BYU head football coach Bronco Mendenhall said Monday afternoon that he’s more confident than ever in the ability of sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill to perform under pressure.
At least when he’s facing a 15-foot birdie putt, that is.
“I'm looking to see what he's like under pressure with the cameras and the lights on,” Mendenhall said. “I'm more confident now than ever.”
Mendenhall invited Hill to join him at the Salt Lake Country Club for the 26th annual Liberty Mutual Invitational benefitting the National Kidney Foundation of Utah and Idaho.
Mendenhall and Utah head football coach Kyle Whittingham participated in the event although both readily admit that golf is not their best sport.
“This is the only reason I'll play golf,” Mendenhall said. “I missed last year's tournament, so my clubs have been in the exact same spot. It took me a half an hour to find them this morning. The last time I played was two years ago but it is a great cause and it's fun. It's also great to spend time with Taysom, Mark (Atuaia) and my friend Rob (Brough) from Zion's Bank. That's the enjoyable part.”
Mendenhall’s foursome shot a solid 64 in the scramble format, helped by the golfing expertise of Hill and Atuaia. Hill dropped the 15-foot birdie putt on Hole No. 18 to cap off the day for the group.
“Golf is relaxing,” Hill said. “It’s a release. It was fun to be out there with Coach Mendenhall and be in a venue other than football where we can relax and get to know one another on a more personal basis. If I’m not playing football, than it is nice to get out on the course where there are no expectations and no pressure.”
Hill added that Mendenhall may not play very often but the Cougar head coach still had his moments.
“He’s good,” Hill said. “I believe him when he says that he hasn’t picked up the sticks for a while but he’d surprise you. He hit some good shots every now and again.”
Whittingham’s team featured more top-level golfers, including former Ute-turned-pro Dustin Pimm, and it rolled to a 52.
The more important battle, however, was between former Ute head coach Ron McBride and legendary Cougar Hall of Fame head coach LaVell Edwards.
McBride’s team was able to come out on top in that matchup, meaning Utah supporters got to enjoy hearing the Ute fight song, “Utah Man.”
“They did a great job,” Edwards quipped to the tournament participants after at the conclusion of the song. “I hate that song. Of course, the only time I hear it is when I come here.”
Edwards and McBride, as always, stole the show with their jokes and laughter.
“Can you believe Mark Atuaia is here at a country club playing golf ?” McBride said, ribbing the Cougar running back coach. “I saw him on the first hole and he was all proud too. I said, ‘what are you doing here, Marky?’ and he said, ‘Playing golf.’”
“He’s come a long way,” Edwards responded, laughing.
After hearing McBride laud the performance of his foursome, Edwards drew laughs when he fired back with, “I had a very good group — but we were honest. So we had no chance whatsoever. Of course, when you’re in Salt Lake, you expect that.”
Edwards said getting together with his old friend has made the charity event a great time for many, many years.
“It’s always fun to come up here and play in this event,” the Cougar legend said. “It’s gotten better job all the time. It’s always fun to play with Ron. I didn’t get to play on the course with him but we can do our dog-and-pony show afterwards.”
The beneficiary of the charity event also has a special significance to Edwards, who has personally been affected by kidney disease.
“I lost a brother with a kidney and then I had a couple of sisters that also had some issues with it,” he explained.
Edwards also had some kidney troubles when he had heart surgery in December but he said those are under control.
Luz Lewis-Perez, director of development for the National Kidney Foundation of Utah and Idaho, said having the four coaches continue to be involved is huge for the charity event.
“They are the heart of the event,” she explained. “They have brought their competitive spirit, they have brought their tradition, they have brought their winning, championship approach to our cause. They are good friends of every kidney function because of what they bring to us here. The fact that they have done it for so many years shows what generous amazing men they are. We couldn’t have done it without them.”
Lewis-Perez said the event will raise between $65,000 and $85,000, of which over 80 percent will be used to benefit kidney patients.
“We focus on local patients, local research and then our kidney prevention programs,” she said. “Sixty percent of our money goes directly to the patients for financial aid, scholarships, nutritional supplements that keep them healthy enough to get a transplant, dental work — you can’t get a transplant if you have a cavity — and we do a ton of work repairing tires and transmissions for people who have to get to dialysis or they die.”
Mendenhall said he enjoys the event simply because of the purpose behind it.
“I like the event because of who benefits from it,” he said. “It’s a great cause and I think it’s helpful to people.”
According to the National Kidney Foundation, more than 26 million Americans suffer from kidney disease, with more than 400 people in Utah and Idaho dying each year from kidney-related diseases.
More than 111,000 Americans are waiting for live-saving organ transplants including more than 500 in Utah.
Daily Herald sports editor Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or email@example.com. He can also be followed on Twitter at @JaredrLloyd.