Men's Golf Release
Sept. 16, 2003
On the Tee: After earning a top-10 finish in the season opener, Arizona hits the road for one of its longest trips of the season within the continental U.S. (1,796 miles) to compete in The Preview by Ping and Golfweek in Hot Springs, Va. ... The Cats have participated in this NCAA championship preview in 13 of the last 15 years, missing in 1997 and 1999 ... In those 13 previous Preview appearances, Arizona has five top-five team finishes.
The Rankings: The Wildcats opened the 2003-04 season ranked in the top 20 in all three major college golf polls. Arizona is ranked 11th in the current (Sept. 10) Precept/GCAA Coaches Poll and Ron Balicki's Golfweek Preseason Top 30 (Sept. 11), and 16th in the (Sept. 10) Golfworld Coaches Poll. Individually, senior Chris Nallen is ranked fourth among Golfweek magazine's '50 College Players to Watch' list, marking the third consecutive season in which he has made the list.
A Look at The Preview by Ping & Golfweek: The Preview by Ping and Golfweek will be held Monday-Tuesday, Sept. 21-22, at The Homestead Resort's Cascades Golf Course in Hot Springs, Va., a par 70, 6,679-yard layout. This annual fall event, hosted this year by Virginia Tech, features 15 of the top teams in the country. Thirty-six holes will be played Sunday and 18 Monday. Fifteen teams are scheduled to compete: Arizona, Arizona State, Auburn, Augusta State, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, UNLV, North Carolina, Oklahoma State, Texas, UCLA, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. Fourteen members of the field are ranked in the top 20 of the current Precept/GCAA Coaches Poll (Virginia Tech). Live tournament scoring will be available at www.golfstat.com. The 2004 NCAA Men's Golf Championships will be held on this course, May 25-28.
The Probable Arizona Lineup:
Golfer Yr. Avg. Top 10/20 Low Rd. EventsChris Nallen Sr. 73.00 0/1 71 1Henry Liaw Fr. 74.33 0/0 71 1Nathan Lashley Jr. 75.00 0/0 73 1Nick Juszczak Jr. 72.67 0/1 70 1Josh Esler Fr. 75.00 0/0 72 1
Head Coach Rick LaRose . . . is in his 26th 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 41 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 University of Arizona men's golf team rebounded from a sluggish start in the opening 18 holes to post a top-10 finish Saturday at the William H. Tucker Intercollegiate in Albuquerque, N.M. Arizona used four rounds all within two strokes of par in Saturday's final round to tally a 293 and finish the tournament in a tie for eighth place with a three-round total of 888 (+24). After opening the 54-hole event with a 15-over-par total Friday morning, the Wildcats finished with a flourish, covering the final 36 holes in nine-over 576, a total topped by only two teams in the field of 20. Arizona State won the event by two strokes over host New Mexico with an 865 (+1) total. Arizona, which entered the tournament with three freshmen making their collegiate debut, did see two individuals collect top-20 finishes, as junior Nick Juszczak and senior Chris Nallen each finished within eight strokes of the lead. Juszczak was competing in the event as an individual. Juszczak, a native Phoenix, Ariz., shot a final-round 74 (+2) to finish in a tie for 15th place at 218 (+2). It was the third career top-20 finish for Jusczcak, while the 218 total was the third lowest of his career in 13 appearances. Nallen earned his 12th career top-20 finish after shooting a final round 73 to finish in a tie for 17th place at 219 (+3). Freshman Henry Liaw finished his first college tournament in a tie for 40th place at 223 (+7) after carding a final round 74. Joining him was teammate Blaine Peffley, who was competing as an individual, who also shot a closing 74 to finish at 223. Junior Nathan Lashley, making his first appearance with the UA varsity since last October, and freshman Josh Esler both tied for 50th place at 225 (+9). Esler closed his collegiate debut with an even-par 72, the only Wildcat to finish at par or better on Saturday. Rounding out the lineup was freshman Nathan Tyler, who finished tied for 88th place at 233 (+17).
2002 Preview by Ping and Golfweek Review: Bolstered by two players in the top 13 places, Arizona finished in third place at the Ping/Golfweek NCAA Preview. It was the team's second top-three finish in three events to open the 2002-03 season. 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. Individually, senior Ricky Barnes fired a final round one-under 71 to tie for third place at 217 (+1). It was Barnes' second top-five finish of the season and the 11th of his career. Fellow senior Reid Hatley, the only other Wildcat to break par in the final round, finished in a tie for 13th place at six-over 222.
Arizona Individuals Team Finish T9. Ricky Barnes 72-74-71=217 (+1) 1. Augusta State 880T13. Reid Hatley 78-73-71=222 (+6) 2. Clemson 886T25. Blaine Peffley 75-72-79=226 (+10) 3. ARIZONA 893T49. Chris Nallen 78-77-77=232 (+16) 4. Auburn 894T51. Kipp Riehle 75-76-83=234 (+18) 5. Texas 987
The Unquestioned Leader: Senior Chris Nallen heads into the 2003-04 season as Arizona's unquestioned leader. It is a fitting title. The three-time All-American has a 71.70 (second all-time at Arizona) career stroke average, two career victories and 17 top-10 finishes. Seventy-three of his 127 career rounds played have been at par or better (30 in the 60s) and 79 of his last 84 rounds played (94 percent) have counted toward the team total. His 127 career rounds played is more than the rest of the Wildcat lineup combined (101).
