Spring sports have been canceled around the country due to the COVID-19 virus so there are a lot of disappointed athletes and coaches. But the 2020 BYU men’s golf team was primed to make a special run to the top.
The only Cougar golf team to win a national championship took the crown in 1981. Coached by the legendary Karl Tucker, BYU had finished in the top five of the NCAA Championships in eight consecutive years before claiming the big gold trophy behind All-Americans Dick Zokol, Keith Clearwater, Rick Fehr and Barry Willardson.
This year’s Cougar team recorded the lowest single-season 54-hole stroke average in program history and senior Peter Kuest was ranked as the No. 1 college golfer in the country during the fall season.
They were ready to have an unforgettable year.
Cougar head coach Bruce Brockbank had three seniors on his roster (Kuest, Rhett Rasmussen and Spencer Dunaway) and two juniors (Kelton Hirsch and Chad Hardy) who were planning on attending dental and medical school, respectively.
Spring sports athletes have been granted eligibility relief by the NCAA but it’s still likely all five of the above mentioned athletes are moving on.
“They’ve done a heck of job the past three years,” Brockbank said. “We’ve won a lot of events and they’ve done some amazing work. We qualified for two national championships. I feel like we were more prepared this year than ever and we were looking forward to the challenge. It was going to be a great spring.”
The Cougars had just returned from an event in San Diego on March 9-10 and Brockbank held a team meeting because he wasn’t satisfied with BYU’s eighth-place finish. While on the putting green with his team, Brockbank found out via a text that the NCAA basketball tournament had been canceled. He received texts from other coaches saying, “We’re next.”
They were correct.
“I feel bad for the team and especially the seniors,” Brockbank said. “When we found out the season had been canceled there were a lot of heartfelt thanks and appreciation for how hard these kids have worked. There was a lot of emotion. We tried to keep the tears away as much as possible. We know we were looking forward to competing together and trying to win more tournaments. All we did was try to comfort each other and be positive.”
Kuest — who was recently named a finalist for the Haskins Award which is annually given to the outstanding male college golfer in the country — had a school-record stroke average of 69.42 during the 2019-20 season. He will return to BYU in the fall to finish his degree in exercise and wellness but sees professional golf in his near future.
Brockbank reflected on the good fortune that brought Kuest to BYU.
“He flew under the radar in California,” Brockbank said. “We always thought he was talented but he really waited to show his stuff until after he signed his letter of intent with us. He won six or seven events after that. He loves the mountains, he loves to fish and he loves to ski. BYU was a pretty good spot for that. I talked to his dad a few days ago and the Kuests were very happy with what their boy was able to accomplish here and what he has meant to the program.”
Kuest — who is not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints — said he had a great experience playing in Provo.
“It was definitely different not being a member of the church,” he said. “But I met some amazing people and made great friendships that will last a lifetime. I had an awesome time. I was able to grow my game and get better.”
Kuest was recently in Phoenix along with former Cougar Patrick Fishburn to play in an Outlaw Tour event, but it was canceled.
“At the moment I’m just sharpening my game,” Kuest said. “I want to hit it and get stronger in the weight room so I can be ready to go when the tournaments do start picking up. I’m really dialing in on my wedge game and my chipping and putting. My ball striking has always been pretty good. I just want to fine tune those things and make my weaknesses a strength.
“I’m just trying to stay positive through all of this weird time. My plan is to turn pro, it’s just the time line has moved up a little bit. I definitely thought we could make a run at a national championship at BYU, but it’s out of our hands now.”