Playing golf requires a microwave mentality.
Arizona will start the NCAA Tournament on Monday as the No. 6 seed in the Bryan Regional at Traditions Club, Texas A&M’s home course near College Station. The field includes last year’s national champions in top-seeded Pepperdine, as well as Texas A&M, Georgia, Tennessee, Kansas, Michigan State, Boise State, SMU, Oregon State, Colorado State, Southeastern Louisiana and Texas Southern.
The Wildcats will need a good start and a short memory. They finished 11th in the Pac-12 Championships held in Seattle in late April.
“It’s not something we talk too much about as a team anymore, because quite frankly the tournament we’re going to be in, the result of last week has no bearing on this tournament – and the two conditions couldn’t no longer be different,” Anderson said. “For us, it’s just a part of the past and right now we’re playing in the present, and preparing for a great week.”
Arizona’s struggles go back a bit further than that. The Wildcats haven’t finished higher than fifth in a tournament since February, when they finished second at the John Burns Intercollegiate in Hawaii.
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“For us it was always about getting ready for the next tournament,” Anderson said. “The experience we get from every tournament leading up to the playoffs is something that we talk about, learn from, prepare for and kind of reuse for next week.”
Two factors are working in Arizona’s favor this week: familiarity and warm weather, especially after the club endured cold and rainy conditions in Seattle.
“We’re really excited to be playing in the Heat again,” said junior Chase Sienkiewicz, who was named to the All-Pac-12 second team for the second straight season. “That will definitely be a different factor and something to watch out for.”
Sienkiewicz will have a contingent of supporters in the stand. Her father took a job in Dallas before the pandemic and the family moved from California. Sienkiewicz has over two years of experience in Texas conditions.
“It’s three hours from my house, so we’ll definitely see family there, which will be great,” he said.
The three-day regional will also be something of a homecoming for Anderson, who spent three seasons as the Aggies’ top assistant coach. While at A&M, Anderson won the Jan Strickland Award, an annual award given to the top assistant coach by the Golf Coaches Association of America.
The Traditions Club course was designed by Jack Nicklaus, “so it challenges you from the tee and the green,” Anderson said.
“There are small greens, so it will be to our advantage to play the golf smart and put the ball in play on the tee. We want to put the ball in the middle of the green, because of a small green. You don’t put from 90 feet like you can on some of the bigger courses in the desert,” Anderson said. “But I think the course is shaping up very well for our team.”
The added level of comfort should also be a plus. Anderson is an expert on the College Station culinary scene and said he plans to take the team to Fuego Tortilla Grill, C&J Barbecue, J. Cody’s Steak and Barbecue and Dixie Chicken during their stay.
“I think guys are going to eat well this week,” Anderson joked. “I’m delighted to have the opportunity to come back with a great team and a hungry team – literally and figuratively.”
Sienkiewicz is thirsty – hungry – for an individual victory. In a span of seven tournaments this season, he has five top-five finishes but no wins. In fact, he has yet to win a tournament in three college seasons.
“My goals were not achieved and I have to work harder for my team to improve. I had some achievements, yes, but nothing satisfied me at all,” Sienkiewicz said. I really want to move on and keep tuning in for the next opportunity to show up in the best possible way.”
Anderson said Sienkiewicz “keeps knocking on the door, and just because the door hasn’t opened yet for him to step onto the winning stage, it’s not a failure at all.”
“Actually, it’s the other one. It continues to position you for opportunities,” Anderson added.
Sienkiewicz is the other half of Arizona’s remarkable tandem, along with first-team All-Pac-12 selection Christian Banke, who won the Arizona Intercollegiate earlier this season. The elder was named UA’s Most Improved Player.
“He has a very refined process and is not just a student of acting, he’s a student of psychology, so he’s very in tune with how he feels and he’s very good at controlling the emotion of good. or controlling the emotion of evil. … That calmness and preparation allowed him to perform at the high level he’s achieved all year,” Anderson said of Banke. “Quite frankly, it won’t be surprising to soon see him do it as a professional here too.”
Last season, the Wildcats finished ninth at the NCAA Regional in Washington. A change to a more relatable landscape coupled with playoff experience, Anderson hopes his two leaders and the rest of the Wildcats put up a better showing this time around.
“Every time you launch it there is experience gained, lessons learned. With Chase and Christian on the team that was so successful last year, as leaders of that team this year, we understand how to prepare and they’ve been great communicators of what we can do as that group,” Anderson said.
Last year is considered the best season of the Anderson era, with Pac-12 Golfer of the Year Brad Reeves, Tucson native Trevor Werbylo, Sierra Vista product Briggs Duce and second-team All-Star selection -Pac-12 David Laskin in the lead.
Sienkiewicz and others watched and learned. This week, they might put their own stamp on the Anderson era.
“Those guys have taught me a lot in the last two years they’ve been here. … Learning from them on and off the course has been huge for me personally,” Sienkiewicz said.
“We will definitely build on what we learned last year. … This year we have a very hungry team that is ready to attack.
Contact sports producer Justin Spears at 573-4312 or [email protected]. On Twitter: @JustinESports