Peter Kuest is expected to win it all, but will his BYU teammates follow with high-caliber play?
That’s the scene for the Cougars at the league’s golf championship this week.
Kuest, a Cougar junior, is favored to pick up his sixth collegiate tournament title of the season when the West Coast Conference golf championship begins at the Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton, California, on Thursday.
A top five player in the nation and invitee to the Arnold Palmer Cup team, Kuest’s length and accuracy should make him the favorite to win individual honors. He did so as a freshman.
Kuest is fresh off a commanding eight-shot individual victory (64-66-69 199) at the Ping Cougar Classic last weekend at Riverside Country Club. Now, for the fifth year of a rotating site plan, the WCC tournament will be held on the home course of a league member, this time Pacific. Each time the host team has won the title.
BYU head golf coach Bruce Brockbank watched his team go 13-under par in the final six holes of a 54-hole Cougar Classic to win its own event last Saturday at Riverside.
“Hopefully that win gave us a bit of confidence,” said Brockbank. “You know, we haven't played too well this semester. So, just to be able to come out and make some birdies when we really need to, I think that will get at least a little momentum.
“We just haven't been able to get much going. So that was the start. Peter obviously is playing great. We'll need him to continue to do that. But as you know, it's a great conference and everybody's got to play their best if we're going to have a chance to win.”
Kuest has won five college tournaments this year. Brockbank claims this should make him the favorite. He was ranked No. 7 nationally last week.
“The league has some kids that have won tournaments, but not like Peter has. That's why he's got to be the front runner for Player of the Year for sure,” said Brockbank.
The Spanos course will have water on several holes like East Bay in Provo, but it’s the wind that will really challenge the field.
“When we played it in the fall, there was not a lot of wind," Brockbank said. "It’s pretty straightforward but from what I gather, the rough will be grown high and if you miss fairways, it will be very tough to advance the ball, so hitting fairways will be a premium. It will play very different from what we saw in the fall.”
It is a comfort to have Kuest leading the way for Brockbank. He can be counted upon. But for a team win, Rhett Rasmussen, Carson Lundell, Kelton Hirsch and Chad Hardy will need to be far more consistent in making birdies than they’ve been the past four months.
A Johnny Miller protege, Kuest learned to hit a knockdown approach shot in the wind, which has given him a unique weapon when facing stormy conditions. “That’s made all the difference in the world for him and his scores,” Brockbank said.
Host Pacific, St. Mary’s, Pepperdine, San Diego, LMU and Gonzaga are all capable of winning the WCC team title. “They all have good players and have had their moments. If you aren’t capable of going 10-under par on a given round as a team, there are teams in this conference who can,” the coach said.
So, the gauntlet is set.
Kuest, then the rest.
What happens next?