Catlin cruises to victory at Arizona Intercollegiate

New Mexico's John Catlin

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TUCSON, Ariz. – For New Mexico’s John Catlin, it was pretty much like taking a calm stroll in the park.

For host team Arizona, it was an intense, nail-biting, down-to-the-wire thriller in the desert.

When it was all said and done, Catlin and the Wildcats walked away from Arizona National Golf Club on Tuesday carrying the first-place trophies from the 32nd Arizona Intercollegiate.

Catlin, a junior, equaled the best score of the final round with a 4-under-par 67 to finish at 10-under 203, three strokes clear of Arizona junior Juan Pablo Hernandez, who closed with a 71.

Pepperdine’s John MacArthur, the leader after Monday’s first two rounds, shot 3-over 74 and tied for third with Arizona’s Tucker Wadkins (69) at 5-under 208.

In winning the team title for the first time since it won back-to-back crowns in 2003 and ‘04, Arizona closed with a 3-under 281 and at 17-under 835 finished one stroke better than California. The Bears, who won the team title in 2010, closed with a 4-under 280 and stayed neck-and-neck with the Wildcats from the first tee shot to the last putt of the day.

New Mexico, with a final-round-best 8-under 276, was the only other team to finish under par, at minus-2 850. Pepperdine was fourth at 9-over 861 followed by Campbell at 874 in the 12-team field.

Catlin ended his 2 1/2-year drought with the Lobos as he recorded his first collegiate victory. He made it look easy with a four-birdie, bogey-free round.

He opened the day sinking a 6-foot birdie putt at No. 1, drained a couple of 20-footers for birdie at Nos. 7 and 11 and finished the day off with a birdie from 12 feet at the 15th.

“My ball-striking was very good the last two days,” said Catlin, who had four top-10 finishes in five starts last fall. “I never put myself in a bad spot. I kept it in play, and when you do that out here, there are a lot of birdie opportunities.

“I think this course fits my game well, and after the fall I had I felt good coming into this week,” said Catlin, of Carmichael, Calif. “It’s my first college win, and it sure feels nice. I’ve had a number of chances (to win) in the past, and to now finally finish one off is great.”

Arizona coach Rick LaRose thought his Wildcats probably had lost the tournament as he stood by the 18th green and watched his last two players in the final pairings hit second shots into the lake and make bogey at the par-5 - which played to a 4.68 stroke average, the second-easiest hole at the 6,785-yard, par-71 Arizona National.

However, because it was a shotgun start, LaRose still had four players on the golf course, three of whom would be counters. They came through.

Wadkins closed out his round with a par on the first hole; Erik Oja birdied one of his last three (along with two pars); and Trent Redfern finished his final four with a pair of birdies, a bogey and a par.

“It was definitely touch-and-go there for a while,” LaRose said. “I thought we might end up tied or maybe lose by one.

“On that last (18th) hole, we had a couple of brain cramps, but that was our fault as coaches,” he said. “We should have coached them better. Hopefully, all of us will learn from it.

“The bottom line, though, is we won. I’m really proud of the way our guys hung in there and got the job done,” LaRose said. “Cal has a great young team, as well, and it certainly was a battle to the end. For us, it was a big win and a great way to start our spring season.”

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