Arizona Perfect 10: Nallen stands above the rest
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UA perfect 10: men’s golf

Arizona Perfect 10: Nallen stands above the rest

Rory Sabbatini came in second behind Stanford’s Tiger Woods at the 1996 NCAA championships in Ooltewah, Tenn.

There isn’t quite an Annika Sorenstam, or Lorena Ochoa, to pinpoint in Arizona men’s golf history.

That is, a bona fide star in both college and professionally.

But that’s OK.

Jim Furyk is the most recognizable ex-Wildcat in the pros, with more than $60 million in career earnings, a U.S. Open win, a second-place finish in the PGA Championship, two fourth-place finishes at the Masters and four fourth-place finishes at the British Open.

Ricky Barnes has had a solid post-UA career — notably finishing in second place at the 2009 U.S. Open — and Rory Sabbatini has six PGA tour wins in his career, including a runner-up finish at the 2007 Masters.

In the 1970s and ’80s, Don Pooley and Dan Pohl were stars in their own right.

But this isn’t a list of the best post-college careers, anyway.

It’s about what these golfers did while they were Wildcats.

And for that, Pooley, Pohl, Sabbatini, Barnes and Furyk are among the 10-best in program history. But they’re not the best.

At the top, there are three golfers ahead of the pack — Chris Nallen, Robert Gamez and Manny Zerman, with David Berganio just behind them.

Gamez was both a national and Pac-10 player of the year, a two-time NCAA regionals champion and a three-time All-American.

Zerman came in third place at the NCAA tournament as a freshman, won a Pac-10 title, the U.S. intercollegiate, two NCAA West Regional titles, and was a two-time, first-team All-American.

But it’s Nallen who sits at the top.

Nallen, now an assistant coach for UA, didn’t quite pan out as a pro, largely due to a chronic back issue, but his Wildcats career was stellar.

And this is all from a guy who was overshadowed by Barnes for the early part of his collegiate career.

“Sometimes in college, he’s put on the back burner, so to speak,” then-coach Rick LaRose told the Star in 2003. “It’s really not a thing that I’m very happy about because Chris Nallen is one of the best players in the country, day in and day out. I think he deserves a lot more recognition than he gets.”

Nallen didn’t mind shying away from the limelight, though.

“Team comes first here,” he said. “To win individually is great and everything, but you want to help your team as much as you can.”

Why Nallen? His consistency was perhaps the most impressive part of his UA tenure.

He’s UA’s all-time leader in career scoring average (71.19) and single season (69.79), and also holds the records for lowest 18-hole total in relation to par, lowest 36-hole aggregate total, lowest 54-hole total in relation to par, lowest 54-hole aggregate total and the second-lowest 72-hole aggregate total.

He won an NCAA West Regional, and also won the UA’s Sapphire Award for best male athlete. He was a member of the 2003 U.S. Walker Cup team and the 2004 U.S. Palmer Cup team. Oh, and Nallen finished 2002-03 ranked No. 10, and 2003-04 ranked No. 3.

Not to mention, he was also a three-time All-American — twice first-team — and a four-time all-conference selection.

“The bar has been set really high here,” Nallen said in 2004.

Nallen moved it even higher, too.

Here’s a look at the top 10 UA golfers based on their careers at the school:

10 (tie). Dan Pohl

Years at UA: 1973-1977


  • 1976 first-team All-American
  • 1976 All-WAC selection
  • Finished in fifth place at the 1977 NCAA championships
  • Arizona Hall of Famer

10 (tie). Don Pooley

Years at UA: 1970-73


  • Won Fred Enke Award in 1972 and 1973
  • Arizona Hall of Famer

9Rory Sabbatini

Years at UA: 1994-98


  • Runner-up (to Stanford’s Tiger Woods) for 1996 NCAA title
  • Finished in sixth place at 1997 NCAA championships
  • Ranked No. 1 for most of the 1997 season
  • Two-time first-team All-American
  • 1998 Pac-10 Golfer of the Year
  • Three-time all-conference
  • Arizona Hall of Famer

8Drue Johnson

Years at UA: 1967-69


  • 1969 WAC champion
  • Two-time All-American. The first-ever golf All-American at UA
  • Runner-up at the 1969 NCAA championships
  • 1967 and 1969 WAC player of the year
  • Two-time all-conference
  • Arizona Hall of Famer

7Jim Furyk

Years at UA: 1989-92


  • Two-time All-American
  • Three-time all-conference first team
  • As a senior, had seven top-10 finishes
  • Fourth-most career competitive rounds played in UA history
  • Won the 1993 Nike Mississippi Gulf Goast Classic
  • Arizona Hall of Famer

6Harry Rudolph

Years at UA: 1990-93


  • Won NCAA West Regional title in 1992
  • 1992 first-team All-American
  • 1992 all-conference
  • 13th-best career scoring average in UA history
  • Won California amateur championship in 1991
  • Helped Wildcats win Pac-10 and NCAA West Regional titles in 1991
  • Arizona Hall of Famer

5Ricky Barnes

Years at UA: 2000-03


  • 2001 Pac-10 champion
  • 2002 NCAA West Regional champion
  • Posted four consecutive top-20 finishes at NCAA championships
  • Won 2002 U.S. amateur championship
  • 2000 Pac-10 and NCAA Freshman of the Year
  • Three-time All-American
  • Winner of the 2003 Ben Hogan Award, given to nation’s top golfer
  • 2003 Pac-10 Golfer of the Year
  • Four-time all-conference
  • Ranked No. 19 in 1999-00, No. 27 in 2000-01 and No. 6 in 2002-03
  • Arizona Hall of Famer

4David Berganio JR.

Years at UA: 1990-93


  • Qualified for Masters in 1992 while he was still a Wildcat
  • 1993 Pac-10 Golfer of the Year
  • Three-time All-American
  • Member of the 1991 and 1993 U.S. Walker Cup team
  • Three-time all-conference
  • Won USGA Public Links title twice
  • As a sophomore, had seven top-10 and 11 top-20 finishes
  • Won U.S. Intercollegiate Title
  • Played a key role in Arizona’s 1992 team title, its first ever
  • Arizona Hall of Famer

3Manny Zerman

Years at UA: 1990-93


  • 1991 Pac-10 champion
  • Qualified for Masters as amateur in 1991
  • Won U.S. Intercollegiate in 1992
  • Twice finished third overall at the NCAA championships
  • Two-time first-team All-American
  • Three-time first-team all-conference
  • Two-time NCAA West Regional title winner
  • Arizona Hall of Famer

2Robert Gamez

Years at UA: 1987-89


  • 1989 NCAA Golfer of the Year
  • 1989 Pac-10 Golfer of the Year
  • 1989 NCAA West Regional title
  • Won eight college tournaments
  • Three-time All-American
  • Three-time all-conference
  • Member of the 1986 U.S. Walker Cup team

1Chris Nallen

Years at UA: 2001-04

Honorable mention:

  • Eric Meeks (1986-88)
  • Ted Purdy (1992-96)
  • Larry Silveira (1987-88)
  • Mike Springer (1987-88)

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