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ARIZONA GOLF

'Hungry' Wildcats eager to take bite out of College Station Regional

Chase Sienkiewicz

Playing golf requires a microwave mentality.

Arizona will begin NCAA Tournament play on Monday as the No. 6 seed in the Bryan Regional at Traditions Club, Texas A&M’s home course near College Station. The field includes last year’s national champions in top-seeded Pepperdine as well as Texas A&M, Georgia, Tennessee, Kansas, Michigan State, Boise State, SMU, Oregon State, Colorado State, Southeastern Louisiana and Texas Southern.

The Wildcats will need a hot start — and a short memory. They finished 11th in the Pac-12 Championships held in Seattle in late April.

“It’s not something we’re talking too much about as a team anymore, because quite frankly, the tournament we’re going to next, the outcome of last week has no bearing on this tournament — and the two conditions couldn’t be anymore different,” Anderson said. “For us, it’s just a part of the past and right now we’re playing in the present, and just get ready for a great week.”

Arizona’s struggles date back a bit further than that. The Wildcats haven’t finished higher than fifth in a tournament since February, when they came in second at the John Burns Intercollegiate in Hawaii.

“For us, it’s always been about preparing for the next tournament,” Anderson said. “The experience we pick up from each tournament leading up to the postseason is stuff we talk about, learn from, get ready and kind of repurpose for the next week.”

Two factors play into Arizona’s favor this week: familiarity and warm weather, especially after the club endured cold and rainy conditions in Seattle.

“We’re really excited to play in the heat again,” said junior Chase Sienkiewicz, who was named to the All-Pac-12 Second Team for the second straight season. “It’s definitely going to be a different factor and something to look out for.”

Sienkiewicz will have a contingent of supporters in the gallery. His father accepted a job in Dallas before the pandemic, and the family relocated from California. Sienkiewicz has two-plus years of experience playing in Texas conditions.

“It’s three hours from my home, so we’ll definitely see some family out there, which will be great,” he said.

The three-day regional will also be a homecoming of sorts for Anderson, who spent three seasons as the Aggies’ top assistant coach. While at A&M, Anderson won the Jan Strickland Award, an annual award given to the top assistant coach by Golf Coaches Association of America.

The Traditions Club course was designed by Jack Nicklaus, “so it challenges you off the tee and into the green,” Anderson said.

“It has small greens, so it’ll benefit us to play smart golf and put the ball in play off the tee. We want to put the ball in the middle of the green, because of a small green. You’re not putting from 90 feet like you can be on some of the bigger desert courses,” Anderson said. “But I think the course sets up really well for our team.”

The added comfort level should be a plus, too. Anderson is an expert on the College Station food scene, and said he plans on taking the team to Fuego Tortilla Grill, C&J Barbecue, J. Cody’s Steak and Barbecue and Dixie Chicken during their stay.

“I think the guys will eat pretty well this week,” Anderson joked. “I’m excited with an opportunity to return with a great squad and a team that’s hungry — literally and figuratively.”

Sienkiewicz is hungry — starving — for an individual win. During a seven-tournament span this season, he tabbed five top-five finishes but no wins. In fact, he has yet to win a tournament in three college seasons.

“My goals have not been accomplished and I need to work harder for my team to get better. I’ve had some accomplishments, yes, but nothing has satisfied me one bit,” Sienkiewicz said. “So I definitely want to move on and keep plugging along for the next opportunity to present itself in the best of ways.”

Anderson said Sienkiewicz “continues to knock on the door, and just because the door hasn’t opened for him to get on the winning stage yet, it isn’t a failure at all.”

“In fact, it’s the other. It’s continuing to position yourself for opportunities,” Anderson added.

Sienkiewicz is the other half of Arizona’s standout tandem, along with First Team All-Pac-12 selection Christian Banke, who won the Arizona Intercollegiate earlier this season. The senior has been named the UA’s Most Improved Player.

“He’s got a very polished process and is not only a student of the game, he’s a student of the psychology, so he’s very in tune with how he’s feeling and he’s very good at controlling the emotion of good or controlling the emotion of bad. … That calm and preparation has allowed him to perform at the high level he’s performed all year,” Anderson said of Banke. “Quite frankly, it won’t be surprising to see him do it as a professional soon here, too.”

Last season, the Wildcats finished in ninth place at the NCAA regional in Washington. A change in more relatable scenery coupled with postseason experience, Anderson is hoping his two leaders and the rest of the Wildcats post a better showing this time around.

“Every time you tee it up, there’s experienced gained, lessons learned. Having Chase and Christian a part of the team that was so successful last year, being leaders on this team this year, we understand how to prepare and they’ve been great communicators of what we can do as a group,” Anderson said.

Last year is considered the best season of the Anderson era, with Pac-12 Golfer of the Year Brad Reeves, Tucson native Trevor Werbylo, Sierra Vista product Briggs Duce and All-Pac-12 Second Team selection David Laskin leading the way.

Sienkiewicz and others watched and learned. This week, they could make their own stamp on the Anderson era.

“Those guys taught me a lot the last couple years they were here. … Learning from them on and off the course has been huge for me personally,” Sienkiewicz said.

“We’re definitely going to carry in what we learned last year. … This year, we have a very hungry team that’s ready to attack.”

Contact sports producer Justin Spears at 573-4312 or jspears@tucson.com. On Twitter: @JustinESports


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Sports producer

Justin writes stories and produces digital content about UA football and basketball and high school football. A Tucson native, Justin graduated from the UA in 2017 and is the host of the Wildcast Podcast and a radio host on ESPN Tucson.

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