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Tuesday April 24, 2001

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Freshmen surge leads Wildcat golfers to first tourney win

By Kyle Faraday

Arizona Daily Wildcat

UA's Nallen takes top honors in career-best performance

The Arizona men's golf team capped off a commanding performance at the U.S. Intercollegiate Tournament this weekend in Stanford, Calif., by posting a final-round score of 280 (4-under-par) to finish the tournament at 837 (-15).

It was the team's first stroke-play tournament win of the season and its first overall victory since capturing the CGF Match Play National Championship in November.

"We feel like we're in a really good position right now," freshman Andy Connel said. "It took (freshman) Chris Nallen and I a little while to adapt to the college atmosphere, but I think we're really starting to find our groove."

The Wildcats entered the final round Sunday with a five-stroke lead and continued their blistering pace with all five UA golfers coming in at par or under.

Arizona was led by Nallen, who shot a final round of 71 to take home medalist honors with a three-day total of 206 (-7). It was the first career victory for the Blairstown, N.J., native, who finished nine strokes better than his previous career-best score.

Connell carded the lowest final round for the Wildcats with a 69 (-2), and finished the tournament in a tie for second-place with Arizona State's Jeff Quinney at 210 (-3).

Also scoring for Arizona was sophomore Ricky Barnes 212 (-1), sophomore Reid Hatley 213 (E) and junior Cody Beyer 215 (+2). Barnes closed the tournament in a tie for eighth place, his fifth top-10 finish this season.

"We are a very young group, but these guys have grown, no question," said UA head coach Rick LaRose. "The freshmen are learning, and I think now the whole team is feeling a lot more comfortable."

The Wildcats ran away from the competition on the final day when all five Arizona golfers finished in the top-20 individually. The UA team total of 837 was 15 strokes better than runner-up Arizona State (852, even).

Rounding out the top-five team scores were UCLA (858, +6), Southern California (859, +7) and Stanford (863, +11).

With the win, the Wildcats established themselves as the favorite for the upcoming Pacific 10 Championships, which run Friday through Sunday.

"We have thought all year that we were the team to beat in the Pac-10, but we just hadn't proved it," said Barnes. "This tournament was a definite confidence booster because the Pac-10 Championships will be on the same course against the same teams."