Hillcrest conquered, but that’s okay

A four-under 67 must have seemed very ordinary to Martin Piller at the Albertsons Boise Open yesterday. After the 54-hole lesson he had taught Hillcrest Country Club, a four-under 67 must have seemed very ordinary to Martin Piller at the Albertsons Boise Open yesterday. Piller set a tournament record, finishing at 28-under and winning by six strokes after going wire-to-wire on top of the leaderboard. And the icing on the cake was his $144,000 check, catapulting him to No. 4 on the Web.com money list and assuring him a spot on the PGA Tour next season. “Sometimes you think, will I ever get back to the PGA Tour,” said Piller. “The fact that this happened, it gives me certainly a lot of confidence and belief that when I do play well I can be in contention and win tournaments.” Man did he play well. Piller’s four-day card was rather symmetrical: 61-63-65-67. It was his fourth career Web.com Tour victory.

Piller fell one shot short of the Web.com Tour scoring record yesterday. Ironically, the mark is held by last year’s Albertsons Boise Open champion, Steve Wheatcroft, who was 29-under at the 2011 Melwood Prince George’s County Open. So what does this annual scoring blitz say about Hillcrest? That it’ll be a fan’s delight when it returns to September next year and becomes part of the Web.com Tour Finals. I liken it to the difference between a 7-6 football game and a 43-42 donnybrook. A “defensive struggle” like the one in the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay is great for golf purists, but offensive fireworks like the ones we see annually at the Boise Open are great for the casual golf fan. Call it “playmaking.” There’ll be so much on the line in September, 2016—the aggressiveness of the players should be awesome.

Nampa’s Tyler Aldridge finished eight-under, which would seem fine during a run-of-the-mill week on the Web.com Tour. But it doesn’t work very well at the Albertsons Boise Open. Aldridge tied for 68th—the stickler was a two-over 73 in Saturday’s round. Aldridge made $1,044 and drops from eighth to ninth on “The 25,” the money-winners list of players that that get automatic PGA Tour cards at the end of the season. He’s still fine. Iraq War veteran and amputee Chad Pfeifer didn’t make the cut on his sponsor exemption Friday, but the impromptu “thanks for your service” send-off from fans and fellow players at the end of Pfeifer’s round will last as one of the all-time memories of the 26 years of this tournament.

Some say, “well, Bryan Harsin won the Fiesta Bowl with Chris Petersen’s players.” Partially true. But Harsin won it—capping a nine-game winning streak—with his own brand of moxie. Officials at the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year committee feel Harsin is more than worthy. He’s the only non-Power 5 representative on the 23-coach watch list for the Dodd Trophy. Harsin was named one of 12 finalists for the award last season. The Dodd award goes to a coach from a program “with the highest ideals of leadership, scholarship and integrity on and off the field.” Petersen won the 2010 Dodd Trophy; it was presented at a ceremony in Boise.

Four Boise State players were named to watch lists Friday, and for one of them it was his first. Offensive tackle Rees Odhiambo joined center Marcus Henry on the watch list for the Outland Trophy that goes to the nation’s best interior lineman. Odhiambo could make a bid if he stays healthy—he was able to start only nine games last year, but one of them was the Fiesta Bowl, and he did a good job on Arizona star Scooby Wright (among others). Henry had previously been named to the Rimington Award watch list. Bronco defensive end Kamalei Correa and safety Darian Thompson each nabbed spots on the Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list Friday.

Boise State linebacker Joe Martarano was called up by Eugene via the Cubs Organization over the weekend and made his Northwest League debut with the Emeralds last night. Martarano started at first base and went 2-for-4, including an RBI single, in a 15-2 loss at Tri-City. The former Fruitland Grizzly had been hitting .315 in the Arizona Rookie League. Martarano won’t get to play at Memorial Stadium this summer—Eugene visits Boise next month after the Broncos’ fall camp begins. But he will be able to face the Hawks in Eugene in a three-game series two weeks from now.

The Hawks and Everett Aquasox had to endure a rain delay of an hour and 15 minutes at Memorial Stadium last night. The Hawks were trailing 2-0 in the second inning when the skies opened up, and they trailed 3-2 when the game ended after almost four hours. The loss was Boise’s 17th of the season against only eight victories. The five-game series versus Everett wraps up tonight.

Bishop Kelly grad Josh Osich has become only the third native Boisean to record a major league victory, joining Borah High alum Stephen Fife a couple years ago and Pat House, who won two games for the Houston Astros in the late 1960’s. It’s a pretty amazing piece of trivia (remember that former All-Star hurler and 194-game winner Larry Jackson was a native of Nampa). Osich came in for San Francisco in the top of the sixth Saturday night to get the Giants out of a jam against Philadelphia. He got the one out he had to, and he was the pitcher of record when the Giants scored five runs in the bottom of the inning—and ended up winning 8-5. Osich has now pitched 5 1/3 innings since being called up July 3 and has yet to allow a run, or even a hit. More on Osich tomorrow.

The blue is green now at Albertsons Stadium, and the stage is set for the Basque Soccer Friendly this Saturday night. When you consider the enormity of the financial and time commitments to put this match on, you realize how much the local group deserves to have as many seats filled as possible when Athletic Bilbao takes on Club Tijuana. Boise State is a willing participant in the big event, but the athletic department didn’t take fiddling with the blue turf lightly. The one-time-only transformation to natural turf was treated with the precision of a military maneuver by BSF organizers. Now we watch the weather forecast. Our first run at it shows sunny with a high of 86. It doesn’t get much better than that in July.

Around the horn: There were two new champions Saturday at the comfortable (for spectators, anyway) Twilight Criterium. Daniel Holloway held off defending champion Ken Hanson in a wild sprint at the finish. On the women’s side, Allie Dragoo won decisively—defending champ Erica Allers was eliminated by a crash midway through the race. And it was tight throughout at the Idaho Men’s Amateur Golf Championship at Pinecrest in Idaho Falls. Andrew Hess held off three other contenders to win the 2015 title by one stroke. Meridian’s Jesse Hibler, Boise’s Gilbert Livas Jr. and Idaho Falls’ Tanner Priest tied for second. Hibler made a hard charge yesterday with the lowest round of the tournament, a four-under 66.

This Day In Sports…July 13, 2005, 10 years ago today:

John Olver surprises legions of local hockey fans by resigning after five seasons as head coach of the Idaho Steelheads. Olver had built the Steelheads into one of the most admired franchises in minor league hockey, compiling a record of 228-100-32. The highlight of the Olver era was the 2004 Kelly Cup championship in the Steelies’ first season in what was then a 28-team ECHL.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)