Barnes takes aim at U.S. Open
Arizona Summer Wildcat
NCAA Freshman of the Year 1 of 2 amateurs to qualify
Ricky Barnes is not spending his summer like most UA students.
After finishing third overall at the NCAA Men's Golf National Championships in late May, the reigning NCAA Freshman of the Year qualified for the 100th U.S. Open.
Barnes will take his talents to the Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif., tomorrow to face the world's best golfers.
The second team All-American will tee off tomorrow at 2:10 p.m. and will be paired with Zoran Zorkic and Jason Buha.
Being one of only two amateurs, Barnes is focusing on playing well despite the challenges that a tournament such as the U.S. Open presents.
"I am going out there to win just like everyone else," he said. "If I play well and miss the cut, oh well, making the cut would be awesome."
Surviving the cut will be a difficult challenge for the 19-year-old, as the Pebble Beach Golf Links is a par-71 course which encompasses 6,843 yards.
But the Stockton, Calif., native will also enjoy some advantages competing at Pebble Beach. UA head coach Rick LaRose will be in the gallery for the tournament, encouraging and helping Barnes throughout the first two days of the four-day championship.
LaRose was originally scheduled to caddie for Barnes - however, NCAA rules prohibit him from the duty.
While the coach will only be able to help from the gallery, LaRose is confident his young talent will fare well.
"The U.S. Open is a whole different animal," LaRose said. "I think he'll be competitive and go and compete."
According to Barnes, success at Pebble Beach will depend on consistency. "(I need to) hit a lot of fairways, hit a lot of greens and make sure your short game is there," he said.
Even more important than winning the U.S. Open will be the experience Barnes will gain from participating in one of golf's four major tournaments.
UA assistant coach John Knauer said the freshman's U.S. Open experience should raise Barnes' golf ability to an even higher level.
"When he plays in a big college tournament, my God, he has played in the U.S. Open," he said. "I see this really catapulting him. He is going to be so much better, it is scary."
The Arizona golf program will also benefit from the tournament, gaining national exposure with Barnes playing in one of golf's most renowned events.
"Anytime you have a player do something on the highest level, it cannot do anything but further the program," Knauer said. "Just having one player in the tournament is going to make us better."
The exposure could be especially beneficial in recruiting as the Wildcats are trying to capitalize on their third place finish at the NCAA Championships.