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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Fresno State's Watney tops WAC golf field

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

Fresno State All-American Nick Watney is the man to beat at the 2002 Western Athletic Conference Men's Golf Championship, today through Friday at Turtle Bay's Fazio Course.

WAC men

• What: Conference Championship

• Where: Turtle Bay Fazio Course.

• When:

Today, first round, 7 a.m.
Tomorrow, second round, 7 a.m.
Friday, final round, 7 a.m.

Players start off at 7 a.m. each day in a shotgun format.

Watney won his last tournament — the BYU Cougar Classic — and has been ranked in the Top 10 all season. He has also finished in the Top 10 in every event.

University of Hawai'i coach Ronn Miyashiro calls Watney — whose uncle coaches the Bulldogs — the best player in college.

"Every aspect of his game is solid," Miyashiro says. "He hits the ball a long way, putts lights out and shoots low rounds all the time.

"He has a great work ethic, too. He wants to win and that attitude has carried him really far. He just wants to be the best player in college, which is what he is."

Fresno State is the top-ranked WAC team, at No. 14 in the Golf Stat ratings. Nevada is 24th, Southern Methodist 35th and Tulsa 46th. No other conference team is among the Top 100, with Hawai'i at No. 149.

Sophomore Matt Kodama and Norman-Ganin Asao — Hawai'i's only senior — have finished 1-2 in every event but one this spring for the Warriors. They are the only players with stroke averages below 75. Junior Kramer Aoki, a former Rainbow baseball player, led UH at the Cougar Classic, finishing 16th with rounds of 73-71.

"We really don't have any depth," Miyashiro said. "We're just trying to find anything to get us going. Matt has been decent all year. We're happy with that, but (Nos.) 3, 4 and 5 are the key."

Texas Christian won last year's WAC title, before leaving the conference. It beat Tulsa by a shot. The Golden Hurricane has never won a WAC championship, but come with three sophomores — David Inglis, Chris Noel and Neil Trimm — who have combined for 11 Top-20 finishes.

For the second year, the WAC champion will get an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament. If Hawai'i does not pull off a huge upset Friday, this will be its last competition of the season.

Miyashiro says the team will be "re-structured" in the spring.

"The performance this year will not cut it if we want to be competitive," he says. "We've got to make changes. I'm looking to pick up four or five kids."

Miyashiro has signed one player from Canada and is looking at other recruits from Australia, Venezuela, the Mainland and Hawai'i.