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Oh, Henry: Liaw leads Cats to crown

KEVIN KLAUS/Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA freshman Henry Liaw tees off yesterday morning at the Pac-10 Championships at The Gallery at Dove Mountain golf course in Marana.
By Shane Bacon
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, April 29, 2004
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Freshman wins individual title; Wildcats battle back from 9 down to take team championship

When asked Tuesday about his team's chances of rallying from a 9-shot deficit in yesterday's final round at the Pac-10 Championships, UA men's head golf coach Rick LaRose was less than optimistic.

"Not impossible," he said. "Certainly to challenge, you need to have someone carry your team."

Henry Liaw must have heard him. The freshman birdied six of his first 11 holes en route to winning the individual title, spearheading a UA rally that wiped out Arizona State's 9-stroke advantage and gave Arizona its first Pacific 10 Conference Championship since 1991.

Liaw shot a 4-under par 68 to finish 4 strokes ahead of ASU's Alejandro Canizares, last year's NCAA champion and the leader heading into yesterday. As a team, the Wildcats finished 5-over on the day and 10-over (1450) for the tournament, outpacing the Sun Devils (15-over, 1455) by 14 strokes in the final 18 holes to win running away.

Liaw, a native of Rowland Heights, Calif., claimed the first individual title of his young collegiate career, and his entire team showed its approval by mauling him on the 18th green.

"The main thing is to win as a team," Liaw said after the round. "That's what we came here to do and we hung in there and played really well. And now we're Pac-10 Champions."

Chris Nallen, Arizona's senior centerpiece, struggled to a rocky finish on Tuesday as he double-bogeyed his last two holes, but played an even-par round of 72 yesterday to put him in a tie for fifth place.

LaRose said it was important to have another UA golfer hold up the trophy.

"I told (assistant coach) John (Knauer) that if Chris (Nallen) can't win this thing, I really need Henry to win the Pac-10s," LaRose said.

Arizona had to overcome inclement weather and even rival players in order to complete its title push.

Liaw got off to a hot start on the front nine but had to wait out a lightning delay that he said slowed him down after he got back on the course.

Liaw is congratulated by men's golf head coach Rick LaRose after shooting 4-under par yesterday to lead the Wildcats to the 2004 Pac-10 title.

"My back got stiff when I came back on the golf course," he said. "I was able to hang on out there and not make any big numbers."

Nallen ran into another kind of opposition.

The senior from Hackettstown, N.J., faced a situation typical of the ASU-UA rivalry yesterday on the 13th hole, when playing partner Jesse Mueller of Arizona State claimed that Nallen hit a putt after the ball had moved from its original position.

USGA rules official James Waitt cleared up the controversy after the round had ended, ruling in favor of Nallen's upon review.

Waitt said he checked a camera and saw that while Nallen was putting, he never flinched or moved from his original putting stroke, something that usually occurs when something out of the ordinary happens.

"You believe the player unless there is conclusive evidence," the official said.

Liaw's win marked the third consecutive time a UA player has won the individual title when the Wildcats have hosted the Pac-10 Championships.

Former UA golfers Paul Nolan and Jason Gore won the Pac-10s in 1984 and 1994, respectively - the last years they were held in Tucson.

By winning the Pac-10 Championships, the Wildcats will not need to qualify for the NCAA Championships in regional competition, giving them more time to prepare for the big dance.

The Wildcats will tee it up at the NCAAs in Homestead, Virginia May 25-May 28.

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