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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Men’s golf tees off for first time this weekend

    The No. 17 Arizona men’s golf team must overcome the loss of its top two players as it kicks off the 2006 season this weekend.

    Without would-be senior Henry Liaw, who turned pro a week before school started, and injured senior Brian Prouty, the Wildcats will travel to Albuquerque, N.M., for the William H. Tucker Invitational today and tomorrow.

    It will be Arizona’s 29th consecutive appearance in the tournament, in which they will face a strong field that includes No. 7 Texas A&M, No. 12 Brigham Young and No. 13 Nevada-Las Vegas.

    UA head coach Rick LaRose said the tournament will be a good test, noting that his team will have to putt well. Because of the course’s large greens, “”putting is the key to the tournament.””

    Without Prouty and Liaw, a former Pacific 10 Conference champion, Arizona is devoid of some key senior leaders.

    Liaw’s decision to go pro “”caught us a little off-guard”” said LaRose, now in his 29th year at the helm of the men’s golf squad. “”We’re going to miss him. With him we would have been one of the favorites for the national championship.””

    Prouty, a Tucson native, underwent wrist surgery last week and will likely miss the season, although the team remains optimistic that he will be able to return in time for the NCAA Championships in May.

    Still, the cupboard is certainly not bare for the Wildcats, despite the losses. The team returns senior Josh Esler – a veteran of three NCAA championships – junior Travis Esway and sophomore Ben Fox from last year’s squad, which won two tournaments and had five top-five finishes.

    Heralded freshman Pedro Oriol and redshirt senior Nathan Tyler will join the aforementioned trio for the Wildcats in this tournament, while junior Trey Denton and sophomore Tyler Neal will compete as individuals.

    LaRose also said he’s excited about the arrival of Oriol, a European Team Championship gold medalist and Spanish Match Play champion.

    “”(He’s) a player we’ve been looking at for a while,”” LaRose said. “”He’s been one of the best players in Europe, and I think he’ll be a good player for us once he adjusts.””

    LaRose said Oriol’s performance could have a big impact on the team.

    “”Pedro is the wildcard,”” he said. “”If he plays well, we’ll be fine.””

    Another reason for optimism is the team’s strong play in the offseason. Four Wildcats – Esler, Prouty, Fox and Neal – qualified for the 2006 U.S. Amateur Championships, the most in school history.

    “”Our kids had a good summer,”” LaRose said. “”And summer is important because it sets the stage for the season.””

    Despite the question marks, LaRose expects his team to compete for a Pac-10 championship, citing Arizona’s rich history.

    “”We’ve long been one of the top programs in the country, and I don’t expect that to change this year,”” he said.

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