UNLV, Lobos Neck and Neck Heading Into Tucker's Final Round
Sept. 30, 2011
Albuquerque, N.M. --- They say slow and steady wins the race, but a heck of a second round doesn't hurt either. James Erkenbeck was solid throughout the opening two rounds of the William H. Tucker Invitational, and his four-under 140 has the Lobos knocking on the door of a team title after two rounds.
UNLV, ranked No. 11 by Golfstat.com, leads the No. 15 New Mexico Lobos by one stroke after two rounds of play at the Tucker Invitational. The Tucker once again is being hosted at the UNM Championship Course with a total yardage of 7,562 on the par-72 layout.
Six different schools out of the 16 in the field occupied the leaderboard at one time or another on Friday. Air Force was the early leader out of the gates, followed at times by San Diego State, Arizona, and BYU. UNLV held the lead through much of the second round, with New Mexico catching the Rebels late, and then a two-shot swing coming in helped UNLV sit at four over for the tournament, one stroke better than the Lobos.
That New Mexico is in second at all is a shock to the system for anyone who saw an early first round leaderboard. At one point New Mexico was 12-over for the tournament halfway through the opening round, and 14 shots back of Arizona, who was pacing the field at -2. BYU would eventually join Arizona in the red numbers, but both fell back to 10-over by days end.
The Lobos finished the opening round with a flurry, including four birdies on 18 by Erkenbeck, John Catlin, Benjamin Bauch, and Gavin Green. That momentum carried into the second 18 as New Mexico shot a tournament best 6-under 282 for the second round. Catlin was a catalyst early, as he birdied four of his first eight holes before eventually settling for a 1-under 71.
It was Erkenbeck who was the star for New Mexico however. He opened his round with an eagle on the par-five opening hole, and although he eventually gave that back with bogeys on five and seven, he picked up birdies on the other three par fives, nine, 14, and 18 to give him a 69, and put him at four under for the tournament.
Erkenbeck is a shot behind BYU's Zachary Blair, who carded a five-under 139 at 69-70. Blair was a up and down, with five bogeys, but 10 birdies, including birdies in both rounds on holes one, two, and 15.
UNLV leads the tournament after shooting a four-over in the opening round and then even par in round two. Nicholas Maruri, who was low man for the Rebels with a 78 in the opening round, bettered that by nine shots, shooting a 69 to pace the second round for UNLV. Maruri started out +7 after the opening eight holes, but got it turned around in a hurry. He saved his opening round with birdies on 12, 17 and 1 coming in (he started on the fourth hole).
In the second round he carded five birdies to just a pair of bogeys, closing with a beautiful two on the tricky 166-yard par three third hole. He wasn't alone with a fantastic second round recovery for UNLV, as Carl Johnson and kevin Penner both improved five shots combined as they carded 73s, and Derek Enrst, the first round leader, shot a one-over 73 as well.
Not out of the running are one-time leaders Arizona (+10, 3rd) San Diego State (+11, 4th) and both BYU and North Texas (+12, tied for 5th).
NOTES: There were 12 eagles on the day, but only Erkenback had more than one, carding two ... San Diego State's J. J. Spaun was the model of consistency with 29 pars on 36 holes ... the treacherous 524-yard par four 7th hole yielded just four birdies in each round, making it the toughest hole on the course.