By Patrick Klein

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Jason Gore is missing something.

Sure, the Arizona sophomore has the Pac-10 men's golf title, which he will put on the line today through Wednesday in the Pac-10 Championships. But the team title slipped through Arizona's fingers, as it lost to Arizona State by a mere two strokes.

Gore is reminded of that loss whenever he looks down at his fingers, because he doesn't have a shiny Pac-10 team title ring to wear.

"I want my team to win, last year we came too close," he said. "This year I want a ring, it would look good on my finger."

Although satisfied with winning the individual championship and defeating reigning NCAA individual champion Todd Demsey of ASU in a tense final-round battle, it was not what the then-freshman expected.

"I was really skeptical that weekend going into the tournament," he said. "I didn't have a good feeling, but everything just kind of clicked in.

"I think (winning) gave me a lot more confidence. Play- ing with Manny and David (Manny Zerman and David Berganio, first-team All-Americans who graduated last year), I didn't feel that I was as good, I didn't think I could beat them, so the victory lifted my confidence level."

The absence of Zerman and Berganio left the team struggling for an identity and searching for a go-to guy, all of which hurt Gore's game.

"I think all this year I felt I had to play that much better to make up for Manny and David's loss," Gore said. "Then I realized that I couldn't replace them, and when I did that, I felt much better.

"I think as a team we expected to replace them right away, but when it's a group of sophomores (Tim Beans, Gore and Ted Purdy) and a senior (David Howser) who has held his own, it's hard to fill those guys' shoes."

Their shoes have been filled by numerous feet.

"No dominant leader has emerged on this team," Coach Rick LaRose said. "I think that this team takes turns with leaders, but Gore is as much a leader as anybody."

The realization that this is a different team with its own strengths and weaknesses has helped Gore and the rest of the Wildcats. After sitting out most of February with a wrist injury, Gore had his best tournament of the semester at the Thunderbird ASU Intercollegiate two weeks ago, finishing in a tie for 17th, including a team-low round of 69.

"I think I'm starting to play more consistently," Gore said. "I'm settling back down, the whole team is settling down. It's a whole new team last year, but now we realize what we have and we work with that."

"He is playing better this year than last year," LaRose said. "He has improved by a whole stroke, which is a definite improvement."

As the defending champion, Gore is supposed to face an abnormal amount of pressure and scrutiny, but he said he remains unaffected by the hype.

"I don't really feel any pressure," he said. "I'm kind of anxious, I want to play, but there's nothing to lose. Probably the best players in the country are in the Pac-10, so if you win, it means you played that much better. I'm a sophomore, I've still got plenty of time if this week doesn't work out."

Yet when it comes to his own team, Gore makes no bones about what he expects.

"I want this team to win," Gore said. "I have no doubts about this team. If we play good, everybody else will be playing for second." Read Next Article