The WAC golf tournament went a little more according to form Friday as first-day team leader San Diego State and rookie coach Denny Stolz fell back to the pack, while the unknown golfer from Air Force, who led after the first round, ballooned somewhere into the wild blue yonder.
As expected, host New Mexico and nationally ranked UTEP made strong moves to the top as the Lobos fired a 6-under team total of 282 to grab a two-stroke advantage over the Miners going into today's final 18 holes at the UNM South Course. The Lobos have a two-day total of 575, two better than the Miners and 10 in front of San Diego State.BYU improved by five shots over the first day, but the Cougars are pretty much out of title contention at 589. Wyoming, the most surprising team in the tourney, is just a shot behind BYU at 590.
Defending WAC champion Utah is way out of the running at 605, while Hawaii (610), Air Force (617) and Colorado State (620), bring up the rear.
In the individual race, New Mexico's Kent Jones has a four-shot lead at 138 after firing the best round of the tournament, a 5-under-par 67. UTEP's Paul Stankowsi and Hawaii's Mark Takahama stand at 142, while BYU's Ryan Rhees is one of three golfers at 143.
First-day individual leader Chris Gough of Air Force skyrocketed to an 82 after his opening-round 70 and stands in a tie for 24th place.
BYU Coach Karl Tucker, who is unaccustomed to being so far behind in a WAC tournament, was feeling happier about his team's performance Friday.
"We played a lot better today," said Tucker. "But we let a lot of shots get away on the back nine again today."
The Cougars' top player this week is Rhees, a 22-year-old freshman (redshirt season and LDS mission) from Orem, who added a 70 to his 73 on Thursday.
"I really played well out there today, but the course was playing a lot easier," said Rhees, who feels his team still has a chance to contend.
"We've got good players - we just haven't turned it on yet this year," he said. "It's good to have a good round after last week (when the Cougars finished sixth in their own tourney). That was tough."
Despite the 14-stroke deficit behind New Mexico, Tucker still has hope for his team in Saturday's final round.
"I've seen a lot of teams be in contention and kill themselves on the last six holes here. This is one course where you can never say the tournament is over until all the totals are in."
(Other Cougar scores were Ramon Brobio 72-147, Roberto Herrera 76-149, Mike Weir 75-151 and Rafael Ponce 75-152.
Utah moved up one spot to sixth place Friday, but was still 30 shots off the lead and 15 behind fifth-place Wyoming.
"We're still kind of flat," said Utah Coach Ron Branca. "I don't know, maybe we're trying a little too hard. It was perfect weather . . . I just don't know."
Branca took his team away from the golf course immediately after the round in an effort to get their minds off their performance for a little while.
The Utes had hoped to beat San Diego State here this week in order to improve their chances of making the NCAA Western regionals in El Paso in three weeks. But the Utes would need a big effort in Saturday's final round to overtake the Aztecs.
Matt Johnson, the defending WAC individual champ, fired a 72 Friday for a 147 total to lead the Utes. Other Ute scores included Devin Dehlin 76-153, Doug Roberts 75-153, Chuck O'Brien 80-154, and Marty Romney 78-159.