SALT LAKE CITY — I salute Kyle Whittingham and Bronco Mendenhall.
They gave six hours of their time Monday at The Country Club and helped raise more than $70,000 for kidney research in the Liberty Mutual Invitational Rivalry for Charity golf tournament.
They laid their egos on the line. Whittingham defended his title in head-to-head golf competition with Mendenhall, who applauded at the trophy presentation — and meant it.
This would never happen in Florida, Texas, Washington or Oregon. Would never fly in Alabama and Auburn nor Michigan or the Carolinas. And while Bronco and Kyle aren't going to go off to Lake Powell together any time soon, they did stand shoulder to shoulder Monday — and plenty of guys with deep pockets pledged donations.
Rivalry coaches are men who can stand side by side but appear miles apart. Our duo is no exception. Yet, these two guys bent their knees, lent their good names and time for a great cause.
Whittingham is a tennis player; Mendenhall is a surfer. Neither one likes to golf.
If you don't golf, only then can you understand how truly great a sacrifice this is for these two guys. They deserve high praise.
"Every chapter in every state in the nation tries to copy our rivalry tournament but can't do it — they can't get their coaches to do it," said Deen Vetterli, executive director of the National Kidney Foundation of Utah.
It hasn't been easy. Several times, it's almost died. Coaches are busy people and non-golfing coaches have plenty to do other than give up three-quarters of a day.
LaVell Edwards and Jim Fassel started it 23 years ago. Edwards was the first to "load" up his scramble foursome. Ron McBride later followed suit. Urban Meyer made it a matter of "never losing" and continued the move by both head coaches of stacking groups, which led to enlistment of PGA professionals.
Whittingham and Mendenhall are working to make it sane. It still needs work, maintaining a similar standard of who is on their respective scramble teams.
But rivalries? Can they be sane?
I saw Whittingham whiff a tee shot. Mendenhall said he didn't whiff one but he almost did "about five, six or seven times."
In the end, Whittingham's team of Utes fired a 16-under-par 56 to win the head-to-head matchup between the coaches' foursomes. Mendenhall's Cougars were 8-under 64. Mendenhall had to raise red and white pom poms as Ute cheerleaders led a crowd in the clubhouse in a chorus of Utah's fight song that trailed into the BYU tune.
For the record, Whittingham and Mendenhall were supposed to have Ute and Cougar players on their teams Monday. Whittingham did have one current player, linebacker and leading tackler Chaz Walker, along with former quarterbacks Scott Mitchell and Scott Cate.
Whittingham said Mitchell "hit it a ton. He has a long, long driver."
Mendenhall brought current offensive lineman Braden Hansen, safety Carter Mees and return specialist JD Falslev.
"It was just fun being with my players," said Mendenahall. "In the summer, you don't have much interaction, so it's fun to see how they are doing, hear what they think of the season and just enjoy their company.
"Hansen can hit it a mile and Carter and JD are very accurate. It was also fun to hear the comments they make to each other; it's great entertainment. I can hear them whispering behind my back when it's my turn; they try not to laugh, but its hard for them."
To ham it up, the Kidney Foundation of Utah brought in former Ute coach Ron McBride and BYU's LaVell Edwards.
Of course, these cronies stole the show, restoring their standup comedy routine made famous on TV commercials. McBride told Edwards BYU's always denying recruiting players on missions but the last guy they talk to coming and going is their "LDS" stake president. Edwards told McBride if he'd discovered the forward pass in his days at Utah, he'd still be coaching on the hill.
Everyone yucked it up, even Whittingham and Mendenhall, who graciously stepped aside and let the two elder gentlemen have at each other. It was good fun all around.
The tournament itself, which featured a trip to Pinehurst, N.C., for the winning team, featured strict requirements for handicaps of players, including only one-single digit handicap player in each group. They were even accompanied on the course by an observer, to prevent cheating.
The winning team was comprised of Dan Hansgen, John Hansgen, Jed Hansgen and Steve Hansgen. That team fired an impressive 17-under 55.
Interesting enough, Edwards' team did meet the qualifications with proper handicaps and, although it made bogey on the par-3 No. 10, ended up in second place with a 14-under par 58. Joining Edwards on the team were Derek Roney, Rick Johnson and Richard Watson.
Whittingham didn't meet with reporters afterwards. Walker reported the Utes are deep in offseason conditioning and "everyone is there; it is going as well as any time I've been at Utah. We are excited and looking forward to playing in the Pac-12."
Mendenhall said at BYU's Junior Day last week that prospective recruits as far away as the East Coast have a "positive reception" of BYU's move to independence in football and like the exposure the Cougars will receive on ESPN.
But again, please, Bronco and Kyle, keep doing this thing, I salute you both — even if the McBride/Edwards sideshow kind of stole the show.
"One of these times, we'll both have current players and it'll really be fun," Mendenhall said as he laughed with reporters before he headed out the door.
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