It is the University of New Mexico’s tournament on its home course — and the Lobos took advantage late during a long Friday in the 63rd annual Tucker Invitational on the UNM Championship Golf Course.
But after the 36-hole, more than 11-hour, 23-minute day had ended — with all 17 teams squeezing in both rounds just before sunset — it was coach Dwaine Knight’s UNLV squad in front.
Knight, a former Lobo coach and player whose Rebels won the 1998 national title on the same course, watched his bunch shoot a 6-under 282 in the morning, then close a wild afternoon round with a 291 for a 1-under-par 575. Washington is second at 5 over.
Brigham Young struggled down the stretch and is third at 10 over heading into Saturday’s final round of the 54-hole event. The first tee times are scheduled for 7:45 a.m.
Despite the extremely windy afternoon round, the Lobos closed with a flurry — making six birdies late — to move into a tie with San Diego State for seventh at 16 over, and only three shots behind fourth-place Arizona.
“We hung in here well, and I’m really happy with the finish,” said UNM coach Glen Millican. “Overall, it was a pretty good day for us. We are still learning a great deal, but we’re coming along.”
Arizona’s George Cunningham (70-69) has the individual lead at 5 under while UNLV’s Shintaro Ban (68-72) and Harry Hall (70-72) are at 4 under and 2 under respectively.
UNM’s Augustin Holé and New Mexico State’s Tadhg Campbell are tied in a seven-way tie for seventh at 1 over.
Lobo junior Sean Carlon had rounds of 75-73 and is tied for 25th at 4 over.
“I really hit the ball pretty well, but I just couldn’t make any birdies,” said Carlon, a former three-time state high school champion at Hope Christian. “I only had three birdies for the day, which makes it tough to score well. But I was able to grind it out in the wind in the afternoon, so I’m pretty happy with that.”
The wind ripped away at the field in the afternoon and made for some big flip-flops on the leader board.
UNLV, which shot a 6-under-par 282 in the opening round for a two-shot lead over BYU and stretched its cushion to 10 shots early in the second round, fell into a three-way tie for the lead with BYU and Washington late in the day. The Rebels then closed strong.
“It was an interesting day,” Knight said with a smile. “You make a game plan, but that all changes when the winds come up like that. Some of the guys didn’t adjust well to that, but I liked the way we finished.”
A couple of months ago, the Rebels were one of the favorites for the spring’s Mountain West Conference tournament title. They obviously still are, despite first-team All-American John Oda deciding to forgo his senior season to turn pro.
Six Mountain West Conference schools are in the Tucker field.
The Lobos’ three other players are tied for 39th at 150: Andre Garcia, 74-76, Galven Green, 75-75, and Ross Sinclair 74-76.
The top four scores count toward the team total each round.
New Mexico State is tied for 14th at 32 over in the 17-team field.
NOTES: Green’s brother, Gavin, won the Tucker three times during his star-studded career at UNM.
… NMSU’s Davis Chung, a former three-time state champion at Las Cruces High, shot rounds of 78-81—159 on Friday.
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