X-factor to fill in for team's stars

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Amir Adib / Arizona Daily Wildcat Phillip Bagdade eyes his putt.

In sports, the best athletes are usually going to produce. But superstars do not win championships. The Robert Horry's, David Tyree's and John Paxson's of the world are the wildcards who elevate a team to championship prowess. Sophomore Philip ""Bags"" Bagdade certainly fits that bill for the UA men's golf squad.


""He played a few tournaments (this summer) but didn't have too much success, so he's kind of the question mark right now,"" said head coach Rick LaRose. ""If Philip can step up and play to his potential, I think we're going to be pretty good, so he is the key right now.""


The Wildcats have plenty of talent at the top of the lineup, but if the team's stars falter, another golfer needs to pick up the slack.


Arizona hopes that Bagdade can be that guy for the Wildcats this season.


Bagdade, a native of Eugene, Ore., was all over the map during his freshman campaign with the Wildcats. He had trouble acclimating himself to the college life early on, but according to assistant coach Andy Barnes, he has showed more progress than any other golfer down the stretch, evidenced by a 73.31 stroke average in his last five events.


""Philip was obviously a big surprise for us (last season),"" Barnes said. ""He struggled a lot the first few weeks of school but kind of turned into a bright spot for us. He still has a lot to learn, but he developed at a quicker pace than the other freshman and even some of the upperclassmen from last year.""


With a void at the number four and five spots of the starting lineup, Bagdade has the talent and opportunity to solidify himself as a collegiate golf stud, but it is his inconsistency that has been holding him back.


""You just don't know what you're going to get out of him,"" Barnes said.


Even if he was not always spectacular, Bagdade did get a lot of time on the course during his freshman season, leading the team in rounds played with 42. In those 42 rounds, Bagdade finished with three top-10 finishes and a 74.38 stroke average, good for third and fifth on the team.


While the coaches are certainly not ready to hand him the keys to the team just yet, Bagdade has no doubt as to the limits of his success barometer.


""I want to be an All-American, that's what every athlete dreams of being,"" Bagdade said. ""I want the team to keep getting better and I want to get better on my own, and I want to make a place for myself in the Arizona record books.""


Bagsdade's confidence is never-ending, even after a moderately unsuccessful summer. That is the type of confidence that can elevate the average players to superstar status. The UA men's golf team hopes that level of confidence results in an outstanding team season.



""I'm really excited for this year,"" Bagdade said. ""I think this year could be a really good year for Arizona golf.""


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