Editor’s note: This summer, Star columnist Greg Hansen is counting down the top 10 of just about everything related to Tucson sports.
Today’s list: the top 10 seasons by UA athletes.
Lorena Ochoa was initially going to be a Texas Longhorn, not an Arizona Wildcat.
As she won five Junior World championships during her high school days in Guadalajara, Mexico, she became the most pursued college golf prospect in the world.
But when Arizona won the 2000 NCAA championship, Ochoa balked. Instead of following through with plans to play at Texas, she visited Arizona and spent a weekend at Tucson National, bunked in a casita overlooking the No. 9 green.
She enrolled at Arizona in August 2000, speaking limited English but insisting on learning a new language as part of her UA education. Her freshman season was spectacular: She was the NCAA women’s golfer of the year, finishing second in the national championships.
As a sophomore, she might’ve had the single best season of any athlete, in any sport, in school history. Ochoa won seven consecutive tournaments, still an NCAA record, by an average of 5.4 strokes per victory and again was named the college women’s player of the year. Her 70.13 stroke average was the lowest in women’s college golf history. In the middle of the ’02 season, she was granted a spot in the LPGA Welch’s/Circle K Championships at Randolph Park and finished fifth.
At year’s end, she finished second (again) in the NCAA finals and turned pro the day after the final putt dropped.
Competition for the top single season in UA history is fierce. I’m picking Ochoa’s 2001-02 year, but any of the top four are worthy of the top spot. Here’s how I rank them: