For him to shoot under par on that course in bad weather, in my opinion, was ridiculous. —Patrick Fishburn on Rasmussen's score on Stanford's course
Excuse Bruce Brockbank if he plays the history card this week, reminding, remembering, pondering. He may have been just a little kid in Provo back in 1981, but he knows all about the time, place and faces of that day at Stanford University’s golf course, back when Jimmy Carter was president and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” hit movie theaters.
Brockbank will pilot BYU’s golf team to the NCAA’s golf regional at the Stanford University Course Monday. It’s the setting where, in 1981, the school won its first undisputed and unshared national title.
Thirty-six years ago on this course in Palo Alto, California, the late Karl Tucker coached a squad comprised of Dick Zokol, Keith Clearwater, Rick Fehr, Barry Willardson and Dave DeSantis and led them to a two-stroke win over Oral Roberts.
No player on that team won an individual medalist honor in a collegiate event that entire year.
This year's team has three medalist winners.
Less than two months ago, Cougar freshman Rhett Rasmussen fired rounds of 72-64-70 for a 4-under par round to win medalist honors at the Goodwin on this Stanford Course. Later in April, freshman Peter Kuest won West Coast Conference medalist honors at Riverside and earlier this season, defending Utah State Amateur champion Patrick Fishburn won the Pacific Invitational and also has 10 top-10 finishes this season.
That 1981 team was highly ranked. This BYU team, ranked 45th, is looking for respect. This week's field will include No. 4 host Stanford, No. 9 Baylor, and other powerhouses.
“It’s nice to be at Stanford,” said Brockbank, whose team has missed NCAA competition the past several years.
“Rhett played very well here; the rest of the team didn’t. We just have to step up. Good thing is they know what the golf course is about, they know where the challenging holes are. You have to play from the fairway,” Brockbank said.
“My guess is the rough is going to be up, it was for the Goodwin. If you play from the fairway, you have better chances. We’ve been working on hitting some long irons and three-woods and drivers to see if we can hit those premium shots and make something of it.”
That’s not all Brockbank has done with his guys since winning the WCC in Provo. He trucked his squad to Arizona to play twice, including ASU’s Karsten Course. In addition to rounds at Riverside, he took players to Ogden and Alpine Country clubs. “At Alpine, everyone shot under par. That was a good sign,” said Brockbank.
“It’s good that school is done. We wake up, have breakfast and go to the course and play some golf,” said sophomore Spencer Dunaway. “It’s a been a lot of fun to play all the time and get ready. Everyone is playing really well, so it is exciting.”
Dunaway said BYU’s team has not had all four or five players deliver their best game at the same time all year. “We’ve accomplished a lot of things with just three guys playing good. It would be scary to see what we could do with all five playing their best.”
Fishburn, a junior from Ogden, said returning to Stanford is exciting.
“We didn’t play particularly well but it’s good because we know what we need to do. I’m sure (the layout) will be firm and they’ll set it up as difficult as they can. Rhett had a good showing there and I think we’ll go in there with a chip on our shoulders. “
Why did Rasmussen take to Stanford’s course so well?
“For him to shoot under par on that course in bad weather, in my opinion, was ridiculous,” said Fishburn. “It was windy, the greens were firm and the pins were beefed up. He told us he just had a flawless day. We asked him what he did and he said he simply didn’t make a mistake. He hit the ball amazing, made every putt and that’s what it all comes down to. I was playing, we all were, and if it weren’t for Rhett, we’d have been out of it. We had three guys in the 80s and it was tough, but he saved us.”
Dunaway said it makes a big difference to know the grass, know how to chip on it, and what the green structures are. “We are comfortable with it.”
Brockbank, a two-time Utah State Amateur champion himself, knows it will take a monumental effort by BYU to advance past this regional. “Everyone at the regional is good. You come out and play good rounds or you pack and go home.”
Tradition aside, with 1981 in the rearview mirror, what will count Monday, and be huge, is making pars and savoring birdies.
And in the name of Karl Tucker, avoid what’s called the big miss.