Arizona's LaRose earns 6,000 head-to-head wins

For years, no one paid much attention to a team’s head-to-head won-lost record. All that really mattered was what place a school finished at a tournament.

However, that changed a few seasons ago when the NCAA Men’s Golf Committee implemented the .500 Rule, which requires teams to have at least a .500 head-to-head winning percentage in a season to be considered for an NCAA postseason berth.

Now, it seems, more people are paying attention to this statistical category.

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A while back, Arizona head men’s coach Rick LaRose and Richard Paige, the school’s associate media relations director, were looking over the Wildcats’ year-by-year performances since the veteran coach took over the program in 1978.

“We have a breakdown of all the tournaments for every year and wanted to see what our won-lost record, national ranking and NCAA finish was in each of those years,” LaRose said. “As we got into this season, Rich said, ‘Coach, I think you’re close to 6,000 wins.’ I never really thought of it, but as we started to add up each year, he was right. I said that’s pretty cool.”

With the Wildcats’ eighth-place finish at last week’s John Burns Memorial in Hawaii, LaRose reached that milestone: 6,000 head-to-head victories as a college golf coach.

Now in his 39th season at Arizona – his 33rd as the men’s golf coach – LaRose has a 6,003-2,422-70 head-to-head record, for a .711 winning percentage. Not too shabby for a guy who was originally hired as the Wildcats’ head water polo coach and assistant swimming coach.

“Obviously, we’ve had some great teams and some great players,” said LaRose, who also coached the Arizona women’s golf team in 1996-98 and on an interim basis in spring 2010. “A coach is only as good as his athletes, and I’ve been fortunate to have coached some great people. Secondly, you have to be at this a long time. Still, no matter how you look at it, 6,000 is a very big number.”

Included in his total are the 1992 NCAA men’s title and the ’96 women’s national championship, making him the only coach in NCAA history to have won both a men’s and women’s NCAA golf title.

La Rose wasn’t too shabby when he was coaching water polo, either. He compiled a 154-37-2 record (.803 winning percentage) and guided that program to four NCAA regional titles and three fifth-place finishes at the NCAA Championship. His teams were never ranked below the top 6 nationally.

The Golf Coaches Association of America Hall of Famer has guided Arizona to 61 men’s tournament victories in golf, and his women’s teams have 19 tournament titles, including victories at the Pac-10 Championship and NCAA West Regional last spring. He is 5,730-2,309-68 overall in men’s matches and 633-113-2 in women’s events.

“In those early years, you might be able to get 200-plus wins in a season,” La Rose said, “but now, with the (NCAA’s) 24 playing days rule, the opportunities are more limited.

“I really had no idea I was even close until a friend brought it to my attention. “With all the focus these days on wins and losses in college golf, I guess it’s made some people look through the records a little more closely. Six thousand wins? That’s a lot.”

Is LaRose the lone 6,000-win coach in college golf? I seriously doubt it. He’s just the newest member. Former Oklahoma State coach Mike Holder would have to be up there, wouldn’t he? So would the late Dave Williams, who led the powerhouse Houston program to 16 NCAA titles from 1956 to 1985.

After this, I’m sure other sports information officials will be digging through their golf archives and I’ll hear about others in this elite group. Let me know. It will be interesting to see how many members Club 6,000 has.

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