By Dmitry Rashnitsov
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, November 10, 2005
Many Arizona students will be spending their Veterans Day weekends drinking or catching up on homework.
The Wildcat men's golf team is off to Orlando, Fla., to play in the Hooters Collegiate Match Play Championship tomorrow through Sunday.
Leading the way for Arizona is junior Henry Liaw, who is coming off a second-place finish at the CordeValle Invitational on Nov. 1.
"He is the leader of the team," said Wildcat assistant coach John Knauer. "He has a different attitude ... the way he goes about his business."
"It seemed like last year he was a kid, and this year he is a man," said sophomore Trey Denton. "Now he's here to get down to business and play some golf."
Joining Liaw in Orlando will be juniors Nathan Tyler, Mark Lamb and Josh Esler, and sophomores Travis Esway and Trey Denton.
Members of the team said they are excited about this tournament because it's the only match-play event they will compete in all season.
"You play an opponent, and you have to beat them to move on," Denton said.
The 16 teams competing are put into double-elimination brackets. The Wildcats are seeded 13th and will meet No. 4 seed Duke in the first round.
"It's a unique format, with it being match play, and you get to play with one of your own team members," Esler said.
Although players said they expect the event to be fun to play in, the competition should be the team's toughest of the year.
"To qualify, you had to finish in the top 16 in the NCAA Championships last year," Knauer said. "This is one of the premier fields in the country."
Knauer said he likes this tournament because anything can happen. He knows you can get down early and still come back to win in the end.
"Never feel safe," he said. "Still don't feel confident until it's all over."
Conditions in Florida should be a little different from the dry heat of Arizona, but the players said they all know what to expect when they fly in.
"The air is lot more humid," Esway said. "The ball does not go as far."
Esler said he isn't worried, having played two years of high school golf in the Sunshine State.
"When the wind blows it does more to the ball," he said. "Overall it's a little different. You sweat more, and your body feels different."
Esler said he's also happy with his play of late and hopes it continues this weekend.
"I feel good. I am playing as good as I have ever played," he said. "I'm gaining some confidence and feeding off Henry. The two of us could really do some damage this weekend."
As a whole, Esway said, the team is off to an OK start, but would like to have some momentum after this tournament.
"We kind of struggled this fall," he said. "Coach has been searching for the right combination of people."
"We want to go out there and compete and really play well," Esler said. "We want to end the fall season on a good note."
Knauer said he believes the team will continue to improve as the season progresses.
"We sort of gear everything to the postseason," Knauer said in reference to this spring's NCAA Championships.
"Although you would like to play great in every tournament, we peak at the right time," he said.
The Wildcats next compete in the Western Refining College All-America Golf Classic on Nov. 21 in El Paso, Texas, to finish out its fall season.