Men's Golf Striving For Another Strong Spring
March 18, 2002
2002 MEN'S GOLF OUTLOOK
For the first time since fall of 1996, Randy Lein is writing his lineup card but doesn't have the usual Sun Devil All-America names to write in. Gone is Jeff Quinney, a four-year regular and three-time All-American who won the 2000 U.S. Amateur. Off on the European Tour, where he won Rookie of the Year honors last season, is three-time Pac-10 Champion Paul Casey. Reliable Jin Park, a four-year regular on thee Pac-10 title teams, also is gone, as well as 2001 All-American Matt Jones, who turned professional last summer. And then this past fall, 2001 U.S. Public Links Champion Chez Reavie had to sit out with a wrist injury.
Basically, in the past four fall seasons, Lein had his four regulars and was looking for a fifth. This year, he has his regular who has battled injury and is looking for the other four. Maybe it is time for ASU men's golf to set the goals a little lower. After all, it might be tough to win another Pac-10 title or finish in the top five at the NCAAs again. Maybe it is time for ASU to have a down year, something it has avoided for basically the past 18 seasons. Only Oklahoma State and Clemson have better current consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances to ASU's 18.
Well, maybe not, says the 10th-year mentor, who has coached ASU to eight NCAA top-10 finishes in his nine years, the best mark among any school in the nation in that time.
'The players have changed but the goals are the same,' says Lein, who has coached ASU to five NCAA top-five finishes in the past six years. 'I know the guys are really excited about the spring season and proving that the program is in great shape. We are a program that needs to challenge for the NCAA title every year, and our guys know and expect that and work towards that goal.'
Each year, Lein has guided the Sun Devils to solid play in early spring after returning from a February trip to Hawaii. The Sun Devils usually begin their great play by winning their own ASU Thunderbird/SAVANE Invitational (ASU has won five of the past six), the Pac-10 title (ASU has won six of the past seven) and competing well in the NCAA West Regional (ASU has won four in Lein's nine seasons).
'No question, everyone has a great chance this year for the Pac-10 and West Regional titles,' notes Lein. 'USC and Washington are the early favorites in the conference. Arizona is very good as is Oregon. Actually, there is not one weak team this year, and any school could win the conference title in Corvallis. New Mexico is always in the hunt for a top ranking and they host the West Regionals so they will challenge for the NCAAs as they should have a lot of confidence. And I think we will be in that mix. I expect our spring to be a little tougher this year with Chez coming off his injury and he won't play in the Thunderbird/SAVANE Invitational in April as he will be at the Masters. But we just need to get momentum for the Pac-10 Championships.'
The final step for ASU every year is to compete for the NCAA title, and no team has been in the hunt more than the Sun Devils. ASU has posted 13 NCAA top-10 finishes in its past 14 years and has a top-five finish in six of the past seven seasons. ASU is one of seven schools to win a national title in the past nine years, as it won the trophy in 1996.
However, the talent pool is much bigger which means better competition according to Lein. That is what makes consistency such a tough thing in men's golf.
'You look at some of the teams that were competing in last year's championship and there are several schools that are taking their golf seriously now. UAB, Virginia Tech and Pacific all had great seasons last year. There is so much international flavor in recruiting that anyone can get a couple of great players and compete for the title. There are several players turning pro early, but PGA Qualifying School prevents that from happening too often. You still need to go out and get players that are serious about their golf and their academics. We have that at ASU and I feel we have one of the best in the nation in Chez.'
Chez Reavie caught fire last May and kept on fire through the summer. At the NCAAs last year, he shot a 7-under 281 (71-67-74-69) at the NCAAs to finish tied for fourth, the second-best finish by an ASU freshman since Phil Mickelson won the title as a frosh in 1989. Only Darren Angel (tied for third in 1996) has had a better finish as a Sun Devil freshman in the past 12 seasons at the NCAAs.
