The University of Arizona men's golf team got sterling efforts from Chris Nallen and Henry Liaw Sunday in leading the team to victory at the Hall of Fame Invitational in Humble, Texas.
Arizona's top two players were a combined six shots under par in Sunday's final round, which gave the Wildcats the breathing room it needed in claiming its third team championship of the season. UA carded a 2-under 286 Sunday and finished the 54-hole tournament with an 846 (-18) total to win the event by six strokes. Oklahoma State (852), Texas (853) and Oklahoma (854) rounded out the top four places.
'The team played great,' said UA head coach Rick LaRose. 'We were very consistent in our play. Of course, we rode Chris Nallen. He's our horse and when he gets off to a good start it takes a lot of heat off the other guys. I think that it frees them up to do what they can do best. We made a few mistakes but we finished like champs today. All of our counters birdied their last hole today. It made a big swing in the score because it was pretty close up until then. I'm really proud of the way these guys hung in there. I think they learned a little about themselves and we're just real happy that we won here in Houston. It really means a lot to us.'
In claiming its third team championship of the season, it is also the 64th all-time win for the program and the seventh in the last 13 months. That's the most productive period for the Cats since 1992 and 1993 editions of the Wildcats won nine events in a 15-month swing, including the 1992 national championship
Arizona also claimed victories Feb. 3 at the PING-Arizona Intercollegiate and Feb. 20 at the John Burns Intercollegiate.
Nallen claimed individual medalist honors for the third time this season after shooting a two-under 70 in Sunday's final round. He won the event by six shots with a 202 (-14) total over Oklahoma State's Alex Noren. It continues a run of outstanding play for the UA senior from Hackettstown, N.J., as seven of his 12 rounds played this spring have been at par or better.
It was the 54th individual win for an Arizona golfer all-time and the fifth of Nallen's career, which ties him for third place on the school's career victories list with Larry Silveira (1984-88) and Ricky Barnes (1999-2003). Nallen is the first UA golfer to win three times in a single season since Silveira claimed three victories during the 1986-87 campaign.
Liaw posted his second top-10 finish in his last three outings as he tied for sixth place. The freshman from Rowland Heights, Calif., shot a three-under 69 Sunday en route to a three-round tally of 211 (-5). He has posted under-par tournament totals in all four events this spring.
Junior Nathan Lashley and freshman Josh Esler also collected solid finishes Sunday. Lashley shot an even-par 72 and finished tied for 12th place with a 214 (-2) tally. Esler carded a final-round 75 (+3) to finish tied for 28th place at 219 (+3) in the field of 96 players.
Teammate Nathan Tyler carded an eight-over 80 and finished tied for 64th place at 227 (+11).
The Hall of Fame Invitational was contested at Redstone Golf Club in Humble, Texas, a par 72, 7,352-yard layout.
Thirteenth-ranked Arizona will next be in action on March 28-30 as the squad hosts the 2004 National Invitational Tournament at Omni Tucson National Golf Course.