As the snow suddenly turned sideways and big flakes blew across the 17th tee, Cal-Berkeley golfer D.J. Volko turned to BYU coach Karl Tucker, sitting in a nearby cart, and said, "You're not going to call this off like they did in L.A., are you?"
"No way," replied Tucker with a laugh, recalling how they canceled a round in the UCLA tournament at Palm Springs last fall even though it was about 80 degrees. The reason? A strong wind was causing sand to blow under some of the players' contact lenses. "I told them, `You ought to come up to Utah and play sometime,' " said Tucker.Friday was one of those times in Utah when only the most die-hard golfer would dare play. The weather was more suited for bobsled racing. The temperature hovered in the 30s, and it snowed off and on all day.
The occasion was the 29th annual Cougar Classic at Riverside Country Club, and as usual, host BYU leads the competition. The Cougars, who have won 24 of 28 Classics, are 14 strokes ahead of nationally ranked UTEP and 17 ahead of Stanford going into today's final 18 holes. Among the local teams, Utah is sixth at 753, Utah State is 12th at 776, and Weber State brings up the rear in 13th at 784.
Among the individuals, Stanford's Christian Cevear is the leader at 140, two shots ahead of BYU's Jeff Kraemer and Ryan Rhees. Cevear, the Pac-10 champion in 1989 and an 8th-place finisher at last year's NCAAs, fired rounds of 69 and 71.
Despite the lousy weather and a two-hour delay in starting while waiting for the snow to melt, the tournament managed to squeeze in 36 holes thanks to shoutgun starts and no break for lunch. "I'm amazed they got it in," said one tournament official.
Players dressed in turtlenecks, windbreakers, rain pants and ski caps to try and keep warm. Some players even wore large mittens while waiting between shots.
Kraemer, a junior from Vancouver, led the way in the morning round with a bogeyless 68. He said he's used to inclement weather in Canada, but not like Friday's. "I'm used to playing in rain, but not snow. It was weird, is all I can say. It was really tough to concentrate with the snow falling."
Rhees said his biggest problem was putting in the snow. "I had three three-putts and they all came when it was snowing. That was the strangest weather I've ever seen."
Besides Kraemer and Rhees, the Cougars have contenders in Mike Weir and Dean Wilson at 145 and Ramon Brobio at 147. Freshman Joe Summerhays stands at 151.
"Under these conditions, that's an excellent day for us," said Tucker. "To be 1-over-par on a cold, windy, snowy, crappy day is just great."
Following BYU, UTEP and Stanford at 745 is New Mexico, the last team to win the Classic, in 1989. Washington is fifth at 752, a stroke better than Utah. Cal-Berkeley, Cal-Santa Barbara, Wyoming, British Columbia and Boise State follow.
Two players still in the individual race are UTEP's Jason Nishimoto and New Mexico's Brian Kortan at 143.
Utah's top three players are Marty Romney, Phil Holmes and Brett Taylor at 149. Utah State has two golfers at 153, Brad Church and Dennis Larson. Weber's top player is Russ McKay at 155.
Today's final 18 holes are scheduled to begin at 8 a.m with the leaders going off at 9:38 a.m . . . weather permitting, of course.