Fresno, Calif.--For the 25th time in the last 35 years BYU men's golf team earned an invitation to the NCAA Championships after placing second and achieving its highest regional finish ever at the NCAA West Regional in at Riverbend Golf Course in Fresno, Calif.
BYU, which led after the first and second rounds saw their lead slip after the front nine holes to a red-hot Arizona team. With three holes left to play, Arizona held a one-stroke lead over BYU.
"I knew it would come down to the last few holes and whoever putted best would win," BYU head coach Bruce Brockbank said.
The sixth-ranked Cougars, who putted well during the first two round, struggled with their short game down the stretch allowing the Arizona Wildcats to sneek out the surprise victory. The second place finish left BYU with a bitter taste in their mouth.
"The frustrating thing is, if we could have played just a little better we could have won this thing," senior Jose Garrido said.
Brockbank, although disappointed his Cougars didn't collect their NCAA-leading eighth victory on the season, was excited about his team's record-breaking performance.
"If you would have told me last week we would finish second at regionals, I would have been elated," Brockbank said. "But under the circumstances it's not quite as thrilling. I'm am excited about the effort we put forth. We had a great tournament and we're going to be ready for nationals."
Legendary Cougar golfer Johnny Miller, who was on hand to watch sons Scott Miller and Andy Miller play for BYU, was also very pleased with the Cougars' accomplishment.
"We are here to qualify for the national tournament," Johnny Miller said. "All the other stuff doesn't really matter. It's how we perform at nationals next week that really matters."
BYU, who was 19-under 557 after two rounds, fired a 2-under 286 the last day compared to Arizona's 7-under 281. Mountain West Champion UNLV cam back to tie BYU for second place followed by USC and New Mexico. The Mountain West Conference had three of the top five teams in the West along with individual champion Joel Hedry of New Mexico.
Individually, Junior Billy Harvey led BYU finishing 4-under 212 while Jose Garrido and Manuel Merizalde finished at 2-under 214. Team captain and three-time All-American Andy Miller came back from a dismal second round to shoot his second 68 of the tournament and finish at even par. Scott Miller shot a 72 final round to finish strong for BYU
BYU was one of ten teams from the west and 30 teams nationally to qualify for the NCAA Championships to be held May 31-June 3 at Grand National Golf Complex in Opelika, Alabama. Last year the Cougars finished seventh.
BYU's Individual Scores
t18. Billy Harvey 69-70-73--212 (-4)
t29. Manuel Merizalde67-72-75--214 (-2)
t29. Jose Garrido72-69-73--214 (-2)
t38. Andy Miller68-80-68--216 (E)
t74. Scott Miller79-72-72--223 (+7)
5. New Mexico284-281-285--850
6. Fresno St.281-279-291--851