Sophomore Juli Wightman had a stellar final-round 72 to pull BYU into second place at the Dixie Classic. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
ST. GEORGE -- A battle between the Mountain West Conference's top three teams went down to the wire with No. 10 UNLV just edging ahead of the Cougars and the New Mexico Lobos at the 20th annual BYU Dixie Classic at Entrada at Snow Canyon on Wednesday.
In a preview of the upcoming MWC championship, which will be played on this same course on March 20-22, the top-seeded Rebels found a way to pull ahead of No. 24 New Mexico and stay ahead of the rising Cougars. For the second consecutive day, BYU had the best round in the tournament. Unfortunately for the Cougars, their first round put them in a hole they couldn't quite dig out of. They played even with the Rebels on the final day, but missed opportunities to catch the leader on the final three holes. It was UNLV's fourth consecutive Dixie Classic victory.
"A few different bounces and we could have won this thing," BYU head coach Sue Nyhus said.
Despite trailing second round leader New Mexico by 16 strokes and UNLV by five strokes, the Cougars charged out of the gates on the front nine to pull within four strokes of New Mexico and even with UNLV. With three holes to play BYU pulled even with the Lobos, but UNLV surged into the lead. On the final three holes the Cougars outplayed the Lobos, but it wasn't enough to overtake UNLV. After not defeating women's golf powerhouse New Mexico in 10 years, BYU has not beat the 24th-ranked Lobos in two consecutive tournaments.
"We gave it a gallant effort today," BYU assistant coach Dave DeSantis said. "You've got to hand it to Juli (Wightman). Just like our last event, she came through with a superb final round."
Wightman was steady all day for the Cougars, posting an impressive 72 amidst cold, wet conditions and swirling winds. The sophomore from Massachusetts was two strokes better than any of the 101 other golfers in the field on the final day. Wightman finished tied for seventh place with All-American Rachel Newren at 14 over par. UNLV's Seema Sadekar claimed individual honors with a seven-over-par 223 performance.
Newren who was in fourth place heading into the final round, carded an eight-over-par 80. She was two-over with four holes to play and would love to have her final four holes back, going double-bogey, bogey, par, triple bogey.
"Even though she didn't play her best today, Rachel's teammates stepped up and showed they can also help carry the team, which will take some of the pressure off her in the next three tournaments," DeSantis said.
BYU had four players among the top 17 individuals. Along with Newren and Wighman, Alexis Edwards placed 12th and Danielle von Arnim tied for 17th. Edwards carded a solid four-over-par 76 while von Arnim had an eight-over-par 80. Sophomore Ashley Childers, stepped up big by sinking several key putts en route to a five-over-par 77. Childers finished tied for 30th at 24-over.
BYU once again showed is strength with an impressive final day. The Cougars have not finished worse than second place in every tournament in 2006. They leave St. George knowing they were quite close to winning their home tournament for the first time since 1990, and other than 2001, it was their only second-place finished during that span.
Next up for BYU is the 2006 Mountain West Conference Championship which will also take place at Entrada at Snow Canyon in two weeks.
BYU INDIVIDUAL SCORES
T7. Juli Wightman 81-77-72--230
T7. Rachel Newren 75-75-80--230
T12. Alexis Edwards 79-79-76--234
T17. Danielle von Arnim 80-76-80--236
T30. Ashley Childers 81-82-77--240
T78* Natalia Jimenez 85-85-87--257
T93* Alana Maiello 86-88-10--279
*Competed as an individual
1. UNLV 301-316-305--922 +58
2. Brigham Young 315-307-305--927 +63
3. New Mexico 299-307-328--934 +70
T4. Iowa 316-314-318--948 +84
T4. Idaho 308-319-321--948 +84
6. New Mexico State 313-323-320--956 +92
7. Northern Arizona 317-317-323--957 +93
8. UC Davis 317-310-332--959 +95
9. Nevada 321-318-330--969 +105
10. San Diego State 329-319-323--971 +107
11. Boise State 321-333-324--978 +114
12. Portland State 330-330-320--980 +116
13. Colorado State 328-318-339--985 +121
14. Montana 327-328-331--986 +122
15. Eastern Washington 340-327-323--990 +126
16. Weber State 327-333-339--999 +135
17. Wyoming 342-337-352--1031 +167
18. Idaho State 345-358-372--1075 +211
19. Utah Valley State 385-372-386--1143 +279