Junior Oscar Alvarez leads a talented group of golfers towards the NCAA Championship this year. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
PROVO--A diamond only becomes a diamond after a lot of hard work and pressure. The BYU men's golf team is no different.
BYU coach Bruce Brockbank knows that if the 2004-05 men's golf team works hard and overcomes the pressure placed on them, it can improve on last year's ninth place finish at the NCAA Championship.
"We have high expectations and a lot of enthusiasm," Brockbank said. "But we still have lots of growth and need to gain some maturity."
Brockbank has reason to be excited. The Cougars return three All-Americans in Oscar Alvarez, Jake Ellison and Todd Miller, to go along with All-Mountain West Conference performer Greg Machtaler.
Alvarez finished the regular season ranked No. 64 in the nation. His 71.67 stroke average landed him at No. 6 on the Mountain West Conference leader board. He led the Cougars in scoring four times last season, including his season-low of 209 at the Barona Collegiate Cup in the fall. Twice last spring, Alvarez carded a 210. His solid performances all season earned him All-MWC honors.
Alvarez capped off his stellar sophomore season by qualifying for the U.S. Open. Alvarez was one of only six amateurs to qualify. Going to Shinnecock Hills to compete in the Open gave Alvarez a taste of some big time golf.
"Playing in the Open really added some fuel to Oscar's fire," Brockbank said. "He knows what it takes to get to that level."
Brockbank preaches that the Cougars need to improve their mental toughness if they want to take their game to another level as a team.
"We need to get over the hump," he said. "We need to be in contention early. We finished second or third a lot last year. We've got to work to get passed that."
Junior Todd Miller will be looked upon to lead the Cougars this year. Miller finished the season at No. 12 on the conference leader board. He also used his No. 30 finish at the NCAA Championship to catch the attention of the Golf Coaches of America Association to garner his first All-American citation.
Twice during the year, Miller led the Cougars in scoring.
The son of PGA golfer Johnny Miller worked hard during the summer and finished second at the Utah State Am. But Brockbank said Miller's greatest asset is his ability to lead.
"Todd is as fine a person as I've ever known," Brockbank said. "He's a great student athlete. He's just a great leader."
Jake Ellison is coming off a sensational freshman year. Brockbank said Ellison set a high standard for himself last year. Ellison is a confident, solid player with lots of natural ability, Brockbank said.
The Georgia Tech transfer led the Cougars in scoring three times. He was also honored as an All-MWC golfer.
Machtaler returns to BYU for his senior season after a solid junior campaign. He finished last year with five Top-20 finishes and will be counted on to contribute to team's success this coming season.
Chris Graham, Ron Harvey, Jr., Greg Hunt and Clay Ogden will all need to contribute if the Cougars plan to get back to the NCAA Championship. Brockbank said each of these players has worked hard during the summer to improve their games.
The Cougars begin the season on Sept. 27 at Seattle, Wash. in the Opus NW Husky schedule and finish the regular season at home on April 22, 2005 for the PING Cougar Classic.
Losing only one golfer to graduation, the Cougars have become a close-knit group because they've been playing together for more than a year.
"They really believe in each other," Brockbank said. "They have great team chemistry."
With all the pressure on the Cougars this year, they'll need that chemistry and confidence in each other if they want to be better than they were last year. After all, a diamond only comes from a lot of pressure, chemistry and hard work.