PROVO — You got the feeling Peter Kuest was packing his BYU golf teammates on his back all this spring, and the burden of that trek was getting awfully heavy.
But that ended Saturday in dramatic comeback fashion as the Cougar golf team put on an assault on the back nine at Riverside Country Club to win the PING Cougar Classic going away.
No. 7-ranked Kuest, nicknamed KuestStar by teammates, won his fifth collegiate medal of the year with a 17-under par 199, eight shots better than Colorado State’s Parathakorn Suyasri. It is believed to be the largest margin of victory by a medalist in the storied history of the Cougar Classic event dotted with collegians who later became PGA stars, including Augusta State’s Patrick Reed and Stanford’s Tiger Woods, the two most recent Masters champions.
Kuest carded a walk-off 12-foot birdie on No. 18 to complete a three-under 69 to go with his 64 and 66 on Friday. He didn’t have a bogey until his 46th hole of the 54-hole event. But what transpired with his friends was equally impressive.
Head coach Bruce Brockbank watched the Cougars almost embarrass themselves Friday, falling behind Denver Unversity by two shots on their home track. Yes, they were in second, but much of the team was posting big numbers. Despite Kuest’s personal 14-under, his supporting cast posted a combined (five-player score) of 16-over par.
Brockbank approached every player not named Kuest as they came through the par 4 No. 12 hole. He asked them to pick it up, like “right now.” The team responded with 13 birdies to come from four shots down to Boise State and win by five at 24-under, seven strokes lower than No. 46 Colorado State.
Former Utah State Amateur champion Kelton Hirsch and veteran Rhett Rasmussen led the charge with birdies on 13, 14 and 15. Carson Lundell birdied 13 and 15 as the Cougars had 15 combined birdies as a team on the final nine holes.
An emotional Brockbank held back tears afterward.
He’d been hard on his struggling team, challenging their toughness. “The way they played the last six holes was impressive. To see them win after the semester they’d had was just awesome.”
Rasmussen said things just had to get done. “You know, I just knew that I needed to get something going, just kind of snap out of a bad rhythm and get some good vibes. It was really tough because I struggled all week, but you know, I was able to play well when we needed it. So I'm happy about that. I just hit shots and made putts.”
Hirsch agreed. The challenge came and it was answered.
“We rallied big-time and it didn't look like we were going to have a chance to win. We're pretty confident on that back nine and knew we had to make birdies on 12, 13, 14 and 15 in order to get back the lead. We were down something like five shots.”
Hirsch said the conditions were outstanding but many in the field had to putt defensively because of the speeds of the greens and it made it tough to go right at pins and try to ram in putts.
But they went down when it counted.
Kuest's parents, who watched him win the WCC title at Riverside when just a freshman, were on hand to see their son show a rare burst of emotion on the last hole when he buried a 12-footer for a punctuation birdie.
He said he wanted to come out and take it to 20-under par on Saturday, but he made bogey on No. 10 by hitting a knockdown shot over the green. He pulled his drive on No. 12 into the right side fairway bunker right against the lip and had to chip out. He made a seven-foot bogey putt which he said was his biggest and most pleasing shot of the day.
The win gave Kuest medalist honors to go with earlier titles at the William Tucker Invitational, St. Mary’s Invitational, Pacific Invitational and John A. Burns Invitational this year.
One would think Kuest would get a little tired of packing the load and get on his teammates, but Hirsch said Kuest isn’t like that.
Kuest is stoic as a statue. He concentrates and grinds through his rounds and takes care of himself.
“Peter is a little humble, the most supportive guy you'll ever meet out there. And I mean, he just does his part and takes care of his business. And it's fun when we can come up and give him help for a win like this,” said Hirsch.