UA men's golf crucial offseason in full swing

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Courtesy of Arizona Athletics

A head coach’s worst nightmare is the thought of failure in not only the season itself, but also in what happens behind the scenes when it matters most. A home run in the offseason can set the tone and foreshadow the following season.

Arizona men’s golf head coach Jim Anderson understands that his offseason is just as important, if not more important, than any other coach at this point. Anderson is an established name at Arizona, and his summers consist of heavy recruiting along with keeping track of current players in amateur tournaments.

“Our guys are playing in a number of tournaments, and when they left, we challenged them that we’re playing three tournaments in the fall, which is one less [than] what we’re used to,” Anderson said. “The rationale was that we wanted to play as much as we can in the summer. That way we can really hit it hard in the fall.”

The most recent Wildcat to finish a summer amateur tournament is George Cunningham after the sophomore placed eighth at the Sunnehanna Amateur in Johnstown, Pa. Cunningham shot rounds of 71(E), 68(-3), 65(-6) and 68(-3).

Cunningham was a freshman last season and proved that he will be a cornerstone piece for Arizona moving forward. Cunningham had six top-10 performances, finishing fourth at the John Burns Intercollegiate, second at the National Invitational Tournament, eighth at the Lamkin San Diego Classic and topped off his debut season with a third-place finish at the Pac-12 Conference Championship.

Cunningham also had the luxury of shooting a 2-over-par with former Wildcat Jim Furyk in the Northern Trust Open Collegiate Showcase.

“We’re relying on him as a leader for his knowledge and experience of the game,” Anderson said. “George brings intensity to not only the game, but it rubs off on the other guys in practice. His passion for the game is unreal, and we’ll rely on that for next season.”

Cunningham refused to show his youth in the spring, and it was obvious, especially after he was named to the All-Pac-12 second team as well as the All-Pac-12 freshman team.

“George was dynamite for us last season, as well as our other freshmen,” Anderson said. “So now that our youth [are] more experienced, we’re eager to hit the ground running in the fall.”

Since Anderson is the new guy on the block, he still has players on his squad from the Rick LaRose era. Now going on his third season in the Old Pueblo, Anderson’s roster contains enough youth to help rebuild the foundation of elite golf at Arizona.

“We have three new guys coming in, and we’re still returning most of our cast from last season, which are mostly underclassmen,” Anderson said. “We feel pretty good about not only next season, but our future.”

Anderson made a change in the starting lineup that would completely change Arizona’s mojo. Anderson installed four freshmen into the starting lineup, and the only upperclassman was then-senior Alex McMahon. Freshmen Jacob Kreuz, Peter Koo, Max Donohue and Cunningham lifted Arizona to a seventh-place finish at the Lamkins Grips San Diego Classic.

From then on, that would be the lineup that finished the 2015 season.

Arizona’s offseason is productive, and even though Anderson is consistently on the road, he still finds some time to play a round of golf.

“I’ve only played one round this summer, but I’m playing in a charity tournament in Tubac soon,” Anderson said.

Arizona will look to improve next season, and even Anderson knows that this offseason could be a grand slam.

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