Men's Golf Release
May 12, 2004
On the Tee: Following its first conference championship in 13 years, the Arizona men's golf team heads to the NCAA West Regional for a record 16th consecutive season ... The Cats are one of six teams nationally to appear in the regional in every year since the NCAA adopted the format in 1989 ... It is the UA men's first appearance at The Crosswater Club at Sunriver Resort, though the Wildcat women won the NCAA Championship at the facility in 2000.
The Rankings: The Wildcats opened the 2003-04 season ranked in the top 10 in all three major college golf polls, and are currently ranked sixth in the Precept/GCAA Coaches Poll and 10th in the Golf World Coaches Poll. After seven team events this spring, UA checks in at No. 7 on the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index. Individually, senior Chris Nallen is ranked fourth nationally on the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, the highest-ranked Wildcat.
A Look at the 2004 NCAA West Regional: The University of Portland hosts the 2004 NCAA West Regional, May 20-22. Fifty-four holes of stroke play will be contested over three days at The Crosswater Club at Sunriver in Sunriver, Ore., a par-72, 7,592-yard layout. Tee times are to be announced. Of the 27 teams scheduled to compete, 13 are conference champions - more than the East and Central regionals combined - and nine of those clubs are currently ranked in the Precept/GCAA Coaches Poll. Here is the field listed by seed: UCLA (1), Arizona State (2), Arizona (3), USC (4), Brigham Young (5), California (6), UNLV (7), Washington (8), New Mexico (9), Pepperdine (10), Colorado State (11), Toledo (12), Texas-El Paso (13), Central Florida (14), San Diego State (15), Stanford (16), North Carolina-Wilmington (17), Furman (18), Denver (19), New Mexico State (20), California-Riverside (21), California-Irvine (22), Coastal Carolina (23), Long Beach State (24), Louisiana-Monroe (25), Loyola of Maryland (26) and Wright State (27). Six individuals are also included in the 141-man field: Matt Kodama, Hawaii; Travis Bertoni, Cal Poly; Graham DeLaet, Boise State; Chad Spencer, Fresno State; Joe Lanza, Saint Mary's; and Garrett Clegg, Utah. The top 10 teams and two individuals will advance to the 107th NCAA Championships, June 1-4, in Hot Springs, Va.
The Probable Arizona Lineup:
Golfer Yr. Avg. Top 10/20 Low Rd. EventsChris Nallen Sr. 69.92 7/2 62 13Henry Liaw Fr. 71.67 4/3 64 12Nathan Lashley Jr. 72.97 1/2 67 12Josh Esler Fr. 73.76 1/0 68 12Nathan Tyler Fr. 73.65 2/2 66 10
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, six 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 55 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: Led by the stellar play of freshman Henry Liaw, the University of Arizona men's golf team posted a 14-stroke turnaround over the final 18 holes to win the 2004 Pacific-10 Conference Men's Golf Championship April 28 at The Gallery at Dove Mountain. Liaw, a product of Rowland Heights, Calif., carded a four-under 68, the low round of the day, to lead the host Wildcats to a final-round 365 (+5) and a four-round total of 1,450 (+10). Arizona erased a nine-stroke deficit entering the final round and defeated runner-up Arizona State (1,455/+15) by five strokes. UCLA (1,470), Washington (1,476) and USC (1,479) rounded out the top five places. The victory was the fourth for the Wildcats this season and marked the program's third Pac-10 Championship since joining the league in 1978-79 (1987, 1991). The five-stroke win was the closest at the Pac-10 meet since 2001 and just the third margin of victory of five strokes or less in the last 11 years. Liaw's efforts not only spurred the team on to victory, but enabled him to capture individual medalist honors. His final-round 68, one of just two under-par rounds on the day, gave him a four-round total of 279 (-9) and a four-stroke victory over Arizona State's Alejandro Canizares and Chez Reavie. The Gallery certainly proved itself championship caliber as well, yielding just seven totals of par or better in the field of 60 for the tournament. All told, there were only nine sub-par scores tallied over the final two rounds of this championship.
Last Year at the NCAA West Regional: Led by the senior tandem of Ricky Barnes and Reid Hatley, Arizona men's golf team posted the low round of the day May 17 to finish in second place at the 2003 NCAA Men's Golf West Regional. Barnes and Hatley, the two most experienced players on the Wildcat roster, combined for a seven-under-par tally on the day to help Arizona post a final-round 285 (-3) and finish the three-round tournament with an 865 (+1) total. UA, which finished one stroke behind tournament-winner UCLA (864/E), and Washington were the only schools in the field of 27 to post a sub-par round in this tournament. Barnes' final-round 67(-5) briefly equaled the Washington National Golf Club course record and moved him into sole possession of third place at the West Regional with a three-round total of 211 (-5). That record was topped by Pepperdine's Michael Putnam later in the day with an eight-under 64.
Arizona Individuals Team Finish3. Ricky Barnes 75-69-67=211 (-5) 1. UCLA 8644. Chris Nallen 70-69-73=212 (-4) 2. ARIZONA 865T22. Reid Hatley 75-74-70=219 (+3) 3. UNLV 871T56. Andrew Medley 75-74-75=224 (+8) Georgia 871T62. Brian Woolf 77-73-75=225 (+9) 5. Arizona State 879 New Mexico 879
Among the Elite: Since the NCAA moved to the current regional format in 1989, is one of six schools nationally to appear in all 16 NCAA Regionals (Arizona State, Clemson, Oklahoma State, North Carolina and UNLV are the others).