Quite A Field: In addition to having 14 of the 15 teams in the field currently ranked in the nation's top 20, The Preview by Ping and Golfweek also features eight of the 10 players listed on Golfweek's preseason first-team All-America list. Those players scheduled to participate include: Dustin Bray, senior, North Carolina; Alejandro Canizares, sophomore, Arizona State; Bill Haas, senior, Wake Forest; Jason Hartwick, senior, Texas; Matt Hendrix, senior, Clemson; Chris Nallen, senior, Arizona; Camilo Villegas, senior, Florida; Casey Wittenberg, freshman, Oklahoma State. Washington's Brock Mackenzie and California's Peter Tomasulo will not participate.
Room for Improvement: Arizona's tie for eighth place at last week's William H. Tucker Intercollegiate certainly left some room for improvement, as the Wildcats finished 24 strokes over par and 23 shots off the lead. But there was an encouraging sign. After opening the 54-hole event with a 15-over-par total Friday morning, the Wildcats finished with a flourish, covering the final 36 holes in nine-over 576, a total topped by only two teams in the field of 20.
A Struggle: Last Saturday's eighth-place finish didn't come easily. Arizona managed to post a top-10 effort despite struggling to break par. Counting two individuals on the traveling squad, Arizona tallied just six rounds at par or better (28.6 percent). Only one player, freshman Josh Esler, managed to post more than one and UA's low round of the tournament was just a two-under 70.
Previous Experience: While the venue changes, the pressure of The Preview doesn't and two members of the Arizona lineup have previous Preview experience to rely on Chris Nallen and Nathan Lashley. Nallen is making his fourth appearance in the event and carries a 75.13 career stroke average in the event. His best effort came during the 2001 Preview when he tied for 19th place with a six-over 219. Lashley made his lone appearance as a freshman in 2001 and tied for 70th place with a 19-over 232 total. Interestingly, neither Nallen nor Lashley has broken par in the combined 11 rounds played at The Preview.
International Flavor: Chris Nallen represented the United States in the 39th Walker Cup Matches, Sept. 6-7, at Ganton Golf Club in North Yorkshire, England. Nallen went 1-1 in his two-match appearance at the Walker Cup, winning his singles match, 2-up, over Great Britain & Ireland's Colm Moriarity and losing a foursome match, along with Ryan Moore, 3 and 2, to GB&I's Nigel Edwards and Stuart Manley. GB&I retained the cup with a 12 1/2-11 1/2. Nallen was the fourth University of Arizona golfer to represent the United States in Walker Cup competition, joining Robert Gamez (1989), Eric Meeks (1989) and David Berganio (1991).
A Productive Summer: Nallen's Walker Cup appearance capped a busy, but productive summer for Chris Nallen. The senior from Hackettstown, N.J., native won the 2003 Northeast Amateur title on June 22 in sudden death after carding a four-under 203 total. He also finished fifth at the Dogwood Invitational on June 29 and played in the 2003 U.S. Amateur. Additionally, he went 2-2 as part of Team USA at the 2003 Palmer Cup Matches.
Not to Be Outdone: Junior Nathan Lashley also proved successful over the summer by advancing to the second round of match play at the 2003 U.S. Amateur Championship before losing to Matt Kohn (Longwood, Fla.), 1-up. The Scottsbluff, Neb., native tied for 33rd place in stroke play, carding a 71-75=146 (+6) and defeated Steve Conway (Irvine, Calif.), 2-up, in the first round of match play at Oakmont Country Club. He also posted a tie for 35th place at the Dogwood Invitational, June 29, after shooting a seven-over 78-73-72-72=295.
Playing His Way In: Nick Juszczak's season-opening effort was good enough to get him into the starting lineup. Playing last weekend as an individual, the junior was the top-finishing UA player on the trip, carding rounds of 70, 74 and 74 to tie for 15th place with a 218 (+2) total. Juszczak leads the team with a 72.67 stroke average and his opening-round 70 is Arizona's low round of the season.
Replacing One USGA Champion With Another: He may not have the physical stature of departed Wildcat senior Ricky Barnes, but freshman Henry Liaw certainly has all of the golfing credentials. The 5-foot-10, 152-pound Liaw enters his first collegiate golf season with quite a resume. The native of Rowland Heights, Calif., won four junior world championships (1996, '98, '99 and 2000), was a two-time Southern California PGA Player of the Year, and won the 2001 United States Junior Amateur championship. His competitive career-low round is a 58. He tied for 40th place at last week's William H. Tucker Intercollegiate with a three-round total of 223 (+7).
Steady: In addition to Liaw, one other Arizona freshman will be in the lineup. Josh Esler a freshman from Wauconda, Ill., is the son of a PGA teaching professional, and handled himself well enough in his collegiate debut to stay in the lineup. He tied for 50th place at the Tucker with a nine-over 225 total, but was the only player in the Wildcat lineup to notch two rounds at par or better (an even-par 72 in the first and third rounds). Only a second-round 81 kept his collegiate debut from being something special.
Young, Very Young: That could be the thumbnail description of the 2003-03 Arizona men's golf team. With just one senior (Nallen) and 10 of the 14 players on the roster sophomores and younger, this year's Wildcats will have to learn on the fly. Aside from Chris Nallen, only one player (Nathan Lashley) in the UA starting five has any varsity experience. Of Lashley's 20 career appearances, only seven have come as a member of the countable five. In those seven appearances, Lashley has a 76.10 stroke average with a tie for 37th at the 2002 William H. Tucker Intercollegiate as his best finish.