Ricky Barnes recalls Rick LaRose and his “in-your-face” style as the perfect coach for a young golfer when Barnes enrolled at Arizona.
LaRose, who won men’s and women’s NCAA championships in 34 seasons at Arizona, will retire as the Wildcats’ men’s coach after this season, the university announced. Beginning July 1, he will become a part-time special assistant to athletic director Greg Byrne.
“Coach was a tough-love guy,” said Barnes, a 2003 Arizona graduate who is in his fourth season on the PGA Tour, speaking from this week’s Zurich Classic in Avondale, La. “He wasn’t a guy who was going to pat you on your butt for shooting 75 or 78 and tell you everything is going to be all right. He was a more in-your-face kind of coach. That’s the kind of coaches I liked. I played baseball, football, basketball, and those coaches don’t baby you around, and that’s the kind of coaching I need.”
Originally hired as the men’s head water polo coach, LaRose has been with the university for 39 years. Arizona golf rose to national prominence under LaRose’s direction, which began during the 1978-79 season. He led the Wildcats to the NCAA title in 1992, when he was named Golfweek’s Coach of the Year. LaRose also coached the women’s team from 1996 to ’98 and again in 2010, and led that squad to a national title in 1996, again earning Golfweek’s coaching honor, this time on the women’s side. That makes him the only coach in NCAA history to win men’s and women’s national championships.
Last season, LaRose surpassed the 6,000-victory plateau in head-to-head competition.
“I’ve been fortunate to have coached so many outstanding student-athletes,” said LaRose, a native of Delmar, N.Y., and graduate of Brockport (N.Y.) State. “And I take a great deal of pride in what we were able to accomplish together. I’ve coached so many great kids, worked with so many great people and have so many great memories.”
His notable former players include Jim Furyk, Robert Gamez, David Berganio, Ted Purdy and Rory Sabbatini.
Arizona, No. 53 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, will tee off for the Pac-12 Championship on April 27 in Corvallis, Ore.
LaRose’s duties as a part-time administrator will include fundraising, with a focus on raising money for a golf practice facility at the Tucson school.
A national search for LaRose’s replacement begins immediately, the university said.
– Sean Martin and the University of Arizona contributed to this report.