PROVO — This time of year, college students are traveling around the country for summer jobs or internships.
BYU star golfer Peter Kuest will soon be logging plenty of miles to play the game that he loves.
Last week, the 5-foot-11 junior was named to the United States Arnold Palmer Cup team. Kuest’s No. 1 ranking in the Arnold Palmer standings made him one of six U.S. players to automatically qualify for the team. In all, 12 players comprise the squad of top collegiate collegiate golfers.
Kuest earned his way to being part of this prestigious group — he’s won five tournaments this year and he’s currently ranked No. 9 nationally among Division I golfers. He was also named the West Coast Conference Player of the Year.
“That’s a phenomenal year with the level of play that’s in Division I college golf," said BYU coach Bruce Brockbank. "When he gets the putter flowing, he can shoot some low scores, as we’ve seen this year."
That team will take on a squad of 12 international golfers in a Ryder Cup-style event held at the Alotian Club in Roland, Arkansas, on June 7-9.
Past participants on the Arnold Cup team include PGA tour standouts like Dustin Johnson, Graeme McDowell, Webb Simpson, Ben Curtis, Justin Thomas, Luke Donald and Rickie Fowler.
“It’s becoming one of the elite match play tournaments in the country,” Brockbank said of the Arnold Palmer Cup. “To have the best 10 collegiate players from the U.S. going against those from Europe and other parts of the world, what a tribute to him. It’s a special honor. He’ll find out how really special it is to be able to wear that Palmer name and be on that team.”
After the Arnold Palmer Cup, Kuest will be participating in amateur tournaments in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Washington.
“I’ll be living out of a suitcase during the summer pretty much. It’s pretty crazy, but you're playing golf. When you go on these trips, it’s like a vacation anyways,” Kuest said. “You see new places and meet new people. It’s not a job for me. It’s something I want to do, which is nice.”
But first, Kuest is leading his BYU team into the Pullman Regional, starting Monday, as part of the NCAA men's golf championships.
Kuest's highlights this season include firing a 10-under 61, including eight birdies, an eagle and no bogeys last November at the Saint Mary’s Invitational.
In March, Kuest sank a birdie putt to capture the 54-hole John A. Burns Invitational Tournament at Wailua Golf Club in Hawaii, defeating Texas A&M star Walker Lee for medalist honors. Then in April, Kuest guided the Cougars to the Ping Cougar Classic title with a 17-under par 199. His eight-shot margin of victory is believed to be the largest in the event’s history, which has featured over the years stars like Stanford’s Tiger Woods.
Kuest’s quest is to turn pro eventually but he plans to continue his education, and play golf, at BYU next year. “The (PGA) Tour’s not going anywhere,” he said.
Once Kuest does finish his BYU career in 2020, he has lofty aspirations at the next level.
“I’d like to win a bunch of majors. That would be way cool,” he said. “Trying to be one of the best player on the tour, that’s the goal. No. 1 in the world, obviously. Just a player who’s consistent and gives myself a lot of chances to win tournaments.”
What is Kuest’s pro potential?
“I wish I could write that script. He has a great chance, no question about it. It’s a power game. He hits it far and he hits it straight. He’s a very good ball-striker and he has a good short game that he works on all the time. He’s extremely talented,” Brockbank said. “If he continues to improve the way he has the last couple of years, the sky is the limit. If he gets going at the right time and the right place, he’ll definitely be on the PGA Tour, for sure.”
Kuest, who grew up in Fresno, California, started playing golf in Palm Springs on family trips with his brother.
“We kind of goofed around the whole time. I just used a driver. I didn’t care about anything else; I just wanted to see how far I could hit it,” he recalled. “When I started really playing, I was probably 10 or 11. I played baseball and soccer growing up. I didn’t have any friends that played golf. Playing those other sports helped out with hand-eye coordination. Baseball helped with swinging and so it was easy to make that transition into golf.”
When he was recruiting Kuest, Brockbank saw that Kuest would fit in well at BYU, though he is not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Anytime you’re recruiting kids, you have to look at every aspect of it. We watched him a lot. He was very cool, calm and handles himself really well on the golf course,” Brockbank said. “You get excited when you see that. And he hit the ball really well. He hits it really long. As we brought him up here, we didn’t think for a second that he wouldn’t be able to flourish in this environment and reach his goals as a collegiate player.”
Kuest said when he was sorting out college offers, he enjoyed his visit to BYU.
“It was just different here. I took visits to four other schools and it’s just a different feeling here. There’s a sense of tradition and the support team here is unbelievable," said Kuest, who counts former BYU and PGA star Johnny Miller as one of his mentors. "Golf’s fun. I came here to golf and go to school. It’s been different from what I’m used to back home. But (it's) all good.”
The way Brockbank sees it, Kuest has been the ideal student-athlete at BYU.5 comments on this story
“He’s so committed. He wants to obviously play at the next level. His goal is to get a degree and while he’s doing that, find a way to prepare himself to play at the next level. It’s been an awesome thing for the program to see him to come from where he was as a talented junior player to win five tournaments — and we’re not done yet — is really special,” Brockbank said. "Did we think he could do this? Yes. But to see him do it has been an absolute privilege. If you could draw it up as a coach, Peter Kuest is the kind of kid that you’d want. He does everything you need him to do, from the classwork to keeping the rules to competing. He’s everything you’d want.”