It was a Lobo sweep Saturday at the UNM South Golf Course where New Mexico captured the WAC golf title and New Mexico's Kent Jones won individual honors.
The Lobos used the home course to their full advantage in edging pre-tourney favorite UTEP by three shots, 857 to 860. Those two schools were light years ahead of the rest of the field.Wyoming finished third at 885, a shot better than BYU, while Utah came on strong the final day to finish fifth at 890, a shot better than first-day leader San Diego State.
Jones, the guy they call "mini-Shark" after Greg Norman because of his white hair and small stature, cruised in with a 69 Saturday for a 207 total to win by four shots over UTEP's Paul Stankowski, who also had a 69. Another stroke back was UNM's Derek Crawford, who also finished with a 69.
For BYU, it was the school's lowest WAC finish since 1963, the first year of the league, and the first time in a long time, maybe ever, that the Cougars finished behind Wyoming.
"We're not playing on a level to be able to play with these guys (New Mexico and UTEP)," said BYU Coach Karl Tucker. "We're inexperienced and still don't know how to handle the pressure of these tournaments. We've showed signs of doing well this year and it may yet happen yet."
The Cougars still have a chance to go to the NCAAs if they can get through the regional at El Paso May 25-27.
Freshman Ramon Brobio was the top Cougar finisher as he tied for 7th with a 218 total after a 71 Saturday. Ryan Rhees, the freshman from Orem, had his problems, scoring a 78 for a 221 total. Both Rhees and Roberto Herrera lost balls on the final hole or else the Cougars would have finished ahead of Wyoming.
Utah will likely be joining BYU at the regionals thanks to a double-bogey on the final hole by San Diego State's final golfer. By edging the Aztecs, the Utes have an advantage in head-to-head meetings with SDSU and should be picked over the Aztecs as the sixth and final team from Region VII.
The Ute golfers were acting as excited as if they'd won the championship when the final totals were tallied. They had started the day 20 strokes behind San Diego and appeared to have no chance of catching the Aztecs.
"To pick up 20 shots is unbelievable," said Ute Coach Ron Branca. "This is one of the greatest comebacks ever. Our players knew what they had to do although we figured we had to shoot about 280 to beat them."
The Utes came in at 3-under-par 285 as Doug Roberts had a 70, freshman Marty Romney a 71 and seniors Matt Johnson and Devin Dehlin 72s. Johnson tied for 10th overall at 219.
"We're thrilled to death," said Romney. "We felt this was it - to either make a comeback or the season would be over. So we put it all on the line and waited for something to happen."
The UNM Course, which measures 7,246 yards, played shorter than usual this week as the tees were placed forward. It was no secret why they were, either. New Mexico's golfers don't hit the ball as long as some of their competitors.
"We're short, this is our course, so we've got to use it to our advantage," admitted UNM's Bryan Hepler.
UTEP Coach Cricket Musch wasn't complaining about the tees afterward. "It was smart that they did that. It helped them, but it wasn't to anyone else's disadvantage."
Hawaii finished seventh at 910, while Colorado State and Air Force tied for eighth at 918.