Men's Golf Release
May 25, 2004
On the Tee: For the 18th consecutive season, Arizona will close its season at the NCAA Championships following its third-place finish May 22 at the NCAA West Regional ... UA's 18 consecutive trips to the NCAA Championships is the third-longest active streak in the country ... The Wildcats enter the Championships with a top-three finish or better in seven of eight spring events, including the 2004 Pac-10 championship - its first in 13 years ... All told, Arizona has four wins in eight starts this spring which marks the second straight season with four victories ... This is Arizona's third trip to the Eastern Time Zone this season.
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 eight team events this spring, UA checks in at No. 8 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 Championships: Virginia Tech hosts the 107th annual NCAA Men's Golf Championships, June 1-4. Seventy-two holes of stroke play will be contested over four days at The Homestead Resort's Cascades Golf Course in Hot Springs, Va., a par-70, 6,679-yard layout. Arizona will start play June 1 from the 10th tee beginning at 12:45 p.m. EDT. Thirty teams are scheduled to compete: Arizona, Arizona State, Auburn, Brigham Young, California, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, Georgia State, Georgia Tech, Kent State, Kentucky, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Penn State, Pepperdine, Purdue, Rhode Island, SMU, Texas, Texas A&M, TCU, Toledo, UCLA, USC, Vanderbilt, Washington and Wichita State. Six individuals are also included in the 156-man field: Chris Baryla, UTEP; A.J. Elgert, Kansas State; Bill Haas, Wake Forest; Ryan Moore, UNLV; Jeff Overton, Indiana; and Aaron Price, Georgia Southern. Live scoring will be available at www.golfstat.com.
The Probable Arizona Lineup:
Golfer Yr. Avg. Top 10/20 Low Rd. EventsChris Nallen Sr. 69.95 8/2 62 14Henry Liaw Fr. 71.72 4/4 64 13Nick Juszczak Jr. 73.09 1/3 69 8Josh Esler Fr. 73.65 1/0 68 13Mark Lamb Fr. 73.57 2/2 66 7
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: Chris Nallen, the Wildcats' most experienced player, shot an even-par 72 May 22 to lead the squad to a final-round 297 (+9) en route to an 872 (+8) total at the 2004 NCAA West Regional at The Crosswater Club at Sunriver Resort in Sunriver, Ore. Arizona's final round tally was its highest of the tournament, but it was enough to qualify the squad for its 18th consecutive trip to the NCAA Championships. Aside from Nallen, none of the other four players in the UA lineup had ever played in an NCAA Regional before. But the senior, junior and three freshmen combined for the 872 total and third-place finish. UCLA captured its second straight NCAA West Regional title with an 865 (+1) total, one stroke ahead of New Mexico. Arizona followed six strokes back, while Arizona State finished in fourth place at 873 (+9). Nallen's final-round 72 was good enough to give the Hackettstown, N.J., native a three-round total of 211 (-5) and a share of individual medalist honors with UCLA's Travis Johnson. Nallen became the fifth Arizona player to win or share individual medalist honors since the NCAA Regional format debuted in 1989. It marks Nallen's fourth win of the season, which ranks second nationally this season, and the sixth of his career, which ties him with Mike Springer (1984-88) for second place on the UA career victories list. Freshman Henry Liaw shot a final-round 78 (+6) and finished with a one-over 217, which placed him in a tie for 13th place. It was Liaw's eighth consecutive top-20 finish.
