BYU golfer Carson Lundell watches a putt during the NCAA Stockton Regional on May 17, 2022. Lundell and the Cougars opened the NCAA golf tournament Thursday at 10 over par, a score that will be added to the score your team after the third round on Sunday. to BYU’s no-play-on-Sunday policy. (Austin Rustand, BYU)
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PROVO — Cole Ponich dropped a birdie on the 450-yard, par-4 15th hole to go 1-under for the day and was met with … well, mostly silence.
There were no galleries and only the occasional NCAA Tournament golfer passed by during a practice round Thursday afternoon at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona, home of the NCAA men’s golf tournament.
For most of the players on the field, Thursday was nothing more than a practice round, a tune-up before the real Friday morning begins. But for BYU, this one counted.
Ponich, who starred in Davis High, shot a 1-under-par 69 to lead the Cougars to a team score of 10-over-290 on Thursday, a score that will count as BYU’s third round officially filed Sunday in the Cougars’ bid. for the program’s first national championship. championship since 1981.
David Timmins and Max Brenchley each shot 3-for-73, while Carson Lundell, the winner of the NCAA Stockton Regional just over a week ago, added 5-for-75, and freshman Tyson Shelley 76.
Then they went back to their hotel, maybe had a bite to eat and watched a movie or recovered in some other way, and got ready to do it all again on Friday morning, this time for real, but with all the other teams and golfers in attendance. the field counting a formal score, too.
“It’s really hard to know how our scores today will compare to the other teams’ rounds on Sunday,” BYU director of golf Todd Miller said in a statement from the university. “This is a tough team and I expect to see great things from them in the days to come. I feel like our guys did a much better job handling the pressure of the first round than they have in the past.”
The Cougars will play the rest of the field on Friday for the 72-hole championship event that includes three rounds of matches to decide the individual and team championships. That includes an entire Utah team making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1988 after finishing fifth in the Oklahoma-led Norman Regional.
Reigning Utah State Amateur Champion Martin Leon will lead off the Utes flight at 9 a.m. MDT, followed by Braxton Watts, Tristan Mandur, Javier Barcos and Blake Tomlinson in a pairing that includes Georgia Southern and the College of Charleston. .
“I’m very proud of what this team achieved. It’s been our goal all year, and recently we haven’t been playing as well as we would have liked. We had a rough start today, but we really fired up in the middle of our round.” Utah coach Garrett Clegg said. “Our team has been excellent all year at hitting the hardest shots on a course and this week was no different. Today’s opening hole, the 10th, was the hardest hole on the course and we got up on our feet and five players hit perfect tee shots in the middle of the fairway.”
After 54 holes of stroke play, the top 30 teams will advance to two rounds of match play beginning Monday, May 30, with the quarterfinals and semifinals scheduled for Tuesday, May 31 before crowning a champion. on Wednesday.
The opening round has become normal for BYU, the flagship university of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with a longstanding policy of no competition or practice on Sundays. So instead of losing a round, the NCAA allowed the 41st-ranked Cougars to play Thursday with Sunday’s pin positions and as much of the field as possible with Sunday’s parameters, and they’ll just substitute that score into the third round.
The team received a religious exemption under NCAA policy for its beliefs, but it’s not without its drawbacks.
“Our team played some amazing golf in Stockton to get a chance to be here this week,” BYU coach Bruce Brockbank said. “We are grateful that the NCAA has worked hard to provide our boys with a way to compete at the highest level of college golf and our team is ready to seize the opportunity.”
Among the group, only Lundell, a senior who prepped at Lone Peak, recalls playing the single round Thursday through Sunday at the NCAA Tournament in Fayetteville, Arkansas, in 2019, the last time the program was held. qualified for the national match. After the season was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cougars didn’t even get a whiff of the regional round in 2021.
So Thursday’s round, as unique, rare or bizarre as it was, was a small price to pay to be able to compete.
“It’s definitely been a special season and a special semester,” said David Timmins, a Brighton High junior who played racquetball, spike ball and ran track in high school and also finished second in the 2015 5A state meet. “Our backs were against the wall at the end of the fall, and we had to recover in the spring to give ourselves a chance to get to Grayhawk.
“I feel like we’ve worked the last couple of months to be in the top 15. You couldn’t ask for a better team leader than Carson, that’s a tough guy to beat… I’m thankful he’s on our team.”
Timmins’ career began in Westminster before an assignment in Toronto, Ontario prompted him to transfer to BYU to pursue a career in golf.
“Coming out of high school, I really didn’t know if golf was what I wanted to do,” Timmins told ESPN radio in Utah County. “I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t really top of my priorities. So I went to Westminster and played on my home court. It fit in well.”
“But I did fulfill a mission, and that’s where I really learned that I wanted to pursue golf for a living, and I knew that in order to do that, I needed to put myself in a position for the best possibilities. The BYU program speaks for itself, with the Coach Brockbank and Coach Danny Summerhays, those guys know what they’re doing … I grew up bleeding, but I knew I needed to be at BYU to be around Coach Brockbank and Todd Miller.”
BYU kicks off Friday morning, pairing Liberty and North Florida in a group starting at 8:27 a.m. MDT.