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Bronco, Kyle take hot seat for good cause

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Kyle Whittingham and Bronco Mendenhall got an early leg up on their football rivalry for 2009 when they graciously put their faces up for praise and ridicule Monday at the Salt Lake Country Club in a traditional charity event to benefit the National Kidney Foundation of Utah.

Loser gets to be mocked in front of cameras. The winner escapes with a trophy and smiles all around.

It takes guts for both guys. I remember four years ago, this duo stood up tight as a pair of steel guitars. Nah, we don't expect much from either one. Just win. Always.

Mendenhall got to be the star Monday after his four-man-scramble team fired a 10-under par 62 but was dismantled by nine strokes at the hands of Whittingham's group, who carded a 19-under 53 on the par-72 layout.

It's nice to see both of these highly competitive men — the best football coaches in the Mountain West — pitch in for kidney donation and charity. As a guy who has been the recipient of four cornea transplants, I am personally extremely grateful for organ donors.

Deen Vetterli, chief executive officer for the local foundation that has billboards of Whittingham and Mendenhall along I-15, said organizations in other states try to duplicate this deal and fail time and time again. Their coaches are chicken when it comes to a face-off with rivals on the golf course.

Mendenhall said he didn't mind taking one for the charity.

"I decided after last year, I'd do it this way," said Mendenhall.

What way? He's not calling Mike Weir.

Instead of loading up with pro players, a tradition started at the end of the LaVell Edwards-Ron McBride era, Mendenhall's team was comprised of three of his football players — a quarterback, tight end and safety.

"If I'd known what I know now, I'd have done it this way four years ago," said Mendenhall, who brought 7-handicap quarterback Max Hall and a pair of 12-handicappers in tight end Andrew George and safety Andrew Rich.

The Country Club course played very short from the front tee boxes, and the greens had just been punched and sanded.

While Mendenhall's football players were belting out drives 280 to 300 yards long on most holes, their chipping failed at intervals and, as a group, they missed a lot of putts during a dry scoring spell.

But on the group's final hole, Mendenhall challenged his players for milkshakes and hamburgers for longest drive and closest approach shot, and the three players howled and hollered on the tee box along the northern boundary of the country club when Mendenhall out-drove them all.

Rich, who has added 20 pounds, knocked it within four feet for the hamburger. Hall made the birdie putt, stepping up last after the others had missed.

"I just had a fun time with my players," Mendenhall said. "It was four hours of uninterrupted time to just have fun, and for them, it was a chance to see their coach in a different setting."

The boys in the media group just ahead of Mendenhall all agreed, they'd never seen the BYU coach more loose, or more gabby, and he got in plenty of zingers for the reporter types on his horizon.

Meanwhile, Whittingham's group was comprised of Gladstan (Payson) head professional Tracy Zobell, former Ute golfer-turned-pro Dustin Pimm and Shane Peery, a diehard Whittingham/Ute fan who's related to Zobell. Pimm just earned an invite to the regional qualifying for the U.S. Open in Ventura, Calif., on Monday. He also won the long drive on No. 3, placing the Ute coach and his mates just 153 yards out on the par-5.

"It was fun; it was for a good cause," said Whittingham. "Our guys played fantastic, and my guys are under contract for 10 more years."

At the moment of ridicule in the clubhouse, Mendenhall got handed a Utah red and black hat and had to join BYU cheerleaders and Cosmo singing the Ute fight song. The coach chose to wear the red bill on the cap backwards on his neck — showing black.

"I can endure ridicule when it's for a good cause; it's all in fun," said Mendenhall. "And next year, I'm going to bring three different football players."

And he'll be singing once more.

The Mendenhall/BYU and Whittingham/Utah foursomes were a sideshow, an exhibition.

The story of the day was an impressive 20-under-par 52 carded by the group of Ryan Adams, Chance Allred, Tyler Adams and Keith Dyer.

That score — which bettered Whittingham's foursome featuring two top local pros — earned them airfare and an invitation to play Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spanish Bay, Poppy Hills Golf Club and the Del Monte Golf Club in the National Kidney Foundation national tournament in January 2010.

Eligible groups for that prize must have a combined handicap over 40 with only one player rated in single digits.

For more information on the National Kidney Foundation of Utah, go to www.kidneyut.org or call 1-800-TOW-KARS.

The second-place team, which also receives an invite to Pebble Beach but must pay for its own airfare, included Dave Trimble, Marty Harris, Jay Drew and Matt Thompson with a 19-under 53.

Whittingham's group recorded three eagles, two pars and 13 birdies en route to the 53.

Football-wise, Mendenhall said he's gearing up for Junior Day on Friday and then summer camps. Whittingham is also finishing up evaluations in recruiting and putting finishing touches on "cut-ups" for the first few games while gearing up for camps.

Mendenhall just returned from Lake Powell; Whittingham is set to go within a few weeks.

"I've got to tell you," Vetterli told the lunch group after the round, "this event wouldn't happen if it wasn't for these coaches. We started with Jim Fassel and coach Edwards more than 20 years ago, and every BYU and Utah coach since then has stepped up. We owe them a bunch."

One must admit it's pretty unique.

Even with Mendenhall accepting the Ute hat and quickly flipping out the red to black while saying, "It looks better this way."

E-MAIL: dharmon@desnews.com