Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Men's Golf Heads to Big Horn for Pac-10 Championships
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: April 21, 2006
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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On the Tee:  Arizona heads to the 2005 Pac-10 Championships, April 24-26, at the Big Horn Country Club in Palm Desert, Calif. ... UA rides a bit of momentum into the event, as the club earned it’s first victory of the season in it’s last outing, April 9, at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational ... Since joining the league in 1978-79, Arizona has won the Pac-10 title three times (1987, 1991, 2004) and finished second seven times ... Arizona has finished third, first and second in the last three Pac-10 Championship appearances ... UA has two top-five finishes in six events this spring.


The Rankings:  The Wildcats opened the 2005-06 season ranked 22nd nationally and are currently ranked 26th in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index.  Individually, junior Henry Liaw is the top-ranked Wildcat nationally, checking in at No. 53 on the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index.  Classmate Josh Esler comes next at No. 145.


A Look at the 2006 Pac-10 Championships:  Held annually since 1960, the Pac-10 Men’s Golf Championships will be held Monday-Wednesday, April 24-26, (practice round April 23) at Big Horn Country Club, a par 71, 7,099-yard layout in Palm Desert, Calif.  Seventy-two holes will be played over the three days (36 Monday/18 Tuesday and Wednesday) with twosomes scheduled off the first and 10th tees at 7:30 a.m. PDT Monday.  Ten teams are scheduled to compete:  Arizona, Arizona State, California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington and Washington State.  Three of those teams are ranked in the current Bridgestone/GCAA Coaches Poll.  Arguably the toughest test in all of college golf, each team will be made up of six players with the low five scores counting towards the team total in each round.  Arizona finished third in this event last year with a 12-under 1,428 total.  UA’s Nathan Lashley was the runner up with a 68-72-68-69=277 (-11) tally.


The Probable Arizona Lineup:

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

Henry Liaw          Jr.       71.97            3/2                66              12

Brian Prouty        Jr.       73.65            2/0                67               8

Travis Esway       So.      73.48            0/0                69              10

Josh Esler          Jr.       73.37            0/4                68              10

Nathan Tyler       Jr.       73.13            2/2                67               9

Ben Fox             Fr.       72.61            1/2                67               8


Head Coach Rick LaRose . . . is in his 28th 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 57 tournaments and produced 46 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 erased a nine-stroke deficit to come from behind and win the ASU Thunderbird Invitational, April 9 in Tempe, Ariz.

  Led by Henry Liaw and Brian Prouty, who were a combined eight-strokes under par over the last 18 holes, Arizona posted a 12-under 272 tally en route to a 54-hole total of 830 (-22). The 272 equaled UA’s low round of the season and enabled the Wildcats to top runner-up UNLV by one stroke in the 16-team field.   UA 830 total was also a season low.

  It was Arizona’s first tournament win of the season and the 67th in school history. UA has won at least one team event in each of the last four seasons and in that span has claimed 10 tournament titles.

  Henry Liaw continued his strong run over the Karsten Course with a final-round 66 (-5) that pushed him to a runner-up finish with an 11-under 202 total. For Liaw, it was the eighth top-five finish of his career, while the 202 total was the second best of his career. Kansas State’s Ben Kern claimed medalist honors with a 14-under 199 total.

  Teammate Brian Prouty posted the best finish of his career by finishing third with a 54-hole total of 205 (-8). His final-round 67 equaled a career low, while the eight-under tournament tally was easily the best of his career.


Last Year at the Pac-10 Championship:  Arizona finished third at the 2005 Pac-10 Championship after a final-round 354 (-1) pushed the team into title contention.

  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 (-11) over the four rounds.

  Joining Lashley in the top 20 was Henry Liaw who shot 68 in the final round to finish the tournament tied for 14th place (75-75-67-68=285) and Travis Esway who tied for 19th (68-76-71-72=287).

Arizona Individuals                                          Team Finish

  2.    Nathan Lashley.. 68-72-68-69=277 (-7)        1.  Washington!............... 1425

T14.   Henry Liaw........ 75-75-67-68=285 (+1)            Arizona State.............. 1425

T19.   Travis Esway..... 68-76-71-72=287 (+3)        3.  ARIZONA................... 1428

T28.   Kipp Riehle....... 73-70-72-75=290 (+6)        4.  UCLA......................... 1432

T33.   Trey Denton...... 74-74-74-70=292 (+8)        5.  Oregon....................... 1436

T50.   Josh Esler....... 73-75-75-76=299 (+15)        !    won scorecard playoff


He Likes It Here:  For a coach in his 28th season, it’s safe to say that Rick LaRose has been everywhere and the Palm Desert/Palm Springs, Calif., area is no different.  The 2006 Pac-10 Championships will mark the third time that LaRose has brought his charges to Palm Springs, and his teams left victorious in each previous visit.  Arizona won the 1996 Rolex National Match Play Championship at PGA West Golf Course with a spotless 3-0 record and LaRose’s UA women’s team captured the 1996 NCAA Championship at the Dunes Course in LaQuinta, Calif.


