PROVO — Peter Kuest is used to winning and when he fired a competitive career-low 64 to win the Pacific Invitational at Stockton Country Club last week, it only added a layer of confidence for the BYU junior.
Two years ago, as a freshman, he won the WCC Championship at Riverside in Provo, just weeks after losing his grandmother, Helma. During that week he felt and witnessed a lot of what he called “freaky” quirky things. “Like a few putts shouldn’t have gone in the hole and something just pushed them in,” he said.
In this most recent victory, after losing his grandfather the week prior, Kuest again felt some inspiration.
“It was a feeling like I needed to be more aggressive. It came to me going up in my club selection,” said Kuest. “It gave me a little more strength to play well. He was there, they were both watching.”
Kuest buried a 30-foot birdie putt on his final hole and looked to the sky, paying honor to his grandparents, like, “This is for you.”
Kuest’s grandparents were German immigrants who settled in the Fresno area right after World War II. Ludwig and Helma Kuest had been married 60 years.
In his final-round 64, Kuest made one mistake, a three-putt bogey. He had eight birdies. His 16-under-par 197 tied the lowest 54-hole total by a BYU player ever. And BYU is a program with plenty of alums who have made the PGA Tour.
“I had it going,” said Kuest. “I hit it well, had my wedges dialed in, made some putts, and only had one little hiccup.”
The California native is confident but not arrogant. He’s a gentleman, a quiet kind of assassin on the golf course. In Utah’s high elevation, he can hit his driver 340 yards. He doesn’t carry a 3-wood, instead opting for a 1-iron, which he can hit 290.
“Peter was a great player before he ever came to BYU,” said his coach Bruce Brockbank. “He won a lot of junior tournaments in California and was one of the best young players in the country.”
What Kuest has done now is team up with veteran Rhett Rasmussen and freshman Carson Lundell out of Lone Peak High to give Brockbank three players with a stroke average of 70 or less.
“If you have three guys averaging those kinds of scores, you have a very good chance," said Brockbank.
In tournament play this year, Kuest is averaging 68, Rasmussen and Lundell average 69, and three others 72. “If we keep that up, we should be able to win,” said Kuest.
Rasmussen is a potential medalist any time he tees it up. Lundell returned from church missionary service this summer and the NCAA prohibited him from playing in tournaments before school started. In his initial event at the William H. Tucker Invitational, he fired rounds of 74-69-69 to finish sixth, two shots ahead of Rasmussen.
“We’ve never had anyone do what Lundell did coming off a mission and not being able to compete until his first event,” said Brockbank.
The win at the Pacific Invitational was Kuest’s second of the season. He tied UNLV’s Harry Hall for medalist honors at the Tucker Invitational at the University Course in Albuquerque to open the season, an event BYU won.
“Peter has a great skill set,” said Brockbank. "He hits it long, he is a competitor. He has an all-around good game and he’s learning to manage courses better. He has a goal of playing at the next level and every indication is he will be there someday.”
Growing up near Fresno, Hall of Famer Johnny Miller took an interest in Kuest when he saw him in junior circles. Miller, whose son Todd is BYU’s director of golf, often visits the team’s new practice facility at Fox Hollow in American Fork and Kuest gets a kick out of Miller mingling with the squad.
“It’s just awesome to go hang out on the range with Johnny and be able to pick his brain and watch him hit some shots. It’s really cool.”
Johnny Miller, who announced his retirement from NBC after the end of this golf season, was one of the best iron players in the world in the '70s. Kuest likes one tip Miller gave him in particular, and that is to add a low draw-upon approach with his scoring clubs, 8 through wedges.
Miller showed him how to play it a little back in his stance and hit a tight little draw that he says “almost makes you hit the flag out of the hole.”
Said Kuest, “It’s been really effective so far. It really helps when you get under pressure that you have a shot you can go to that you have confidence in.”
The new practice facility is a half-million-dollar-plus investment in golf by BYU, and Kuest calls it a game changer for the program.
“They have the greens cut close and they’re running at about an 11 or 12 (on the Stimpmeter). There is a chipping area, a bunker area, and you can practice shots up to 200 yards. It has made a major difference in our preparation.”
Kuest said he’s found BYU schoolwork tough and it was an adjustment living in Provo after growing up in California and not being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “But it’s all good," he said. "I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been a great opportunity to be at BYU and play golf.”
What he really enjoys is winning.
The Cougars have finished first, have two seconds, and a fourth-place finish heading into the Saint Mary’s Invitational next week at Pebble Beach at Poppy Hills. It’s a course Kuest has played several times and he’s excited.Comment on this story
“My dream is to be out there on the PGA Tour, to play in the Ryder Cup alongside Tony Finau and make some points. But I do want to make it and have a career on Tour.”
If Kuest lives up to expectations, his goals are not that far-fetched.
At NCAA nationals last summer, on Kuest’s first hole, he had a double-eagle. That isn’t luck, it is skill.
According to golfstats.com, Kuest ranks 15th individually in Div. I and his Cougars are No. 16 in another poll.
“As a team, we are right there. We just have to finish better than we have and turn those seconds into first-places and wins,” he said.