New Mexico St. wins dramatic WAC title
HENDERSON, Nev. – The chance to play in the postseason was at stake for the nine teams of Western Athletic Conference on Wednesday. With no team ranked high enough to earn an at-large bid, it all came down to 54 holes at Rio Secco Golf Club in Las Vegas.
Entering the final round, three schools had separated from the field – Fresno State, New Mexico State and Idaho – and one would walk away with the WAC’s automatic qualifying spot.
After battling back-and forth in the final round, New Mexico State topped Fresno State by a shot to win the championship.
“You know you are going to get everybody’s best shot in this type of tournament,” New Mexico State coach Scott Lieberwirth said. “That was a hell of a battle.”
Even when New Mexico State senior Travis Reid got up-and-down par for par from 30 yards in front of the 18th green, nobody was sure who had won the event. It was that close all day. The par-save secured the individual title for Reid and guaranteed him a spot in the one of six regionals set to begin play May 13.
But that was not what was important to the senior from Clovis, N.M.
“It’s an honor, but as long as the team wins, I get to go to regionals too, and that’s all that really matters,” Reid said.
Reid, who posted 15 birdies and two eagles, recorded rounds of 67-73-69 for a 7-under 209 total and finished three shots clear of Fresno State’s Grant Doverspike.
The Aggies started the final round with a three-shot lead over Fresno State. The Bulldogs turned in the best final-round score with a 4-under 284; New Mexico State closed with a 1-under 287.
Coming up just short stung the Bulldogs.
“If we knew we were going to the national tournament at least we could get over this easier,” Fresno State head coach Mike Watney said. “A one-stroke loss and probably no NCAA tournament makes it extra tough to take.”
Lieberwirth also realized how much the final round meant.
“Fresno State is maybe on the outside looking in as far as going to regionals, but they still have a shot at getting an at-large. We didn’t. We knew this was it. Our seniors knew this was it. If they did not perform today this would be their last day of college golf, and that was definitely motivating enough for them to want give their best shot,” Lieberwirth said.
New Mexico State will find out May 4 which regional they will participate in when the NCAA announces the 81-teams selected for regional play.