During the past 20 years during which BYU has been king of its own Cougar Classic, there have been few challenges to the Cougars' domination.
In 1979, a Mike Gove-led Weber State team missed by one stroke. In 1983, Missouri came within four shots of knocking off the Cougars. Otherwise, the Cougars have basically toyed with the opposition over the years, usually winning by 30 or more strokes.This year, the Cougars are faced with more than a minor insurgency against their kingdom. After 36 holes of the annual tournament at Riverside Country Club, no less than 10 teams are giving the Cougars serious cause to worry about their winning streak.
Leading the way is Nevada-Las Vegas, which had consistent play throughout its squad for a 36-hole total of 723. Four shots back is the University of Utah, which won the WAC golf title in its last tournament here a year ago. New Mexico, which came through with the best score of the day in the afternoon after ending the morning in 11th place, stands third at 730.
And BYU? The Cougars are tied for fourth at 731 with three other teams - San Jose State, Colorado and Cal-Berkeley. Wyoming at 737, Stanford at 738 and Cal-Santa Barbara at 743 are all conceiveably still in the hunt for the team title, although the winner will likely come from the first seven teams.
"It's anybody's game," said BYU Coach Karl Tucker, who has only been on the losing side three times in the last 27 years here. "This is by far the closest it's ever been. We have a really good field this year."
In the individual competition, Colorado's John Lindberg is the leader at 137, a stroke better than Cal's Ben Furth and two better than Kent Jones of New Mexico. Fourth place at 141 belongs to San Jose State's John Miller Jr. (yes, that John Miller).
Lindberg, a native of Stockholm, Sweden, was the first-day leader in this tournament two years ago before finishing second. He was the co-leader after a morning 66 and had solid 71 in the afternoon.
The golfers will tee off beginning at 8:30 a.m. today on the 6,902-yard, par-72 layout.
Just as surprising as BYU being in a four-way tie for fourth-place is UNLV as the leader. Until a year ago, the Rebels were just another run-of-the-mill college program. But then UNLV officials decided to put some money into their program and their hired Dwaine Knight away from New Mexico to be the coach. In only his second year, first full-time, Knight already has assembled a nationally prominent team.
"I'm very pleased," he said. "We've had a great year and have been ranked in the top 20 most of the year. We're pretty balanced - we don't have one real low scorer."
Look at the UNLV scores. Tim Grogan , the No. 6 player is 142, Hub Goyen is 143, Bruce Mullin is 144 and Brandon Goethalf is 145. Darrin Osborn and Cam Martin aren't too far back at 150. The good news for the Rebels is that all but Mullin, who's a senior and Goyen, who's a sophomore, are freshmen.
Utah Coach Ron Branca, whose team has had an "erratic" year after last year's NCAA performance, was happy to be in second place. Matt Johnson, last year's WAC medalist, was solid with a 73 and a 69 and he was matched by Provo native Chuck O'Brien who had a pair of 71s.
New Mexico, after having all six players over par in the morning 18, put five players under par in the afternoon to jump back into contention. While New Mexico was going from 376 to 354, San Jose was going the opposite direction, following a 355 with a 376. Mike Foster, one of the largest golfers you'll ever see, after shooting a 66 ballooned to an 82 in the afternoon.
Like UNLV, BYU has a very young team, with just one player back from last year. Last week at the Sun Devil Classic, the Cougars were in contention all the way against some of the nation's top teams.
"I'm sure they feel the pressure (of the streak)," said Tucker. "We can play this course real well, but so can the other teams."