We appreciate the opportunity and we’re so glad these kids have a chance to play even though we’re going to be playing a round on a day that nobody else is going to play. —BYU men’s golf coach Bruce Brockbank
PROVO — It’s an unusual scenario, but BYU men’s golf coach Bruce Brockbank is thrilled his team has a chance to compete for the national championship.
The Cougars earned their way to the NCAA Championships after placing second in the regionals.
Because the third round of the NCAA Championship will be played on Sunday — a day that BYU doesn’t compete due to school policy — the NCAA is making an accommodation for the Cougars.
That means they’ll tee off their third round at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Oklahoma, Thursday, 30 minutes after the other 23 teams hold their official practice rounds.
“We haven’t had to do this before. Our women’s team had to do it a couple of years ago. We’re fortunate that the NCAA has provided us an opportunity to play,” Brockbank said. “The kids have played well all year. They deserve to play in the national championship. They qualified to get there. The circumstances are such that we’re not able to compete on Sunday.”
Some regard it as a controversial situation, but the Cougars are taking it in stride.
“We appreciate the opportunity and we’re so glad these kids have a chance to play even though we’re going to be playing a round on a day that nobody else is going to play,” Brockbank said. “Is that an advantage? I don’t know. It will kind of depend on the weather. I hope the weather is good for our third round and for everybody else in the field.
"That would be the best-case scenario. It’s going to be very unique and interesting to see how our guys handle it. Then we’ll see how the rest of the teams in the field handle it. I’m sure they’re going to have their opinions because this just doesn’t happen very often where you get to play a round of golf when everybody else is resting. Your guess is as good as mine on that. We’ll go try to tackle it and handle whatever comes.”
BYU's five players will play individually with a walking scorer and a rules official Thursday.
Coaches and players from the other schools will be allowed to watch the Cougars compete from outside the ropes. Every team is expected to have a representative there to get a view of the third-round hole locations.
A final day of 18 holes of stroke play will be held Monday, May 28, to decide the top eight teams that will advance to the match-play portion of the tournament. The national team champion will be determined by a match-play format with quarterfinals and semifinals played on May 29, followed by finals on May 30.
The Cougars are led by Patrick Fishburn, Peter Kuest, Rhett Rasmussen, CJ Lee and Spencer Dunaway. Brockbank knows to compete for a national title, he’ll need strong performances from all five players — just like what happened at regionals.
This season, Brockbank’s team has struggled in the first round of tournaments, and that’s what happened again at regionals when BYU found itself 6 over par as a team after one hole amid 30-mile-an-hour winds.
“I’m looking at that thinking, ‘Wow, we did it again,’” Brockbank recalled. “The guys stepped up and didn’t get frustrated. The winds kept coming and we played steady. Even though we were in ninth place, I wasn’t excited but I knew we’d have to play two great rounds. Fishburn stepped up like a team captain would and he made five birdies in a row. We got even par and then we went up to fourth place.
"What I’m most proud of is that third round, the guys — one to five — just played great golf. They were going to shoot under par no matter what it took. We fired a 10-under-par round. As a coach, you’re always really satisfied when you have all five guys in the game coming down the wire.”
BYU is hoping for more of the same at the NCAA Championship.
“Obviously, we’ve got to have our top guys show up. Karsten Creek is really a difficult golf course. The last time the NCAA Championship was there, there were some really high scores. There are some fast greens. What’s it going to take to compete? I’d love to say a whole bunch of what we did in the second and third rounds at regionals.
"It depends on what the conditions are, how the course is playing. Even par is going to be a real good score. Hopefully we can do a whole bunch of that.”