The Idaho men’s golf team had a solid first day of play at the Desert Shootout in Goodyear, Arizona, ending the first round in a tie for sixth, just eight strokes off the lead to stay in contention.
The three-day, 54-hole tournament got underway Thursday with a field of 16 teams, including No. 19 Illinois. The event is hosted by the University of Denver.
“It’s a stronger field than we had last week,” Idaho coach John Means said. “All the teams here are capable of shooting low.”
The Vandals are coming into the tournament fresh off a second place finish at the Jackrabbit Invitational in Primm, Nev. Idaho senior Gordon Webb finished second at the event, earning him the WAC Golfer of the Week award. Idaho sophomore Sean McMullen also finished third at the tournament.
Webb continued to play well in the first round of the tournament by shooting a three-under 68 to put him just three strokes off the lead in a tie for sixth place.
“He’s striking the ball well and he’s putting well,” Means said. “He was minus 6 through his first six holes today, so he has a chance.”
Idaho’s Aaron Cockerill was right behind Webb with a two-under 69 as the only other Idaho golfer to be in the top 20 after day one.
As a team the Vandals shot a two-under 282 in the first round. Idaho’s Dylan Baker shot an even 71 while Alex Pounds shot a three-over 74. Sean McMullen was not able to carry over the momentum from his third place finish last week at the Jackrabbit Invitational as he shot a five-over 76.
Means said he was surprised at McMullen’s struggles.
“I expected a low number from him and he struggled today,” Means said. “But we have two more days to improve.”
Thomas Pieters of Illinois led the individual competition with a six-under 65 performance. Sparks of Wichita State and BYU’s Zachary Blair were right behind Pieters in a tie for second with a five-under 66. The top 24 players are all within five strokes of one another.
No. 37 Tulsa finished day one in first place, just one stroke ahead of second-place No. 43 BYU. Denver, Colorado State and Southern Utah all ended the day in a tie for third, six strokes back of Tusla.
The 54-team tournament will continue Friday and conclude on Saturday. The Vandals won’t be back in action until April 8 when they participate in the Wyoming Classic in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Vandals will have just one more tournament after that until the WAC Championship starts on April 29.
Kevin Bingaman can be reached at email@example.com