Pac-10 Sweep: Two days after capturing the program's first Pac-10 Conference championship since 1991, Arizona was rewarded with a sweep of the postseason honors. Senior Chris Nallen was named player of the year, Henry Liaw earned freshman-of-the-year honors and head coach Rick LaRose garnered coach-of-the-year honors. Nallen and Liaw were first-team all-conference picks, while teammate Josh Esler was an honorable mention honoree. Incidentally, Nallen's conference player-of-the-year honors marked the third time in the last four years that a Wildcat earned such distinction from the Pac-10 Conference (Ricky Barnes shared the award in 2001 and won it in 2003).
Final Five: Chris Nallen was one of five student-athletes named as finalists for the 2004 Ben Hogan Award, which is presented annually to the top NCAA Division I, II, III, or NAIA golfer. The award covers all collegiate and amateur competitions during the last 12 months. The award, won by Wake Forest's Bill Haas, is presented by The Friends of Golf and Colonial Country Club, in cooperation with Bank of America and the Golf Coaches Association of America. Nallen was a semifinalist for the award last season.
NCAA West Regional History: Arizona has won the West Regional five times since 1989, including a stretch of three consecutive (1989, 1991-92, 2000). The Wildcats are one of just five programs to have won an NCAA Regional five or more times. Incidentally, Arizona's average finish in 15 previous appearances is 3.33. Individually, four Wildcats have claimed individual medalist honors in this event, most recently by Ricky Barnes in 2002.
Four Wins: The Cats' 14-stroke turnaround en route to the Pac-10 title marked its fourth tournament win in seven spring events. It marks the second consecutive season in which Arizona has won four events. The eight wins in the last 15 months is the best showing for the program since the 1991 and 1992 teams won 10 tournaments in that same span.
On the Decline: After not posting a top-five finish in four fall tournaments, the Wildcats certainly turned things around in the spring, winning four of seven events to date and posting two other runner-up finishes. All told, the Cats have posted under-par totals in 15 of 22 rounds (after collecting just two in 11 rounds this fall) and seen the team countable stroke average fall by 2.42 strokes to its current 70.85 figure this spring.
Take Note: The Wildcats proved to be a force on the leader board in spring competition as the varsity has collected 21 top-20 individual finishes through seven spring events (already four times more than the five earned in the fall). Freshman Henry Liaw leads the club with seven this spring, but three of the other four players in UA's regular rotation (Nallen, 5; Tyler, 3; Lashley, 3) each have at least two top-20s to their credit since the calendar turned to 2004.
Medalist: Henry Liaw claimed individual medalist honors April 28 at the Pac-10 Championships with a four-round total of 279 (-9). His final-round 68 (-4) proved to be the difference as he became the eighth UA golfer (accomplished nine times) to win a conference championship, and the second in the last four seasons. Liaw joins Jason Gore (1993) as the only freshmen to accomplish the feat.
One of the Best: Chris Nallen is on a pace to set a school record for single-season stroke average. If his current figure of 69.92 holds up, he would be the first person in school to average less than 70 strokes per round for a season (the record is 71.02 by Robert Gamez in 1988-89). So how good has Nallen been? He had a streak of eight consecutive competitive rounds in the 60s (he won two of three events played) end Feb. 18 and he has eight rounds 66 or better this season. Additionally, he posted four tournament totals of 12-under par or better this season, including two of 17-under or better. Nallen's career stroke average of 71.28 is the lowest in Arizona history.
Mr. Consistency: Henry Liaw has rebounded nicely from a slow start this fall to become one of the top freshmen in college golf. The native of Rowland Heights, Calif., currently carries a solid 71.67 stroke average through 12 appearances, which ranks second on the squad. Most impressively, that mark drops to 70.05 in spring competition, and his spring stroke average is 4.86 strokes lower than his 74.91 average last fall. All told, 19 of his 22 rounds this spring have been at par or better, including eight rounds in the 60s. Liaw has posted under-par tournament totals in all seven events this spring and is the lone Wildcat to post a top-20 finish or better in every appearance this spring.
Three-hole hitter: Junior Nathan Lashley continues to prove his worth playing in the No.3 position. Over the final two rounds of the Pac-10 Championships, Lashley's even-par 144 was essential to victory, so much so that UA head coach Rick LaRose said, 'Without Lashley, we don't win.' The Scottsbluff, Neb., native has seen his stroke average drop to a respectable 72.92, including a 72.36 average this spring. Nine of his last 14 rounds have been at par or better, including a career-low-equaling 67 in the final round at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational on April 10.
Saving the Best for Last: Freshman Josh Esler picked a good time to unleash his first career top-10 finish, as he did so at the Pac-10 Championships. His four-round 289 (+1) total was good for eighth place. Esler, who has a 73.76 stroke average this season, is averaging 71.71 strokes over his last seven rounds played.
Settling In: Redshirt freshman Nathan Tyler brought stability and immediate productivity to the UA lineup, as the Tucson, Ariz., product has played well in the No. 5 slot in all seven tournaments this spring. Tyler is averaging 73.18 strokes in 22 spring rounds, down slightly from his 73.65 season stroke average. Along with Nallen (7) and Liaw (4), Tyler is the only Wildcat with multiple top-10 finishes this season.