player, shot an even-par 72 to lead the squad to a final-round 297 (+9) en route to an 872 (+8) total at the 2004 NCAA West Regional at The Crosswater Club at Sunriver Resort in Sunriver, Ore. Arizona’s final round tally was its highest of the tournament, but it was enough to qualify the squad for its 18th consecutive trip to the NCAA Championships.
Aside from Nallen, none of the other four players in the UA lineup had ever played in an NCAA Regional before. But the senior, junior and three freshmen combined for the 872 total and third-place finish. UCLA captured its second straight NCAA West Regional title with an 865 (+1) total, one stroke ahead of New Mexico. Arizona followed six strokes back, while Arizona State finished in fourth place at 873 (+9).
Nallen’s final-round 72 was good enough to give the Hackettstown, N.J., native a three-round total of 211 (-5) and a share of individual medalist honors with UCLA’s Travis Johnson. Nallen became the fifth Arizona player to win or share individual medalist honors since the NCAA Regional format debuted in 1989.
It marks Nallen’s fourth win of the season, which ranks second nationally this season, and the sixth of his career, which ties him with Mike Springer (1984-88) for second place on the UA career victories list.
Freshman Henry Liaw shot a final-round 78 (+6) and finished with a one-over 217, which placed him in a tie for 13th place. It was Liaw’s eighth consecutive top-20 finish.
Arizona Individuals Team Finish
T1. Chris Nallen 71-68-72=211 (-5) 1. UCLA 865
T13. Henry Liaw 71-68-78=217 (+1) 2. New Mexico 866
T33. Nathan Lashley 72-76-74=222 (+6) 3. ARIZONA 872
T62. Josh Esler 77-75-74=226 (+10) 4. Arizona State 873
T77. Mark Lamb 74-78-77=229 (+13) 5. Brigham Young 881
Select Six: Since the NCAA adopted the current three-regional format in 1989, Arizona is one of six schools nationally to appear in all 16 NCAA Regionals (Arizona State, Clemson, North Carolina, Oklahoma State and UNLV are the others). In terms of regional victories, Clemson leads with seven, while Arizona, Arizona State and Oklahoma State have five win a piece. The Cats last won the regional in 2000 and have finished in the top three places three times in the last four seasons. Five UA players have captured individual medalist honors at the regional, most recently by Chris Nallen last year.
All-Conference Picks: Four University of Arizona men’s golfers were honored with all-Pacific-10 Conference accolades, in voting released recently by the league’s head coaches. Henry Liaw (first team) and Nathan Lashley (second team) received all-conference honors, while Travis Esway and Kipp Riehle were honorable mention selections. It marks the fifth consecutive season, and the 25th time in the last 27 years, that Arizona has had at least one first team all-conference selection. Since joining the Pac-10 in 1978-79, Arizona golfers have earned a total of 86 all-league accolades with 44 of those being first-team selections.
Change is Constant: With just one senior in the regular lineup and an 18-man roster that includes 15 freshmen or sophomores, it’s no surprise that the UA lineup is subject to change. No fewer than 15 players have seen action this season, including six junior varsity events, and there have been nine different players to see action for the Wildcat varsity (not counting appearances as individuals). Sophomore Henry Liaw is the only Wildcat on the roster to see action in all 12 varsity events as a member of the countable lineup. Senior Kipp Riehle adds experience to the lineup, but there are a total of 12 rounds of experience in NCAA regional play from the five Wildcats scheduled to compete this weekend.
Perhaps They Are Peaking: After getting off to a rough start in the fall, the UA golfers have been consistently scoring lower of late. In four fall stroke play events, the Wildcats averaged 294.45 strokes per round as a team and finished seventh or worse in three of those tournaments. Conversely, the team posts a 286.39 stroke average in seven events this spring (adjusted for the play six, count five Pac-10 Championships) and have finished in the top five in six of those seven starts. All told, Arizona’s countable stroke average through 22 rounds this spring is 71.60. To further the point, UA golfers tallied just 10 individual rounds at par or better in the fall compared with 53 this spring.
Before I Get Old: Featuring a lineup made primarily of a senior, three sophomores and a freshman through most of the season, to say that Arizona is a young team may be an understatement. To date, freshmen and sophomores have played 121 of 169 (71.6 percent) competitive rounds for the Wildcats this season. Over the past two seasons, underclassmen have played 240 of the 374 rounds (64.2 percent) for Arizona. Learning on the fly hasn’t held the program back, as the Cats have five tournament wins since the start of the 2003-04 campaign, including the 2004 Pac-10 Men’s golf championship and top-three placings at the 2004 NCAA West Regional and NCAA Championships.
Sophomore Sensation: Sophomore Henry Liaw leads the team in nearly every statistical category of note: stroke average (71.64), top-10 finishes (five) and rounds at par or better (18). His stroke average is 0.26 points lower than during his All-American effort (71.90) last year. The product of Rowland Heights, Calif., has been the Wildcats’ top finisher in six of 11 stroke play events in 2004-05, while 30 of his 33 rounds played (90.9 percent) have counted towards the team total. Liaw also leads the team with 11 rounds in the 60s. He’s also something of a bellwether. In the five events where Liaw has opened with a score in the 60s, Arizona’s team stroke average is 285.93 and the team’s average finish is 4.4. In the six events where he didn’t break 70, the team’s stroke average is 289.35 and the average finish is 5.8. Entering play at the West Regional, Liaw’s 71.78 career stroke average ranks third on Arizona’s career chart, trailing only Chris Nallen (71.19, 2000-04) and Ricky Barnes (71.48, 1999-2003).
Heating Up: Nathan Lashley has certainly saved his best golf for his senior season, as his 71.87 stroke average is 2.34 strokes lower than his career average entering the season. In seven spring events, his stroke average falls to 71.27, including three top-five finishes. Eight of his 11 career rounds in the 60s have come this season, and his tally of five top-20 finishes this season surpassed his career total (4) entering the year. Lashley was stellar at the Pac-10 Championships (April 25-27), carding rounds of 68, 72, 68 and 69 to post a seven-under 277 total. The 277 tally was the sixth-best 72-hole aggregate total in school history and his best finish at the Pac-10 meet. It was also his second-lowest tournament total in relation to par in his four-year career.
Lead ?'Em In: Sophomore Josh Esler made the most of his first visit to the Stanford Golf Course, as he was the top-finishing Wildcat at the U.S. Intercollegiate, April 17-17. Esler tallied rounds of 72, 73 and 73 to tie for 23rd place at 218. While the eight-over total wasn’t spectacular, it equaled his best placing in last seven varsity events.
Steady Under Pressure: It didn’t take long for freshman Travis Esway to make his presence felt as he earned individual medalist honors at the Ron Moore Invitational, Sept. 27-28, in his first collegiate event. Esway carded a 12-under 204 (a team low in 2004-05) total and became the first of two UA individual medalists this year. He has competed in 11 tournaments in 2004-05, posted a 72.67 stroke average and collected four top-20 finishes. Esway found the postseason to his liking by finishing in a tie for 19th place at the Pac-10 Championships with a three-over 287 total that included a first-round 68.
Stepping In: Kipp Riehle has rebounded over his last four appearances to make himself a factor in the UA lineup. Riehle averaged 77.50 strokes per round over his first six played this season, but has averaged 71.77 over the last 13 rounds, including a win at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational on April 9. At one point this spring, Riehle carded four consecutive rounds in the 60s, which is the longest streak by a UA golfer in 2004-05.
A Top-10 Finish... Would give Arizona its 19th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Championships. That is the third-longest active streak in the nation, trailing only Oklahoma State (58) and Clemson (23).