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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    A drought on the links

    Shane Baconstaff writer
    Shane Bacon
    staff writer

    A Slice of Bacon

    In case you never sported a polo shirt and khakis and rode around in a miniature car slapping a white ball around a vast expanse of green, you might not understand the ups and downs of the game.

    If you’ve never played the game that makes you clap, cuss and cry all within 500 yards of others, you wouldn’t understand that you can birdie 17 yet bogey 18 within minutes.

    In the big scheme of things that is Arizona golf, you could consider the last year and a half a really nasty double-bogey.

    The men’s golf team is currently ranked No. 24, and the women are No. 17.

    Both have had their own respective struggles, however, after losing two of the best golfers to come through the program at the same time.

    On the men’s side of things, you would be talking about Chris Nallen, who graduated in 2004 after taking six individual victories as a Wildcat, putting him a in a tie for second place in school history with Mike Springer and one win behind PGA Tour member Robert Gamez.

    Nallen’s accomplishments while he was a Wildcat explain the importance he played as the nucleus of the team – a gaping hole that needed to be filled when he left.

    Nallen won three times his senior year, twice his junior year, was first-team All-American both those years and owns three of the top five lowest 18-hole totals in Arizona men’s golf history.

    Since Nallen’s departure, the Wildcats have turned to junior Henry Liaw, who was as touted a freshman as the Wildcats have brought in, and for good reason. Liaw exploded onto the scene his first year, finishing four times in the top six, including a victory at the 2004 Pacific 10 Championships.

    Since then, Liaw has notched just one victory in the last two years, coming at the Ping-Arizona Intercollegiate hosted by the Wildcats at their home course, Arizona National, Jan. 30 and 31.

    The struggles have continued with the team as well.

    Arizona hasn’t won a tournament in almost a year and a half, dating back to the William H. Tucker Intercollegiate in October 2004.

    Since the victory, the men’s golf team has averaged a sixth-place finish in the 19 tournaments that followed.

    On the women’s side of things, the decision for Erica Blasberg to turn professional put the team in a different predicament than that of the men’s team.

    Arizona head coach Greg Allen had a scholarship in the air without much to do with it.

    It showed last year, with the team going winless and missing the NCAA Tournament with a disappointing 13th-place finish in the NCAA West Regional.

    This year has been much of the same, even though Allen has something to bank on, with a promising freshman class.

    Seven of the 10 golfers are newcomers, and in the first tournament of the spring, the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge, Allen took four freshmen.

    Freshman Lauren Espinosa already has two top-10s in her first season, and fellow frosh Amanda Wilson has a top-five to her credit.

    Even with the youngsters being the future of the Wildcats’ women’s program, it is still the present that is in a rut, as Arizona hasn’t notched a victory since October 2003 at the Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational.

    Both programs, however, have much to offer in terms of recruiting.

    I mean, it isn’t hard to bring a top recruit to a place that is covered in exceptional golf courses, has weather that could only keep you off the links if you were allergic to the sun and a campus atmosphere that would best be described as “”relaxed,”” just to save face.

    The programs will straighten out, especially with the freshman classes both squads have recruited.

    I guess old golfers would use the expression, “”That’s just golf.””

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