You may not believe it by the wet and cold weather of the last couple of months, but the college golf teams along the Wasatch Front have been competing all spring.
That's because they've been playing in tournaments from Hawaii to North Carolina, with the majority of the events in California.They'll all be home this week for the Cougar Classic, which will have its first-ever non-weekend dates with the 54-hole tournament scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday at the Riverside Country Club in Provo.
Perhaps because of the lousy weather, which has put a serious dent in practice time, none of the local schools have been tearing up the links so far.
Big things were expected this year from BYU, which was ranked in the top 15 in the nation much of the fall season. The Cougars returned nearly their whole team from a year ago and were excited about some top recruits. However, the Cougars have had just an "average" season, according to coach Bruce Brockbank.
"It's been a pretty good year, but we haven't won as we'd liked to," said Brockbank. "Nobody's been playing real great. One thing I'd like to see is us make more putts."
The Cougars have more depth perhaps than they've had in a decade with seven or eight good players that have seen action this year. What they're missing is those sub-70 rounds needed to win tournaments.
BYU finished third in three tournaments this spring and fifth in another before falling to seventh at the BellSouth Intercollegiate in North Carolina last week.
Leading the way for BYU has been sophomore Andy Miller, who has a 72.1 scoring average with four top-10 finishes. Another sophomore, Jose Garrido, has played well with a couple of top-10 finishes, while freshman Billy Harvey and Matt Thurmond have been solid performers. Senior Michael Henderson has never quite lived up to expectations, but he is still capable of a low round. Others who have seen action for BYU this spring include Jesse Hibler and Jay Auvigne.
Utah has made "a huge step in the right direction" with its all-local team, according to coach Wayne Fisher. The Utes finished in a tie for second at the Grand Canyon tournament in Phoenix last week and seventh at the Irvine Invitational last month.
Senior John Owen and junior Jon Morgan have both had strong seasons for the Utes, while freshmen Shawn Edwards and Brock Padilla have played above expectations. Others expected to play at Provo this week are sophomore Gregg Oliphant and junior Chris Riding.
Weber State, which downgraded it program this year to all Utah players, finished tied for second with Utah in its last outing at the Grand Canyon Invitational. Last month the Wildcats finished seventh at the Pacific Coast Intercollegiate in Santa Barbara and 11th at the Anteater Invitational in Irvine, Calif.
First-year coach Greg Stimpson is relying almost entirely on local golfers with seniors Russ Madsen and Michael Jacks, junior Mac Barton, sophomores Marty Jacks and Scott Young and freshman J.R. Shears.
Utah State has one of the top players in the state in senior Todd Tanner and another good player in Chris Moody of Provo. Inconsistency at the other spots has kept the Aggies from having a better season, according to coach Scott Erling.
Local products Casey Beck and Mitch Harris have filled the three and four spots this year, while Charlie Parson and Danny Kettle have rounded out the top six. The Aggies were 12th at Irvine, 16th at Santa Barbara and fifth in a tournament in Portland.
Utah and BYU will compete in the Western Athletic Conference tournament in Livermore, Calif., April 27-29, while Utah State will play in the Big West tournament April 27 and 28.