Men's golf 2021 Season in Review
PROVO, Utah – BYU men’s golf finished strong in a 2020-21 season which required new leaders to guide the young team through a pandemic’s uncertainties and onto a tournament title and runner-up finish at the West Coast Conference Championships.
“We learned great lessons,” said BYU head coach Bruce Brockbank. “When we got to the end of the year, we had to try to crawl up the rankings, and the guys did a really good job.”
When the Cougars began the fall season, they not only returned to competition for the first time since the pandemic prematurely ended their season in March 2020 but did so without graduated All-Americans Peter Kuest and Rhett Rasmussen.
“We had some successful teams with Kuest and Rasmussen,” said Brockbank. “Nobody really knew how difficult it would be to fill their shoes, but that’s what we found out as soon as we teed-it-up this season.”
Despite the pandemic endangering or cancelling many teams’ fall seasons, the WCC went ahead with three small tournaments in October and November. During these season-opening events, the Cougars saw gradual improvement in their tournament standings as the team worked to find its new consistency and identity.
BYU needed new leaders to step forward and fill the shoes of their departed All-Americans, and junior Carson Lundell answered the call.
Lundell finished top-15 in each of the Cougars’ fall tournaments including a tie for second at the Rustic Collegiate Classic in Moorpark, California on Nov. 5-6. There, Lundell climbed the leaderboard with a season-best 5-under 66 in the third round to finish at 4-under 71-72-66—209.
Freshman Max Brenchley began a promising career with a bang as he tied for fifth in his first collegiate tournament at the La Purisima College Invite in Lompoc, California on Oct. 19-20.
When the spring season began, BYU began facing increasingly large and difficult tournament fields as programs around the country moved toward normalcy.
The Cougars came into the Nick Watney Invitational in Fresno, California on Feb. 8-9 having suffered from inconsistency and inclement weather at their previous tournament in Tucson, Arizona.
Led by Lundell, the team turned it around in Fresno for their first tournament championship since winning the Jerry Pate Intercollegiate in October 2019.
“We needed everybody to step-up [that] week and that’s exactly what happened,” said Brockbank. “To come out and do what they did [in Fresno] was just outstanding.”
BYU combined to finish the Watney Invitational with a 15-under-par third round, edging WCC-foe Loyola Marymount by three shots for the team title. Three Cougars finished top-10 individually with Lundell tying for first and Cole Ponich posting his first-career top-5 finish at 9-under 72-68-67—207.
Ponich, who started nine of the Cougars’ ten tournaments, again rose to the occasion with a tie for third at the Lamkin San Diego Classic on March 8-10. The sophomore from Farmington, Utah surged into the top-3 after a third round of 3-under 69.
“If Cole makes a couple of more putts, he wins his first college tournament – that’s how well he played,” said Brockbank. “As a coach, it’s just fun to see him start having the success that he’s capable of.”
BYU would finish seventh of 20 at the Lamkin Classic, placing the Cougars eight shots ahead of No. 20 San Diego State and one shot ahead of No. 22 New Mexico.
While Lundell had shown glimpses of greatness at the Rustic and Watney invitationals, he saved his best for last in the team’s final three tournaments.
Under the spotlight of national coverage on the Golf Channel, Lundell carded a 54-hole score of 5-under 68-66-72—205 to finish tied for first at the prestigious Western Intercollegiate at storied Pasatiempo Golf Course on April 12-14.
BYU then returned home to defend Riverside Country Club as it hosted the annual PING Cougar Classic. Four Cougars finished under-par while facing one of the largest fields in the home event’s history. Lundell achieved tournament co-champion with Tim Widing of San Francisco after he birdied his way to 13-under 68-67-68—203. Ponich, sophomore David Timmins and freshman Brock Goyen joined Lundell with BYU’s best scores of the weekend. Ponich came up big in the third round, carding a 6-under 66 to boost the Cougars into third and nine shots ahead of rival Utah.
With the regular season complete, BYU turned its attention to proving doubters wrong in the race for the 2021 WCC Championship. The team entered the conference tournament at Henderson Nevada’s Reflection Bay Golf Course having been picked to finish fifth in the WCC preseason coaches poll.
Despite facing two top-25 opponents in No. 7 Pepperdine and No. 25 San Francisco, the Cougars exceeded expectations to finish runner-up to the eventual national champion Waves.
Lundell again finished top-3 with a score of 10-under 68-67-71—206 and senior Kelton Hirsch propelled himself into 10th after carding a 5-under 67 in the first round.
“Kelton is like a journeyman,” said Brockbank. “He just finds a way to help the team.”
On the heels of their performances at Reflection Bay, Lundell and Hirsch each received WCC postseason honors. Lundell was named All-WCC First Team and Hirsch All-WCC Honorable Mention.
The NCAA was next to recognize Lundell with a selection to compete at the Cle Elum, Washington NCAA Regional on May 17-19.
Lundell finished Regionals tied for 33 at 6-over 74-75-70—219 for the tournament. Though unable to advance to nationals, Lundell still recorded one of the great seasons in program history.
For the season, Lundell posted five top-3 finishes, three first-place finishes, three low-rounds of 66, a final national ranking of No. 65 and the sixth-best stroke average in school history at 70.45.
“It was just an incredible performance from Carson,” said Brockbank. “He really helped the team be successful those last four or five events.”
While Lundell and much of the roster return in 2021-22, the Cougars bid farewell to four graduating seniors in Hirsch, Austin Banz, Spencer Dunaway and Brock Stanger. During the offseason, the team will reload with incoming freshmen Zach Jones and Tyson Shelley.
“Our seniors are great guys,” said Brockbank. “We’re going to miss them, but we feel like we’ve got a group of guys for next season that are going to be very competitive. I hope we’re leaving a guy home that’s averaging 72.”