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BYU golf: Par’s tough at Cougar Classic

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BYU's Adam Tebbs chips onto the 15th green during the Ping Golf Cougar Classic tournament.

BYU’s Adam Tebbs chips onto the 15th green during the Ping Golf Cougar Classic tournament.

Jason Olson, Deseret News

PROVO — Saturday was one of those golfing days when an even-par round was really good.

Fortunately for the New Mexico State Aggies, few players at the Ping Cougar Classic could manage one of those good rounds in the brisk and swirling winds blowing through Riverside Country Club.

In fact, only the Aggies and Washington State Cougars managed to shoot an even-par team score Saturday. Every other team posted an above-par score in the tough and testy conditions.

The Aggies were able to hang on and win the Cougar Classic by nine shots, while Washington State passed four teams to tie host Brigham Young for second place.

"Playing in New Mexico we have wind like this all the time, so we welcomed the wind," said Aggies coach Scott Leiberwirth.

Matt Edwards was the big gun for the Aggies on Saturday with a 4- under 68, the day's lowest round. New Mexico State also had scores of 72, 73 and 75.

"For us to post an even-par score in the conditions we faced today is outstanding golf," Leiberwirth said.

Washington State had a 70, two 72's and a 74. BYU's low final-round came from Adam Tebbs, who fired a 2-under par 70. Also for BYU, Robbie Fillmore shot 73, Esteban Callisto a 74 and Nick Killpack a 75.

The difficult conditions probably helped BYU chase down a few teams that began the final round in front of the Cougars. But failing to cash in on the greens cost BYU from catching the Aggies.

"I know I missed two or three short putts coming in that I normally make, and that really hurt me," said Fillmore, who tied for fifth with a three-round score of 212.

Even though Saturday's team score was BYU's highest of the tournament, finishing as runners-up is encouraging for the Cougars as they head into next week's Mountain West Conference tournament.

"Every week we're getting a little bit better and showing a little more consistency, so I think this finish should carry over into next week," Fillmore said.

Of the state's other teams, Utah finished in seventh, Weber State 10th, Utah Valley 12th and Utah State 13th in the 14-team field.

Individually, those who went out early on Saturday had a slight advantage. When Boise State's Troy Merritt posted a 2-under 70 with about half the field still out on the course, it made his 54-hole 8- under 208 difficult to catch — especially when the wind starting blowing harder. In fact, Merritt was the only golfer who began Saturday in the top 10 to break par.

Washington State's Austin Hunt and Nick Ellis shot 72 and 74 respectively Saturday, but finished two shots behind Merritt — who won his fourth straight individual title.

"I started out kind of shaky, but when I made some birdies on the back nine and then rolled in a 12-foot birdie on No. 18, I felt that pretty much sealed the deal in this wind," Merritt said.

Park City brothers Michael McRae and Robert McRae, playing for Saint Mary's College, finished with 54-hole scores of 213 and 220 respectively. Michael McRae ended the event tied for eighth.

E-mail: jimr@desnews.com