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Greg Hansen: Wildcats' expectations do a 180 behind coach Jim Anderson, star Trevor Werbylo
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Greg Hansen: Wildcats' expectations do a 180 behind coach Jim Anderson, star Trevor Werbylo

Jim Anderson grabbed a microphone Tuesday afternoon and began to introduce the champions of the 40th Arizona Intercollegiate golf tournament. The microphone cut out. All you could hear was:

“Congratulations …. two days of … Trevor … proud …’

Over two days at the Sewailo Golf Club, a faulty microphone was about the only thing that went wrong for Anderson’s UA men’s golf team.

The Wildcats shot a cumulative 21 under par to beat No. 12 Baylor by nine strokes. It seemed like the good old days for Arizona’s men’s golf program, which produced an impressive procession of future pros from 1980 to 2010, winning 61 tournaments, including the NCAA championship.

And then it all went poof.

After Arizona hired Anderson away from the Texas A&M golf program in 2012, the Wildcats went on an 0-for-65 tournament streak.

As recently as 2016, they finished 12th in their own event, the Arizona Intercollegiate, shooting 51 over par.

Yes, 51 over par.

So you might imagine the joy that was etched on Anderson’s face Tuesday when his team won its third straight Arizona Intercollegiate, something that no other UA team could do, not even the teams of Robert Gamez or Jim Furyk or Ricky Barnes.

Arizona has climbed to No. 11 in the national polls and the expectations have done a 180.

“We probably didn’t play great golf (Monday), but we rose above it,” Anderson said. “Now we’ve got experience in the lineup, three seniors and Trevor Werbylo, who plays like a senior. Being the first Arizona team to ever win this championship three years in a row is pretty special.”

About the only thing that could’ve made 15 hours of golf at the Casino del Sol facility any better would’ve been for Werbylo to win his first college championship.

The junior from Salpointe Catholic High School opened with a 65 Monday morning, survived a freakish triple-bogey in the afternoon round, and on Tuesday went head-to-head against 17th-ranked Washington’s rising star, Henry Lee.

Werbylo and Lee tied for the lead at 10-under. Lee won the sudden-death playoff, a deserving champion who shot rounds of 69, 68, 66.

If it affected Werbylo you’d never know it. In the playoff, he didn’t change expressions after his approach shot hit the back collar of the green and took an unlucky bounce into the water.

“Trevor’s going to win multiple times,” said Anderson. “He’s got such a big appetite, one that goes beyond college golf.”

Werbylo, who led Salpointe Catholic to back-to-back No. 2 finishes in the state tournament in 2015 and 2016, has become the face of UA men’s golf. He reached the match-play portion of the U.S. Amateur Championships last August and has been knocking on the door, improving year to year the way UA predecessors like Chris Nallen, Ted Purdy and Rory Sabbatini did a generation earlier.

Werbylo also finished second in the Arizona Intercollegiate last year, but that’s misleading. A year ago he ran into Texas A&M All-American Chandler Phillips, who shot 21 under par. Nobody else had a chance.

“What’s encouraging to me is that our program has made such steady progress, even before I got here,” said Werbylo. “This year we can compete with anybody, top to bottom. We’ve got a lot of guys who can go out and win a tournament.”

Anderson persevered through the rebuilding process; seniors David Laskin, Briggs Duce and Brad Reeves have become steady-as-she-goes performers. On Tuesday, Reeves was fourth, Duce ninth and Laskin 11th.

Any time a college team places four of its five starters in the top 11, good things happen.

“We’re trending in the right direction,” said Werbylo. He should know; he’s played in more than 25 NCAA golf events, and while no one — yet — is picking Arizona to win its first Pac-12 championship since 2004, the road ahead has changed from daunting to do-able.

“Our schedule is beefed up this year,” said Anderson. “We’re not looking ahead at anything specifically, but I can tell you this, these guys are hungry.”

Arizona played so well in the fall portion of the 2019-20 schedule that you could see this coming. The Wildcats were No. 2 at the Maui Jim finals in Hawaii, No. 3 at the Tucker Intercollegiate in Albuquerque, No. 3 at the Oregon State Invitational in Corvallis and No. 3 at the St. Mary’s Invitational in California.

When Anderson’s club broke through and won the Arizona Intercollegiate two years ago, Werbylo, a freshman, opened with rounds of 81, 78. He finished 45th overall.

On Tuesday, Werbylo finished 24 shots better. Not only that, the Wildcats were 31 strokes better than they were two years ago.

You don’t need a microphone to deliver that message.

Contact sports columnist Greg Hansen at 520-573-4362 or ghansen@tucson.com. On Twitter: @ghansen711.

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