Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of Saturday's Cougar Classic was making the decision whether or not to actually play the golf tournament. That took about six hours, longer than it took just to complete the final round under miserable weather conditions.
Because when it was all over Saturday evening, nothing much had changed since Friday. BYU was still the top team by a whopping 28 strokes over second-place UTEP. And Stanford's Christian Cevear was still the top individual golfer after firing a final-round 71 to nip BYU's Ryan Rhees by one shot.There was never much question that BYU would win its own tournament for the 25th time in 29 years. The Cougars had built up a 14-shot lead over 12th-ranked UTEP after Friday's two rounds and nothing short of frostbite could stop them Saturday.
The individual race was more interesting with several players in contention. Cevear birdied two of the last five holes to become the third straight non-BYU golfer to win. His 211 total was one better than Rhees and two better than BYU golfers Jeff Kraemer and Michael Weir.
Cevear, a native of France, who grew up in Tahiti and went to high school in Carmel, Calif., had mixed feelings about playing 18 more holes Saturday. He figured he was the winner as he gazed out on the snow covering Riverside. But in the end he was glad to earn the victory out on the course, rather than the clubhouse.
"I've been leading after two rounds three times and lost and in contention five or six times in the final round," he said. "I was very happy to win. It's a great day for me."
After 13 holes, Cevear and Rhees, playing together, were tied. But the Stanford star went ahead with birdies at 14 and 15, the latter when Rhees seemingly had the advantage by being closer in two.
"Once we got to 13, I thought I was going to beat him," admitted Rhees, a junior from Orem. "I should have made birdie at No. 15."
Rhees did make a nice bird at 16, landing his chip shot two feet away. He came to the final hole with a final chance to win, but his 30-footer slid by the hole as his teammates groaned.
Cevear had a 25-foot putt for birdie that he figured he had to make to win, since he wasn't keeping track of his competition. He left it a foot away and tapped in and then found out he was the winner.
Unlike a day earlier when just an inch of snow covered the golf course, a good three inches sat on Riverside's layout Saturday morning. It seemed logical to cancel the final round, but some of the coaches were stubbornly determined to get 18 holes in.
Finally after several meetings among the coaches with an eye toward the melting snow, the golfers went out at 2 p.m., six hours later than originally scheduled. Ironically as the golfers trudged out to their spots for the shotgun start, it started snowing again.
"I'm in a tough situation," said BYU Coach Tucker. "I can't say call it off or I can't say yes, let's play. I've got a 14-shot lead and everything to lose and nothing to gain."
Except about 14 more strokes.
The Cougars went out and played remarkably well as none of the six players shot over 74. Weir's 68 led the way, followed by Rhees' 70 and Kraemer's 71. Dean Wilson, the runnerup a year ago, fired a 72, freshman Joe Summerhays shot 73 and Ramon Brobio, the Cougars' No. 1 golfer, had a non-counting 74.
"There's no question we're starting to come of age," said Tucker. "This is a pivotal point for our team
BYU plays in North Carolina next week and at the WAC Championships in Fort Collins the following week.
The University of Utah finished in seventh place at 1133, while Weber was last at 1163. Utah State and Boise State, didn't stick around for the final round.