The men's golf team soared to new heights this past season. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
PROVO, Utah -- The BYU Men's golf team used a strong regular season to propel it to a Top-10 finish at the NCAA Championship. The team's ninth-place finish was its best in five years.
Despite the cool weather of autumn, the Cougars couldn't have been much hotter. In five tournaments, the team finished no lower than fourth in any tournament. The Cougars finished third four times, including a strong performance at The Prestige in November.
At The Prestige, the Cougars showed they belonged among the nation's elite team as they finished just two strokes behind then-ranked No. 4 UCLA and just a single stroke behind No. 6 Texas Christian University.
"We had our chances coming down the stretch, but fell a couple of strokes short," head coach Bruce Brockbank said.
But overall, Brockbank was pleased with the effort of his team during the fall season. With only two upperclassmen, the Cougars used the semester to improve and prepare for spring season and the conference and national championships.
"We had a good semester with great individual scores and performances," Brockbank said. "We came up a little short in some areas, but we've learned a lot this semester."
Despite returning from his mission in the off-season, junior Todd Miller tallied the Cougars best scores of the fall to earn Mountain West Conference Golfer of the Month in September. Miller had four Top-20 finishes in the fall.
The Cougars finished the fall ranked No. 24.
After a three-month layoff, the members of the Cougar golf team might have become a bit rusty, but their game didn't show it.
The Cougars tallied five Top-5 finishes in the spring, including a victory at the Morris Williams Invitational in March.
The Cougars outplayed No. 8 TCU for their only victory of the year.
"We played against a great field, but everybody hung in there and we took care of business," Brockbank said.
Freshman sensation Jake Ellison carded a team-low 65 during the tournament to help lead the team to victory. But Ellison deflected the attention to the team's victory rather than his career-best round.
"The win was really good," he said. "It was an awesome feeling as a team."
The win at the Morris Williams and the other tournaments helped to prepare the Cougars for the postseason. The Cougars gained a No. 12 ranking during the spring.
The Cougars built off the successful regular season and continued to play well through the postseason as they advanced from the Mountain West Conference Championship to the NCAA West Regional and then the NCAA Championship.
The Cougars fought rival New Mexico for the MWC Championship for the second time in three years. The Lobos shot an outstanding final round to overcome a three-shot deficit to force a playoff with the Cougars.
The Lobos hot streak continued throughout the playoff as they defeated the Cougars.
"It came right down to the wire," Brockbank said. "We got behind but we were able to get it back to a tie. Obviously it was their game to win. We kept missing putts and they kept getting up and down to make par. But I was really pleased with the guys' effort."
The Cougars second-place finish helped them advance to the NCAA West Regional at Crosswater Golf Course in Sunriver, Ore.
BYU's men's golf team finished fifth at the 2004 NCAA West Regional earning an automatic invitation to the NCAA Championship tournament for the first time in four years.
BYU, who started the final day in third place, fought through windy and wet conditions to finish the day tied for fifth with USC. With the weather causing havoc and scores soaring, the fifth seeded Cougars made enough putts to its fourth best regional finish since regional competition began in 1991.
"I'm just real pleased with the way these guys kept their composure and hung in there," Brockbank said. "We work all year for this opportunity. It's a real accomplishment to advance."
Just two weeks later the Cougars rode the performance of sophomore Oscar Alvarez to a ninth-place finish at the NCAA Championship in Hot Springs, Va.
The Cougars earned their best NCAA finish since 1999, when they also finished in ninth at the NCAA Championship. This was BYU's 19th top 10 finish in NCAA Golf Championship history.
While the Cougars were pleased with their finish, they were also frustrated with their performance and are already looking forward to the chance to compete in the NCAA Championship next year.
"We had a good tournament and I'm pleased with being in the top 10, but it's a little frustrating knowing we could have easily finished in the top five," Brockbank said. "I think this tournament was a great learning experience and gave us a taste of what it takes to get back here next year. Hopefully the way we finished will fuel the fire to be a contender again next year."
With only one player graduating, the Cougars should find themselves in a position to challenge for the NCAA Championship next year.
Honors and Awards
Riding their postseason success, four members of the Cougar golf team were recognized with all-conference and All-American honors.
Sophomore Oscar Alvarez, freshman Jake Ellison and junior Greg Machtaler were all named to the All-MWC team.
After a strong team showing because of three great individual performances at the NCAA Championship, Alvarez, Ellison and Miller were named Honorable Mention All-Americans. Brockbank was surprised by the nominations, but it pleased the program is gaining respect.
"It's a real honor and a big deal for our program to get this level of recognition," he said.
And with all four postseason honorees returning, the Cougars can only look forward to hitting the links once again in September.
Event Finish Score
The Prestige 3/15 286-289-286--861
John Burns Invitational 5/20 279-288-281--848
Cleveland Golf Classic T3/20 286-289-297--872
Morris Williams 1/15 281-285-292--858 (-6)
Border Olympics 3/17 290-282-290--862 (-2)
ASU Thunderbird Inv. T10/16 288-289-282--859 (-5)
PING Cougar Classic 5/15 281-290-290--861 (-3)
MWC Championship 2/8 292-286-289-17*--883
NCAA West Regional T5/27 286-289-306--881 (+17)
NCAA Championship 9/15 280-290-291-295--1156 (+36)
*playoff w/ New Mexico