The Streak Continues:  As mentioned above, Arizona erased a final-round, nine-stroke deficit to win the ASU Thunderbird Invitational on April 9.  That continued a streak that has seen the Wildcats win at least one event in each of the last four seasons.  Dating back to 2002-03, Arizona has won a total of 10 team championships, including the 2004 Pac-10 title.


Ebb and Flow:  The spring season has certainly been one of peaks and valleys, at least from a scoring perspective.  Arizona opened the spring portion of the schedule by shooting a combined 40-under par in its first two events.  The Cats followed that up with two events at a combined 119-over par before coming home at a combined 19-under par in the last two events.  All of the oscillating is hard on the scorecard, but one thing has remained consistent:  UA’s countable stroke average hovers at the 72.00 mark for the season.


A Lot to Choose From:  It’s a good thing that the Pac-10 Championships feature a six-man lineup.  It gives the Wildcats another spot to fill.  Over the course of 11 varsity events this season a total of 11 different players have made up the UA lineup.  In fact, Arizona has used the same five-man lineup in back-to-back events just once this season.  Additionally, only junior Henry Liaw has seen action in all 11 varsity appearances.


On His Shoulders:  2004 Pac-10 individual medalist Henry Liaw is the most experienced Wildcat with 112 rounds played in his two-plus seasons in Tucson.  Liaw leads the team in appearances (12), rounds played (33), stroke average (71.97), top-20 finishes (5), low round (66), low tournament total (202/-11) and rounds at par or better (18).


As He Goes, So Go the Wildcats:  Look for Liaw to set the tone for the Wildcats, which is something that has been the case all spring.  The 5-foot-10 junior from Rowland Heights, Calif., has been UA’s top finisher in four of six spring events.  In those four events, Liaw has a 68.25 first-round stroke average and has posted an average tournament total of 207.25 with four top-20 finishes.  In the other two events, he averages a first-round 80 and finishes with a 232.50 average.  The effect on the team is equally as impressive.  In the four low-scoring events, the UA countable stroke average is 70.27, or 6.69 strokes lower than the remaining two events.


Mr. Consistency:  Practically a fixture in the lineup since his freshman season, junior Josh Esler is enjoying the best statistical season of his career with a 73.37 stroke average to with four top-20 finishes (one more than his first two seasons combined) and a career-best six rounds in the 60s.  Furthermore, he ranks fourth on the team with 11 rounds at par or better.


Warming Up:  In his first appearance last year at the Pac-10 Championships Travis Esway collected a top-20 finish with a three-over 287.  More good things could be on the way for the sophomore from Granite Bay, Calif., as he has equaled a season low with a 69 in three of his last five rounds played.  The effort helped him to post his second- and third-lowest tournament totals of the season in the last two appearances.  He carries a 73.44 stroke average into play this week.


A New Face:  Freshman Ben Fox makes his second appearance with the UA varsity as part of the countable lineup at the Pac-10 Championships.  The Studio City, Calif., product has done well to earn the spot, as he ranks second on the team with a 72.61 stroke average and has been within two strokes of par or better in five of eight tournaments this season.  In five spring events, Fox’s stroke average falls to 71.86, a figure that trails only Henry Liaw (71.81) since the calendar changed to 2006.


Good Timing:  Junior Brian Prouty picked the right time to post the best tournament total of his career ?- it helped the Wildcats secure the program’s first win of the season.  On April 8-9 at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational, Prouty posted scores of 70-68-67 to finish in third place with an eight-under 205 total.  The tournament total, placement and final-round tally were career bests for the Tucson native.  Only one player in the 84-man field (medalist Ben Kern of Kansas State) went lower than Prouty’s seven-under total in the final two rounds.  Incidentally, His 23 rounds played to date are also a career best. 


For Openers:  Count on UA junior Nathan Tyler to be strong at the start, as he carries a 72.25 first-round stroke average into this week’s event, which is his lowest by round this season.  The figure is 0.88 strokes lower than his overall average of 73.13. 


Youth is Served:  Arizona’s 18-man roster features nine underclassmen and no seniors.

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