Thursday September 20, 2001
Men's golf enters season second in country
After a tumultuous week, the UA men's golf team will open the season with its first tournament this weekend in Albuquerque, N.M.
After a week of limited practices, the team will play in the William H. Tucker Intercollegiate Tournament. The tournament features a bevy of quality opponents - Arizona State, UNLV, New Mexico, Pepperdine, USC and Oregon State - all top teams in the country.
The weekend tournament will provide a team of young Wildcats a chance to solidify their No. 2 preseason ranking in the Golf World Coaches poll.
"It's nice to be considered one of the better teams," LaRose said. "We have all our players back and some quality young guys coming in."
Two players - Nathan Lashley and Kip Riehle - will be playing their first collegiate matches this weekend in New Mexico.
LaRose said he's confident the two rookies will be key to the team's success.
"This is their chance to step up," LaRose said. "Right now we need to find a couple of guys that can solidify our rotation."
Solidifying an already-deep lineup is a luxury the Wildcats haven't always had.
Junior Ricky Barnes, sophomore Chris Nallen and junior Reid Hatley are all coming off successful 2000-2001 campaigns.
Nallen has been named one of the top 50 players to watch by the same Golf World publication, and Barnes has been honored as the best collegiate golfer in the country for this season.
LaRose said he knows his stars will be the key to this season, and thinks Barnes will make a great anchor for the team.
"He is a sensational talent," LaRose said. "To this point, his credentials are better than any player that has ever come through this program."
Barnes said he doesn't mind having the added expectations this season.
"Team and personal goals coincide, so I would be selling myself short if I wasn't the best player in the nation," Barnes said. "I am just looking (forward) to going out and winning. As long as we win, I will be happy."
Barnes also said he feels he has room to improve on his game.
"I want to be more consistent with scores," Barnes said. "I don't want one stroke to get on my bad side and ruin a good round."
Barnes knows he is going to be looked at as a team leader, and he isn't shying away from the pressure.
"Being one of the older guys on the team, I need to be a little bit more of a leader," Barnes said. "I've been through a lot in the last two years, so the younger guys come to me for a lot of advice."