2002: College - Soap-opera season rolls on: Minnesota joins West’s best

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1Cheng Tsung PanWashington  66.95 
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Albuquerque, N.M.

In a season of seemingly endless twists and turns of a soap opera, the University of Minnesota added yet another quirk to its season May 16-18 at the NCAA Division I Men’s West Regional.

A month after the golf program was “dropped” and then given a one-year reprieve, Minnesota shot a final-round 287 to finish fourth and advance to the NCAAs for the fifth consecutive time.

That came on the heels of Justin Smith’s coming from four strokes back with a 68 the final day to catch Arizona’s Ricky Barnes and claim co-medalist honors. Minnesota (875) finished three strokes off the lead. Host New Mexico fired a tournament-low 284 in the final round and Washington shot even-par 288 to share the team title at 8-over 872.

Smith and Barnes finished at 6-under 210. Fresno State’s Nick Watney shot a final-round 71 to finish third, four strokes behind.

The Huskies were led by sophomore Brock Mackenzie, who shot a final-round 67 to tie for fourth at 215, as Washington got its first victory of the season.

“We saved our best for last, and the timing could not have been better,” said first-year Washington coach Matt Thurmond. “I was waiting for Brock to throw a good score, and he showed why he is one of the best collegiate golfers in the country.

“To shoot 67 when there is an NCAA bid at stake, that’s big time golf. I’m very proud of our guys. This is a great moment for the Washington program.”

Joining Minnesota, Washington and New Mexico will be second-round leader UNLV, which finished third at 874. Also advancing are Pepperdine, Arizona, Texas, Pacific and Fresno State. Texas Tech moved on after winning a one-hole playoff with San Diego State.

New Mexico, which began the final day in a four-way tie for sixth, had four players shoot par or better in the final round, led by senior Scott Hailes’ 2-under 70.

“All five guys played solid (Saturday),” said first-year New Mexico coach Glen Millican. “That’s what we needed, and that’s exactly what we did. (Saturday) we just gave away a few less shots than we did the first two rounds.”

USC, ranked seventh in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings and the No. 1 seed entering the West Regional, failed to qualify for the NCAA Championship. The Trojans shot a final-round 298 to finish in 18th place.

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