Last year was way out of character for the Arizona State men's golf program, and head coach Randy Lein would be the first person to tell you. Lein won't make excuses, but the reasons were numerous and also out of the ordinary as a cloudy day in Tempe.
'We had some things go against us last year and in golf, when you lose your best players, it can be tough to make that up,' says Lein, who has won the Pac-10 Coach of the Year honor five times in his 10 years. 'It seemed like we spent the whole time last year developing a lineup after a weird event or an injury. It was not your typical Arizona State season.'
The 2001-2002 season got off to a bad start in the summer, when 2001 First-Team All-American Matt Jones decided to turn professional. Brian Nosler, a 2001 U.S. Amateur semifinalist, then decided to concentrate on academics. But the biggest blow came when 2001 U.S. Public Links champion Chez Reavie missed all of last fall and only played in six events due to a serious hand injury. Reavie ended up with a good spring, although he never had a chance to get in the groove that led him to a fourth-place tie in his freshman year at the 2001 NCAA Championships.
'Chez's injury took a lot out of his game and it took a lot longer for him to recover than we anticipated,' says Lein of his junior from Mesa, Ariz. 'He showed, at points last year, he was coming back, but it was tough for him with the wrist hurting. When you lose what you think are going to be your top three players for different reasons, it can take its toll. However, we feel his game is back to where it was in 2001.'
Reavie's game was as good as anyone's at the end of 2001. As a freshman, he posted the second-best finish by a Sun Devil freshman since Phil Mickelson won the title in 1989 with his tie for fourth. He had a 72.58 stroke average and finished that year with his 7-under 281 at the NCAAs.
With Reavie out last year, one of the most impressive streaks in college golf came to an end. ASU had qualified for the NCAA Championships for 18 straight seasons, one of just four schools who had a streak of more than 15 heading into last year. It is not lost on Lein that it was a source of pride for the ASU golf program, a streak he had added nine years to since he arrived in 1992. ASU also has won seven of the past 10 Pac-10 titles, including six straight from 1995-2000.
'Every year, we expect to not only reach the NCAA Championship, but contend for the national title. Our goals are always the same. We want to use the fall to establish ourselves and get a set lineup, improve in the early spring and get ready for our Thunderbird Tournament.
'We expect to win out tournament, win the Pac-10, play well in the NCAA Regional and gain confidence as we head towards the NCAAs. We did none of that last year and we are not happy about that. This year, I feel we can get back to that. We need our seniors to make a big impact, and I think they will.'
The two seniors came into ASU with a lot of accolades and honors, but have not played well during the college season. Both Brady Stockton and Shane McMenamy have one more opportunity to shine.
'For Brady and Shane, this is their time to make an impact. They both are playing well and they have played very well in the past. We know they can step up and lead us back to where we belong. Their play this spring will determine our success.'
Stockton played in 11 tournaments last year and had a 74.55 stroke average, but it is his play this past summer that has Lein excited. Stockton won the 2002 Pacific Northwest Golf Association title on July 13 after winning six straight matches at Spokane Country Club. He also was a semifinalist at two major amateur events this year, the 2002 U.S. Public Links and the 2002 Western Amateur.
'Brady had a great summer and also played well in the fall. He has as much game as anyone in college golf. All he needs to do is work hard and stay focused to have a great senior year. I believe he will.'
McMenamy earned semifinalist honors at the 2002 Arizona Amateur, losing to eventual champion Ken Kellaney. He has played in 13 events in his three-year career after coming out of North Dakota as one of the state's best golfers in its history. He won the 1996 USGA Junior Amateur, becoming the first 16-year old to win the title since Tiger Woods took the trophy in 1992.
'Shane is much-improved and I think he will have a great senior year. He just needs to add some confidence and he will develop into the player I know he can be.'
Lein has a stable of five junior besides Reavie to look to for depth.
Phoenix native Michael Derminio was one of the top prep golfers in Arizona history and was the 1999 state champion. He is tall and very athletic, as he played basketball in high school. Injuries to his back and left knee have slowed him the past two years, but has shown flashes of what he can do with a title at the 2002 Scottsdale Amateur where he fired an 11-under 133.
'Michael is very athletic and now that his injuries are behind him, I feel he can help us. He has a lot of natural ability and is most capable of low scores.'
Another Phoenix product is Ben Flam. The junior played in seven tournaments last year and had two-top-10 finishes. His 73.77 stroke average was second on the team last year. Flam tied for 10th at the U.S. Collegiate Invitational and tied for ninth at the Taylor Made Intercollegiate.
'Ben played very well for us last year after he established himself in the lineup. He will be in the mix throughout the spring.'
Brady Stockton won the 2002 Pacific Northwest Golf Association title on July 13 after winning six straight matches at Spokane Country Club.
Juniors Brett Johnson, Nick Manthey and Kurt Mayr also will bring a couple of years of experience to the competition. Johnson played in two events last year while Manthey competed in one. Mayr has a solid amount of international experience and also won the 2000 Arizona Public Links Championship.