Reavie was far from done. He then finished second in the coveted Southwestern Amateur and destroyed the field at the Mesa City Amateur by nine shots with a 15-under score. But his biggest honor was winning the U.S. Public Links Amateur Championship at Pecan Valley Golf Club in San Antonio, Texas. He earned a trip to Augusta to compete in the Masters April 11-14. His 38-hole victory over Danny Green on July 14 at the 7,005-yard, page-71 course was the first USGA event of his career.
'Chez gives us as good as a top player in the lineup as there is,' adds Lein. 'He has a great career ahead of him.'
With senior Brian Nosler opting to not play in the spring, the spots are wide open for a group of players. The other seniors on the roster, Tyler Erickson and Ryan Whitaker, will get a shot at one of the spots.
'Tyler has improved steadily and had a good summer, says Lein of the Bozeman, Mont., native. 'Ryan is close and just needs one good tournament and he is on his way.'
Erickson played in three tournaments last year and averaged 73.89 in nine rounds. He tied for eighth at the Cal State Northridge Intercollegiate in November of 2000, including a 2-under 70 in the final round. Whitaker played in five tournaments last year and placed sixth at the Cal State Northridge Intercollegiate.
McMenamy, who won the national juniors five summers ago, was an all-state hockey player in North Dakota where his team won three straight state titles and possesses the same kind of 'team' background as 2000 U.S. Amateur Champion Jeff Quinney. He tied for 22nd at the 2000 Pac-10 Championships, as he shot a collegiate-best 69 in the final round. He played in five tournaments last year and had a 76.29 stroke average and had a 3-under 213 at the Thunderbird/SAVANE Invitational.
'We need to get Shane in the lineup and just watch him improve,' notes Lein. 'He's been a winner and is used to being on winning teams. He has a lot of natural ability and he's a great competitor, and he takes to coaching very well. I know the past couple of years have been frustrating to him, so I look forward to him having a good season and playing the way he is capable.'
Stockton came to ASU with glowing credentials and is ready to have a great season.
'Brady needs to continue to get confidence at this level,' says Lein. 'The window of opportunity is there for him to make a big impact this year. He is serious about his game and right now is the time for him to step up. He could be one of the better players in the country if he gets one or two good breaks.'
Sophomore Nick Manthey is a local product who transferred to ASU after playing one season at Vanderbilt. He was the Arizona state champion in 1997 and 1998 and after sitting out last season to redshirt he is ready to make an impact.
'Nick has a lot of competition in his past and hopefully after sitting out last season he is eager to get back to collegiate tournaments. Without a doubt his credentials will lead you to believe he can be another great local player who has a great collegiate career here.'
Ben Flam is another sophomore who has a lot of amateur experience and transferred to Arizona State after redshirting at Oklahoma State in 1999-2000. Flam played in five tournaments last year and had a 74.71 stroke average. He played all five of his tournaments last year in the spring and Lein expects him to be a solid member of the team this spring.
'Ben has had a year to adjust after the transfer and I really believe he can be a great player in this conference and in the nation. He is working hard to help this program.'
Another sophomore from Phoenix is Mike Derminio, who was the Arizona state champion in 1999. Derminio battled injuries last year but is in good shape heading into this spring. He has only played one collegiate tournament in the spring heading into this year, but Lein knows the potential he brings.
'Mike can help this program a lot in the next few years. He had a great high school career and seems to be getting back in that groove. He works hard and is a quality person and when you put those two things together you usually have a person who succeeds. I look forward to working with him over the next few years.'
Four freshmen could find themselves playing real fast. With the departures of four players from last year's lineup and the injury to Reavie, expect true freshmen Jesse Mueller and Pat Moore to forget about redshirting and for redshirt freshmen Mike Skillern and Kendall Critchfield to also get their shots.
'Pat and Jesse have played so much golf against good competition in various amateur and junior tournaments that playing in collegiate tournaments will not be anything different. They have no doubts about their own ability. Jesse's summer was a springboard to something big. Mike and Kendall used their redshirt seasons to work on their game in various ways, which was encouraging. Pat has developed his game and is very focused when he is on the course.'
Mueller won the Arizona Amateur this past summer, becoming the second-youngest player to accomplish the feat in July.
