Men's Golf Enters Season With Championship Hopes

Jan. 21, 2005

Arizona State men's golf coach Randy Lein enters his 13th season at the helm of program knowing he has one of the most experienced teams in the nation. ASU boasts three seniors with 67 collegiate appearances between them, a junior who won the NCAA title and a sophomore who had one of the best freshman scoring averages in the school's decorated history. All of them were a part of ASU winning four tournaments last year, including three out of four titles at one part in the spring.

'We will have a lineup this year -- no matter what combination we put out there -- that will have at least two or three players that have played in a lot of tournaments and have been a part of several team victories,' says Lein, who has led ASU nine NCAA top-10 appearances. 'We return three players who played in the NCAA championships, so when we get to that point of the season our guys can be confident. I look forward to working with this group, especially because of the leadership from the seniors.'

The group starts with the three seniors. Jesse Mueller, Pat Moore and Kendall Critchfield all have experience and are solid leaders in the program. Mueller has already been voted captain by his teammates and Lein knows the reason why.

'Jesse is one of those players who gets respect from his teammates because of the way he competes. He never stops working hard,' notes Lein of his senior, who won the 2001 Arizona Amateur. 'The players appreciate his attitude and the way he leads them in practice. Jesse is ready to have a big season.'

Mueller competed in 34 events in his first three years, and has improved his stroke average by a full stroke each year and won last year's Arizona Stroke Play Championship with a 22-under par total for four rounds. The 2001 Arizona Amateur champion has three top-10 finishes and a 74.44 career stroke average, including a 73.25 mark last year. He has twice earned Pac-10 All-Academic honors.

Senior Pat Moore has appeared in 17 tournaments in his first three seasons, including nine in his rookie year (2001-2002). His potential is shown in his best score being a 62 in a practice round at Karsten Golf Course in March of 2002 and also posting a 64 in ASU's Thunderbird Invitational that April. He qualified this past summer for the U.S. Amateur and according to Lein kept himself quite busy.

'Pat played in a lot of tournaments in the summer and has practiced well enough to make a challenge for a consistent lineup spot,' notes Lein, a five-time winner of Pac-10 Coach of the Year while at Arizona State. 'Pat is one of the best athletes I have coached. He has posted some low scores in the past and is now showing the consistency he needs to earn All-America recognition.'

The third senior is Mesa, Ariz., native Kendall Critchfield. The senior communications major has played in 13 spring tournaments the past two years and improved his stroke average by 2.91 from his freshman to his sophomore seasons. He shot a 63 at Karsten Golf Course in last year's ASU Thunderbird Invitational and played in 13 spring events in his three years.

'Kendall has worked as hard as anyone and has spent a lot of time improving his game,' says Lein. 'His swing looks as good as it has ever looked and knowing Kendall his best golf will be this coming spring.'

Of course, the junior class has the 2003 NCAA champion, as Alejandro Canizares returns for his third season with two All-American honors in his trophy case. He had an excellent summer, helping the Europeans to another Palmer Cup victory. He continues to improve and impress.

'Alejandro continues to gain confidence and get better,' says Lein. 'Seeing him play this summer in Ireland was special. You can tell he not only is getting better but wants to be the best. He is a natural and has a very bright future. He is very demanding of himself and strives to be the best he can be.'

Canizares not only excels on the course but in the classroom as well. He entered this school year with a 3.90 grade point average (one 'B' in his career) and a 71.49 career stroke average through 22 events. He finished in the top 10 in half the first 22 events. He holds the ASU record with a 71.65 stroke average in his freshman year and then came back last year and improved it to 71.38. His play is exemplified in how he won his 2003 NCAA title. Down six strokes on the final day, he kept his focus and ended up winning the title by two strokes.

Lein, who enters this year with the nation's fourth-ranked squad in the preseason polls according to Golfweek and the GCAA, is counting on depth from juniors Lenny Park and Charly Simon.

'Lenny has been very close to playing well on a consistent basis,' says Lein. 'His short game is as good as anyone's on the team. His health has been an issue at times, but I think this spring could be something special for him. He has an incredible shortgame and attitude.'

Simon, like Park, also has played in five tournaments in his two seasons and has a solid amount of international experience. He posted a 73.50 stroke average in four events this year.

'Charly's attitude is tremendous as he loves Arizona State and being part of the team,' notes Lein. 'He is our team's SAAC (Student-Athlete Advisory Counsel) representative and takes that responsibility seriously. He has practiced more than ever this fall to position himself into a starting role this spring.'

Sophomore Niklas Lemke played in the final eight tournaments of the year in his freshman season and ended the year with a 73.32 stroke average, the seventh-best by a freshman in ASU history. How good is that? That stroke average is better than what future Sun Devil All-Americans Matt Jones (73.38) and Billy Mayfair (73.49) could muster in their first year. He posted three rounds in the 60s.

'Niklas got off to a slow start last year and made the usual adjustments that freshmen do the fall,' says Lein. 'Once he felt comfortable on the team he really played some great golf. He is one of the most talented players I have seen and capable of doing some really great things in the future.'

Fredrik Andersson is a sophomore who can make the biggest jump as he played in just one tournament last year but has the skills to be a regular.

'Fredrik worked on his game a lot this summer and I think he will gain confidence this year. He played on the Swedish National Team and has an abundance of experience. He has worked very hard on his game this fall and I am predicting that he will have a breakout spring.'

Redshirt freshman Phil Telliard rounds out the returners.

'Phil has added some strength and played well this summer, well enough to qualify for the U.S. Amateur,' notes Lein. 'Due to the size and depth of last year's team he decided to redshirt. He has put himself in position to challenge for a spot as he has added strength and distance to his game. He practices hard and should be in the mix this spring.'

Three seniors left last year's squad, including four-year workhorse and 2001 U.S. Public Links champion Chez Reavie, and the Pac-10 is going to be as tough as it ever was.

'UCLA lost four starters but has recruited well, while Arizona and Washington are also very good. USC has a strong senior class and California is the defending national champ. The Pac-10 Championship (held April 25-27 at Walla Walla, Wash.) is going to be as competitive as ever,' notes Lein, who led ASU to a conference-record six straight titles from 1995-2000. 'The NCAA men's golf championship is up for grabs, and we hope to be the one to grab it. Anyone who is playing well at the end of the year has a chance,'

Lein should know, as in his 12 years there have been 10 different team champions. In that time he has posted nine top-10 finishes. His formula has worked, as he uses the fall season to build his team and expects his team to reach its peak in May and early June.

'With the experience we have this year, I have a good feeling about this team,' he says. 'We have a defending NCAA champion, three experienced seniors and a bevy of young talent that will make for some great qualifying play. I'm excited about this team and our chance this May.'

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