TUCSON, Ariz. – The Arizona men’s team has not won its Arizona Intercollegiate in eight years, dating back to when it won back-to-back titles in 2003 and ’04.
Wildcats junior Juan Pablo Hernandez has yet to win a tournament in his college career.
Come Tuesday, both will be in prime position to end those droughts when the final round of the 32nd Arizona Collegiate takes place at Arizona National Golf Club.
After posting back-to-back rounds of 7-under 277, the Wildcats, at 14-under 554, take a two-stroke lead over California into the final 18 holes. The Bears, No. 12 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, are at 12 under and are the only other team under par after 36 holes.
Pepperdine was next at 4-over 572 in the 12-team field, followed by New Mexico (6 over) and Campbell (9 over).
Hernandez, with a second-round 5-under 66, stands at 7-under 135 and is one stroke behind Pepperdine’s John MacArthur, who also had an afternoon 66.
New Mexico’s John Catlin is two behind MacArthur after a 66-70, while California’s Michael Kim is at 5-under 137 after going 69-68.
At one point, Kim, a freshman, appeared in control of the individual race. After starting the afternoon with a bogey, he made a big-time charge and was 9 under through 14 holes. But he made double bogey at Nos. 14 and 15 and a bogey at No. 16 before righting himself with a birdie at No. 18.
In his opening-round 68, MacArthur, beginning on No. 1 in the shotgun start, came out strong with birdies at Nos. 1 and 2, an eagle at the fifth and a birdie at the sixth. He added another birdie at No. 11, but struggled home with bogeys at Nos. 12, 14 and 17.
In the afternoon, MacArthur made a pair of eagles (Nos. 2 and 18), three birdies (5, 8 and 11) and a pair of bogeys (7 and 9).
Hernandez, whose best college finish is a third place and this past fall had three top-15 showings, made his run with his iron play and approach shots close to the hole.
“I hit a lot of good iron shots into the greens and gave myself good birdie opportunities,” Hernandez said. “I was hitting it pretty close, so there were no real long putts.”
Even though Arizona National is the Wildcats’ home course, Hernandez said it was a different layout on opening day than the one to which his team was accustomed.
“The course played different from what we are used to in practice,” he said. “It was much firmer and faster. I feel there were a lot of birdies out there for the taking.”
In the first round, Hernandez made seven birdies, including six on his back nine. His second-round 66 consisted of five birdies, an eagle and a pair of bogeys.
It appears to be a race of two for the team title between host Arizona and California, the 2010 winner of this tournament.
For the Wildcats, it was a solid team effort. In addition to Hernandez, Chris Cabo, who had three eagles on the day, is tied for fifth at 4 under; Tucker Wadkins is tied for seventh at 3 under; and Erik Oja is tied for 14th at even par.
“It was a good day for us,” Arizona coach Rick LaRose said. “Anytime you shoot 7 under par each round, well, I’ll take that any day of the week.
“We have a very young team – one junior, two sophomores and two freshmen in the starting lineup – so I’m extremely pleased with the way these young guys are playing. I think they showed today they are not afraid to get the job done. I really feel we are heading in the right direction.”
California coach Steve Desimone said once the wind picked up a little in the afternoon, it had an effect on his team’s play.
“This golf course is really hard, and when the wind kicks up, even just a little, it can become a tough challenge,” Desimone said. “We shot even par in the afternoon, and believe me, I’ll take it and run.
“The main thing is, we are still right there in the thick of things,” he said. “I think it’s going to get very interesting come tomorrow.”
The Bears surged to the top of the leaderboard after the morning’s first round, coming in with a 12-under 272, five strokes better than Arizona. Pepperdine was third after 18 holes at 2-over 286, and New Mexico followed at 5-over 289.
Cal was paced by Keelan Kilpatrick with a 5-under 66, which left him in a tie for the individual lead with New Mexico’s Catlin. The Bears also received solid opening rounds from Joel Stalter (67), Kim (69) and Brandon Hagy (70).
Arizona kept things close as Capo, Hernandez and Oja each shot 69, and Wadkins added a 70.
Devin Miertschin of Texas-El Paso scored a hole-in-one in the second round at the 227-yard 17th hole.