'Even though we are in a transition period because of so many familiar faces moving on to the next level, the talent is there to set the same standards,' says Lein. 'ASU's goals are always the same: win the Thunderbird at home in April, win the Pac-10 title, play well at the West Regionals and then put ourselves in a position to win the national title.
'The anticipation is there this year and I am very curious to see how this group responds. Our program has been challenged now that the nucleus from the past few years is gone,' adds Lein, a seven-time pick as Pac-10 Coach of the Year (five times at ASU and twice at USC). 'All of these guys see a great opportunity in front of them. This year has been a lot of fun as we are traveling with a whole new team from what we have been used to over the past four seasons. Those guys see the success that recent Sun Devils like Paul Casey, Jeff Quinney and Pat Perez are having and they know they can reach that level very soon.'
NCAA NOTE: ASU qualified for its 18th straight NCAA Championship last year, and just four schools have current streaks of 13. The schools and the consecutive years they have contended are Oklahoma St. (55), Clemson (20), ASU (18) and Arizona (13). Both UNLV and North Carolina were next on the chart but had their consecutive streaks stopped at 12 last year.
NCAA WEST REGIONAL CHAMPION:ASU has usually played very well at the NCAA West Regionals. ASU fired a 12-under 852 (283-277-292) to win the 2001 West Regional by 15 strokes over Arizona May 17-19. Matt Jones tied for first with an 8-under 208, while Jin Park finished third at 5-under 211. ASU has won the NCAA West Regional five times since it was instituted in 1989 (outright titles in 1995, 1999 and 2001 and tied for first in 1998 and 1991). Here is a look at the year's ASU won the team title:
Year Champ ASU Finish Individual Champion 1991 ASU/UA T-1st *Warren Schutte (UNLV) 1995 ASU 1st Mike Sauer (New Mexico) 1998 ASU/UNM T-1st Paul Casey (ASU) 1999 ASU 1st Jeff Quinney (ASU) 2001 ASU 1st Matt Jones (Arizona State) Kyle Thompson (South Carolina)*Eventual NCAA Champion
REPLACING SOME GOOD ONES Both Jeff Quinney and Paul Casey put their names in the unofficial NCAA record book during their time at ASU. Research done regarding NCAA men's golf low rounds has produced the following rounds of 10-under par or lower. The NCAA does not keep records except at the NCAA Championships. The following is the list (corrections and additions welcomed) as of June of 2001:
Name/School Tournament Score/Under parBryce Molder, Georgia Tech 2000 Palmetto Dunes Collegiate 60 (-12)Paul Casey, Arizona State 1999 Pac-10 Championship 60 (-10)Tiger Woods, Stanford 1996 Pac-10 Championship 61 (-11)Jess Daley, Northwestern 2000 U.S. Collegiate 62 (-10)Alex Rocha, Mississippi State 2000 Billy Hitchcock 62 (-10)Martin Martiz, Tulsa 1999 Red River Classic 62 (-10)Jeff Quinney, Arizona State 1999 ASU Thunderbird/SAVANE 62 (-10)Chad McCarty, Iowa 1997 Kentucky Johnny Owens Invitational 62 (-10)Notah Begay III, Stanford 1994 NCAA Tournament 62 (-10)Tim Herron, New Mexico 1992 Tucker Invitational 62 (-10)Dave Peege, Ole Miss 1985 Gator Intercollegiate 62 (-10)Bob Gregorski, Wisconsin 1983 Wisconsin Invitational 62 (-10)
NCAA SEASON STROKE AVERAGERk. Name, School Year Stroke Average1. Bryce Molder, Georgia Tech 2000-2001 69.432. Charles Howell, Oklahoma State 1999-2000 69.573. Paul Casey, Arizona State 1999-2000 69.874. Phil Mickelson, Arizona State 1991-92 69.955. Phil Mickelson, Arizona State 1990-91 70.086. Joel Kribel, Stanford 1998-99 70.127. Luke Donald, Northwestern 1998-99 70.458. Luke Donald, Northwestern 1999-2000 70.479. Tiger Woods, Stanford 1995-96 70.6010. Matt Kuchar, Georgia Tech 1999-2000 70.65