Last Year at the NCAA Championships: Arizona shot a final-round 311 to finish in 17th place at the 2003 NCAA Championships in Stillwater, Okla. The Cats posted a 23-over-par total and finished the 72-hole event with a 1,229 (+77) total. UA's final-round tally was its worst round of the 2002-03 season and led to the team's worst finish at the NCAA Championships since 1999. It marked just the second time in 2002-03 that Arizona had failed to finish in the top 10. Individually, Ricky Barnes became the first golfer in Arizona history to post four consecutive top-20 finishes at the NCAA Championships. The senior from Stockton, Calif., shot a final-round, one-over-par 73 and finished tied for sixth place at 292 (+4). Barnes, the only Wildcat to break par in the event, collected three birdies and 11 pars over the final round. Junior Chris Nallen was the only other Wildcat player to finish in the top half of the field. The Hackettstown, N.J., native shot a three-over 75 to tied for 35th place at 303 (+15). Prior to the 2003 event, Nallen had finished at par or better in five of eight career NCAA Championship rounds.
Arizona Individuals Team FinishT6. Ricky Barnes 75-74-70-73=292 (+4) 1. Clemson 1,191T35. Chris Nallen 75-78-75-75=303 (+15) 2. Oklahoma State 1,193T71. Brian Woolf 81-75-78-81=315 (+27) 3. UCLA 1,197T80. Andrew Medley 76-81-80-83=320 (+32) 4. Wake Forest 1,198 Reid Hatley WD-88-83-82 (+37) Florida 1,198 17. ARIZONA 1,229
Three for the Show: Arizona is certainly included in some select company when it comes to consecutive appearances in the NCAA Men's Golf Championships. 2004 marks the 18th consecutive appearance, which is the third-longest active streak in the nation. Only Oklahoma State (58, 1947-2004) and Clemson (23, 1982-2004) rank ahead of the Wildcats' string that started in 1987. The next closest schools on the list (Georgia and Georgia Tech) currently stand at seven.
NCAA Championship History: Arizona has won the NCAA Championship once (1992) in 21 previous appearances. All time, the Wildcats have 10 top-10 finishes at the NCAA Championships, including three top-five finishes in the last eight years. Arizona's average finish at the NCAA Championships is 12.5. Interestingly, UA has never had an individual medalist at the NCAA Championships, though the school has collected 10 top-four individual finishes, including six runner-up finishes. Rory Sabbatini was the last Wildcat to finish as the NCAA runner-up when he finished four strokes behind Stanford's Tiger Woods in 1996.
Regional Champion: Chris Nallen carded scores of 71, 68 and 72 to post a five-under 211 to share individual medalist honors at the NCAA West Regional May 22 with UCLA's Travis Johnson. Nallen is the fifth Wildcat to earn individual medalist honors at the NCAA Regional since 1989. The other four winners were Robert Gamez (1989), Harry Rudolph (1992), Manny Zerman (1993) and Ricky Barnes (2002).
Freshmen of Influence: Since the start of the season back in September the UA lineup has regularly featured three freshmen to go along with a senior and junior. When the club won the Pac-10 Championship on April 28, the six-man lineup included four freshmen. How good have they been? Those four freshmen (Henry Liaw, Josh Esler, Nathan Tyler and Mark Lamb) have combined to post a 73.15 stroke average and collect 15 top-20 finishes. According to the May 24 Golfstat rankings, Arizona's freshmen class has had the most impact in all of Division I college golf. Of the 10 teams ranked in Golfstat's Freshman Class Impact ranking that qualified for the NCAA Championships, only Arizona has as many as three freshmen in its lineup.
Picking Up the Pace: Chris Nallen's win at the NCAA West Regional was his fourth of the season and the sixth of his career. The Hackettstown, N.J., native is the first Arizona golfer to ever win four tournaments in one year and his six career wins ties him for second place on the UA career victories list with Mike Springer (1984-88). Only Robert Gamez, who won seven times in an Arizona uniform from 1986-89, has more triumphs than Nallen.
On the National Level: While Nallen's four victories in 2003-04 are unprecedented at Arizona, he does figure prominently on a national scale. Nallen ranks second nationally this season with those four wins and trails only Hogan Award winner Bill Haas of Wake Forest, who picked up his fifth win of the year at the NCAA East Regional. Here is the list of winners from across the country: 1.) Bill Haas (Wake Forest), 5; 2. Chris Nallen (Arizona), Graham DeLaet (Boise State) and Gareth Maybin (South Alabama), 4; 5.) Kane Webber (Colorado) and Jason Hartwick (Texas), 3.
