Anderson embracing expectations as LaRose's replacement
For 34 years, Rick LaRose led the Arizona golf program as its head coach. In June, LaRose announced his retirement and that his replacement would be an assistant coach from Texas A&M named Jim Anderson.
After more than three decades at the helm, LaRose became the only coach in NCAA history to win a men’s (1992) and a women’s (1996) national championship. His players have also gone on to led successful professional careers, including major championship winners like Jim Furyk and Lorena Ochoa.
For a new head coach, that’s a lot to live up to, but LaRose believes Anderson is up to the challenge.
“Jim [Anderson] is a very bright young man,” LaRose said. “I knew him when he played in college and when he was an assistant, and thought he was talented then. So, I’m very happy to see him here at Arizona. I have a feeling he’s going to be successful.”
Anderson understands that there are high expectations, but he’s confident in his abilities.
“I hope my expectations are the highest,” Anderson said. “I want to measure myself up against the Arizona history. I wouldn’t have taken the job if I didn’t think I could do it.”
The 31-year-old Sioux Falls, S.D. native, graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2003, where he was a four-year letterman in golf. Most recently, Anderson’s time at A&M helped the Aggies win 81 percent of its matches and advance to three NCAA Championships.
As the season gets underway for the Wildcats, LaRose is finishing his time at the UA as a part-time special assistant to athletic director Greg Byrne, where his duties will include organizing fundraising events, primarily focusing on raising money for a golf practice facility.
“It is difficult to overstate the impact Coach LaRose has had on our golf programs,” said Byrne in a press release when LaRose announced his retirement in April. “For nearly four decades, he has built Arizona into one of the elite names in all of college golf.”
Looking back on his time as Wildcats head coach, LaRose is proud of what he was able to accomplish, and he relished his role as not only a head coach, but as a teacher, to his players.
“As a coach you’re a teacher first,” LaRose said “It’s always been more about the relationship with the players.”
LaRose recalls when he was younger and how much of an influence coaches had on him, so he made it his goal as a coach to do the same with current and former players. He still stays in touch with former players like Ricky Barnes and Rory Sabbatini to see how they are doing.
Juan Pablo Hernandez, a UA senior, was recruited by LaRose and played for him for three years. Hernandez said he was saddened by the news of LaRose’s retirement.
“I really liked him as a coach and as a person,” Hernandez said.
“He was a tough coach and expected you to do your best, but if you did that he was great.”
Hernandez has had experience with both coaches, after being recruited by Anderson — then an assistant coach at New Mexico — while in high school.
“Coach Anderson’s style during matches is very different,” Hernandez said. “And the way he has practice is too, but I really like him, so I’m happy he’s here for my final year.”
Despite his decades-long presence in the golf program, LaRose felt it wasn’t his place to help select his replacement, and was not involved in the process.
Other than introducing Anderson to the Tucson community, LaRose has not reached out to help Anderson, but says his office is always open.