After a second-place finish at last season's Mountain West Conference Championship and 13 consecutive invitations to the NCAA Regional Tournament, the BYU men's golf team returns an experienced squad and is fueled with new talent to strengthen the Cougar line-up.
"We're excited about the new players and the ones returning who are more prepared to play on the team," head coach Bruce Brockbank said. "We're going to need a greater level of commitment, which will breed a competitive environment in practice and during tournaments."
The team welcomes back a talented trio of players experienced in the golf circuit. Junior Canadians Greg Machtaler and Ron Harvey Jr. and sophomore Colombian Oscar Alvarez all return with solid performances from last season.
Machtaler, who led the Cougars with a team-best stroke average of 71.9 last season, recorded eight top-15 finishes and a first-team All-MWC citation. At the 2002 Fresno Lexus Classic, Machtaler nearly won the tournament earning a second-place finish (70-69-68) for a tournament career low 207. Consistent solid play earned Machtaler national attention by a No. 75 individual ranking in Golfweek Magazine's collegiate rankings.
Completing the trio are Harvey and Alvarez, who both have been regular competitors while at BYU. Harvey and Machtaler are both in the long-line of strong Canadian golfers who have gone through the BYU program. Last year, Harvey recorded a first round low 67 and seventh-place finish to led the team to a third-place tie out of 17 teams at the Aztec Invitational in San Diego, Calif. Joining BYU in January 2003, Alvarez recorded his first top-5 finish during his first PING Cougar Classic where he tied for third-place with teammate Machtaler. Like Machtaler, Alvarez also gained national attention with a No. 176 ranking in Golfweek. Alvarez made an instant impact upon his arrival at BYU and was a major contributor to the team's success last season.
"These three are all regulars," assistant coach Kyle Wight said. "They're experienced and their talent level continues to increase."
BYU will be bolstered by the return of junior Todd Miller, who is the son of PGA legend Johhny Miller and brother of the current PGA Pro Andy Miller. Miller was a regular starter his freshman and sophomore years and redshirted during the spring season after serving a mission in Chile. Coming off a great summer, Miller will look to pick up from where he left off.
Other experienced players returning to the team are Chris Graham, the team's lone senior, and sophomore Clay Bingham who both will bring added depth to this year's talented Cougar squad.
"We have a lot of new kids that have added more depth," Brockbank said. "Our firepower and competitive environment is going to increase by the additions we've made."
Coming off a great recruiting class BYU welcomes freshman standout Clay Ogden, Georgia Tech transfer Jake Ellison, Rawley Vines of Austin, Texas and junior Dixie State transfer Greg Hunt.
Highly sought after freshman Clay Ogden who was ranked Utah's No. 1 high school golfer joins the team with a highly decorated portfolio. A four-time All-State and All-Region selection, Ogden has also earned top marks and several national tournament finishes including a third-place finish at the Junior World in 1999. Ogden follows the footsteps of fellow Davis High School grad Daniel Summerhays who was named Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year and first-team All-MWC last season for the Cougars. Summerhays will return in two years after fulfilling an LDS church mission in Santiago, Chile.
Freshman Georgia Tech transfer Jake Ellison is also a top-recruit. Ellison redshirted his freshman year at Georgia Tech, went on to serve a mission and has joined the Cougars this season with freshman eligibility status.
Junior Dixie State transfer Greg Hunt and freshman Rawley Vines are also new faces and will add talent and depth to the team.
With the competitive environment the team will breed this season, coach Brockbank said it is important for the players to "step up, be consistent, and continue to grow in their performances."
The Cougars will begin the fall season at the 48th annual William H. Tucker Invitational in Albuquerque, N.M. and compete on the road until hosting the PING Cougar Classic in April.
"We know we have as good of chance as we have in past years to be among the nations best golf programs," Wight said. "We're excited about who we've got and it will be fun to see what happens."