First-Year Phenom: Arizona's Henry Liaw has certainly become a force to be reckoned with on the college golf scene. He is the only Wildcat to post top-20 finishes in all eight spring events. Prior to the NCAA West Regional, where he finished tied for 13th with a one-over 217, he had been under par in seven consecutive tournaments. He currently ranks second on the club with a 71.72 stroke average, which qualifies as the second lowest freshman scoring average in Arizona history. Only Ricky Barnes' 71.04 stroke average in 1999-2000 was lower than Liaw's.
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).
Four Wins: The Cats' 14-stroke, final-round turnaround en route to the Pac-10 title marked its fourth tournament win this spring. 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 eight events to date and posting two other runner-up finishes. All told, the Cats have posted under-par totals in 17 of 25 rounds (after collecting just two in 11 rounds this fall) and seen the team countable stroke average fall by 1.37 strokes to its current 71.90 figure this spring.
Take Note: The Wildcats proved to be a force on the leader board in spring competition as the varsity has collected 23 top-20 individual finishes through eight spring events (nearly five times more than the five earned in the fall). Freshman Henry Liaw leads the club with eight this spring, but three of the other four players in UA's regular rotation (Nallen, 6; Tyler, 3; Lashley, 3) each have at least three 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 69-70-72-68=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 UA freshmen to win a conference championship.
They'll Have to Earn It: It's never easy to come to the NCAA Championships, but the task of playing well for Arizona is made slightly more difficult by a lack of experience. Arizona heads to Hot Springs, Va., with a combined 12 rounds of NCAA Championship experience - all from senior Chris Nallen. The remainder of the Wildcat lineup, junior Nick Juszczak, and freshmen Henry Liaw, Josh Esler and Mark Lamb, have never teed it up at the NCAA Championships. Obviously, Arizona faced a similar situation at the West Regional and managed to finish third in some difficult conditions at The Crosswater Club at Sunriver Resort.
Been There, Done That: This won't be the first time that Arizona brings a lineup to the NCAA Championships that is a little on the green side. In both 2000 and 2001, Arizona's lineup featured as many as four underclassmen, including two freshmen, and the squad still posted third-place finishes in both seasons.
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 69.95 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). Nallen 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 71.26 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 players in college golf. The native of Rowland Heights, Calif., currently carries a solid 71.72 stroke average through 13 appearances, which ranks second on the squad. Most impressively, that mark drops to 70.32 in spring competition, and his spring stroke average is 4.59 strokes lower than his 74.91 average last fall. All told, 21 of his 25 rounds this spring have been at par or better, including eight rounds in the 60s. Liaw has posted under-par tournament totals in seven of eight events this spring and is the lone Wildcat to post a top-20 finish or better in every appearance this spring.
Welcome Back: Junior Nick Juszczak rejoins the Arizona lineup for the first time since April 9-10 when he tied for 20th place at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational with a 73-69-70=212 (-4) total. He ranks fourth on the squad with a 73.09 stroke average and has four top-20 finishes to his credit. Juszczak was Arizona's No. 2 finisher at The Preview by Ping and Golfweek after carding a nine-over 149 to tie for 42nd place. In four appearances with the Arizona varsity, Juszczak posted a 73.45 stroke average.
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 73.89 stroke average this season, is averaging 72.80 strokes over his last 10 rounds played, including five rounds at par or better.
Fast Starter: Freshman Mark Lamb has been a nice addition since joining the team in January. The native of Haddington, Scotland, averaged 73.57 strokes over his 21 rounds played. The former Scottish Boys champion has a knack for fast starts as his first round stroke average is one stroke less than his overall season average. In seven appearances this season, Lamb's first round total has been his best five times.