Cougars make statement at NCAAs

Rachel Newren leads after the first day of the NCAA West Regional

LAS CRUCES, N. M. (May 5, 2005) -- Behind the play of tournament-leader Rachel Newren, BYU jumped into fifth place at the NCAA West Regional after going three-under-par on the back nine on a gusty Thursday at the New Mexico State University Golf Course.

When the dust settled in the New Mexico desert after the first day BYU had outplayed several top 25 teams including No. 3 UCLA (+16), No. 8 Oklahoma State (+16), No. 17 Arizona(+15), No. 23 Stanford (+18) and No. 25 Washington State (+14). The Cougars, who came into the tournament ranked No. 36 and the 14th seed, currently sit in fifth place at eight-over-par, three strokes ahead of 2005 MWC Champion UNLV who is tied for sixth place with Oregon.

No. 12 Tennessee leads after the first round at three-over-par, just seven strokes ahead of the Cougars. No. 14 USC went five-over while No. 2 Georgia finished the day two strokes ahead of BYU at eight-over-par. BYU posted the lowest round of the teams who began play during the later tee times when the winds picked up. In fact, the Cougars were the only team in the top 12 who began play in the later groups.

"We really focused our practices leading up to this tournament on playing in the wind," BYU head coach Sue Nyhus said. "I must say that move really paid off. We were able to make a statement today. We showed we could play with the best."

BYU started the day in trouble, however. Before the first nine were complete, BYU was 18-over-par and near the bottom of the leaderboard. But the back nine was a different story and a different team.

"They (BYU) started to play during that back nine," said Nyhus. "They let their natural ability come through and it was nice to see our scores finally going down."

BYU's downward charge was led by the Newren sisters (Rachel and Natalie), who both eagled within minutes of each other on holes 12 and 15. Rachel got on the green in two and putted for eagle on the par 5 No. 12, while Natalie holed a 72-yard chip shot on the par 5 No. 15. True freshman Juli Wightman and Senior Margaret Wright also came through in a big way on the back nine. Both were one-under-par with two birdies and a bogie apiece.

Wright finished the day two-over-par and tied for 16th place while Wightman was tied for 61st at six-over-par. Sophomore Alexis Edwards, who was fighting illness all day, finished eleven-over-par. Natalie Newren went five-over-par and is tied for 45th place. BYU's big number on the day belonged to its top golfer--Rachel Newren.

An All-MWC selection and currently ranked No. 44 in the nation, Rachel Newren continues to show why she is one of the top sophomore golfers in the nation. After nearly earning medalist honors at the Mountain West Conference Championship two weeks ago, Newren is on pace to collect her second tournament vicory and become BYU's first NCAA regional champion. She finished the front nine even-par and then went three-under-par on her final nine holes to jump out to a tie for the lead on the first day of competition. Newren is tied with Sophie Sheridan of California for the lead with 69s.

In order to advance to the championship round, BYU must finish among the top eight teams. The NCAA Championshp round will be held in Sunriver, Ore. where the MWC tournament was held two weeks ago. The Cougars have competed in the NCAA regionals 10 times since the regional format began in 1993 and have never finished higher than 11th place. BYU finished in 13th place last season. BYU's last NCAA tournament was 20 years ago when it played on this same golf course and finished 14th. BYU head coach Nyhus was a member of that team and believes her team can repeat today's gutsy performance again tomorrow.

"We're fired up and I know we've got more in us," said Nyhus

Thanks to BYU's solid first round, the Cougars earned an early tee time and will begin play at 8 a.m. Follow the Cougars live on the internet in their quest for their first appearance to the NCAA tournament in 20 years at www.golfstat.com.

Team Scores

1. Tennessee 291 +3

2. USC 293 +5

3. Georgia 296 +8

3. California 296 +8

5. Brigham Young 298 +10

6. UNLV 301 +13

6. Oregon 301 +13

8. Washington State 302 +14

9. Arizona 303 +15

10. UCLA 304 +16

10. Oklahoma State 304 +16

12. Stanford 306 +18

13. UC Irvine 308 +20

13. Colorado State 308 +20

19 Teams competing

BYU INDIVIDUAL SCORES

T1. Rachel Newren 69 -3

T16. Margaret Wright 74 +2

T45. Natalie Newren 77 +5

T61. Juli Wightman 78 +6

T100. Alexis Edwards 83 +11

Tags: Results