'Both Brett and Nick played well over the summer. Kurt has been a very good player and needs to get back to basics and have fun.'
The sophomore class has a lot of talent, led by area players Pat Moore and Jesse Mueller. Moore had a good freshman season last year, playing in nine tournaments and posting a 74.82 stroke average. His potential is great, as he fired a 62 in a practice round at ASU's Karsten Golf Course (which would tie a course record) and he also shot a 64 at Karsten in the second round of the Thunderbird Invitational on April 12. He finished with a 9-under 207 (67-64-76) and tied for fourth to give him a lot of confidence heading into this year.
'We didn't know how much Pat would play last year but with the three players out, we turned to Pat and he did a great job for us. He competed like an upperclassman, but he was only a freshman.'
Mueller became the youngest player to win the Arizona Amateur when he took home the title in 2001, and he followed that with a great initial season last year. He played the most rounds of anyone on the team (34) after competing in all 11 events. His best tournament was a 6-under 210 (69-70-71) at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational, where he finished tied for 14th.
'Jesse played every tournament last year and competed very well. He had a typical freshman year where you have a lot of ups and downs, but he battled well and all those rounds will pay dividends this year. I expect great things from him the next three years.'
Kendall Critchfield, a sophomore from Red Mountain High School in Mesa also will get his chance after redshirting his freshman year and overcoming injuries last year. Mike Skillern, another sophomore, will get his chance as well.
Lein is excited to have freshman Gurbaaz Mann and Lenny Park on campus. Mann is from India and Park is from Korea, and both of them have the background and the talent to make an immediate impact.
'When you recruit freshman at Arizona State, you expect them to be able to compete for a spot in the lineup from day one,' says Lein. 'These two guys can do that. Gurbaaz swings as well as anyone and Lenny has an awesome short game. I look forward to coaching them.'
Lein is confident that last year was merely a bump in the road. With a healthy Reavie, and a confident Stockton and McMenamy, Arizona State is ready to get back to where it belongs.
'I am the first one to admit that last year was not acceptable for our program, and I have told many people that,' says Lein. 'We will get this back to where it needs to be and make sure last year was simply a bump in the road. We have the right kids and the right resources to put ASU golf back into the top of the rankings. That is our goal, and that is what it should be.'
ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS MEN'S GOLF 2002-2003 STATISTICS
PlayersTourn.Rds.Avg.Top 5Top 10
Alejandro Canizares (5-10/Fr./Manilva, Spain)51571.2711
Kendall Critchfield (5-8/So./Mesa, Ariz.)51573.2700
Mike Derminio (6-3/Jr./Scottsdale, Ariz.)61874.6700
Ben Flam (5-10/Jr./Phoenix, Ariz.)92772.8900
Brett Johnson (5-10/Jr./Hilton Head, S.C.)1372.6700
Gurbaaz Mann (6-2/Fr./Chandigarh, India)2676.1700
Nick Manthey (6-3/Jr./Mesa, Ariz.)1373.0000
Kurt Mayr (6-1/Jr./Villach, Austria)1377.3300
Shane McMenamy (5-10/Sr./Grand Forks, N.D.)2674.6700
Pat Moore (6-1/So./Phoenix, Ariz.)3973.7800
Jesse Mueller (5-8/So./Mesa, Ariz.)82473.6702
Lenny Park (5-7/Fr./Sochko, Korea)2673.8300
Chez Reavie (5-7/Jr./Mesa, Ariz.)103071.4028
Charly Simon (6-0/Fr./Marbella, Spain)1374.3300
Brady Stockton (6-3/Sr./San Ramon, Calif.)61872.5621
**Note: Top 10 finishes include Top 5 finishes
TOPY Cup9/2-4Tokyo, Japan7th/Chez Reavie T-9th
Fresno State Classic10/11-12Fresno, Calif.8th/Brady Stockton T-14th
Duke Invitational10/21-22Durham, N.C.4th/Jesse Mueller 7th
Arizona/Ping Intercollegiate2/3-4Tucson, Ariz.T6th/Chez Reavie 9th
Taylor Made/Waikoloa Intercoll.2/13-15Kona, HawaiiT-7th/Chez Reavie 8th
USC/Southwestern Classic3/3-4Westlake Village, Calif.T-4th/A. Canizares T-13th
UNLV Toyota Championship3/7-9Las Vegas, Nev.6th/Chez Reavie T-10th
Morris Williams Invitational3/17-18Austin, Texas5th/Chez Reavie T-5th
National Invitational Tourn.3/30-4/1Tucson, Ariz.5th/A. Canizares 1st
ASU Thunderbird/SAVANE Inv.4/11-12Tempe, Ariz.1st/Stockton, Reavie T-5th
Pac-10 Championships4/28-30Los Angeles, Calif.
NCAA West Regionals5/15-17Auburn, Wash.
NCAA Championships5/28-31Stillwater, Okla.