Carson Lundell got a big assist from Danny Ainge in Saturday’s conclusion of the 57th annual Cougar Classic at Riverside Country Club.
That assist helped Lundell tie for medalist honors.
In fact, Lundell’s 7-under-par finish in the final round was the low individual score of the day with very challenging conditions in a cold wind that pushed flagsticks sideways most of the day.
Lundell fired rounds of 65-75-65 to tie San Diego’s Ani Xu (68-68-69) for low honors. Teammate David Timmins, who shot a blistering first-round 63, finished in third place as BYU came from behind San Diego to win by seven shots in the final nine holes.
Lundell, BYU’s No. 1 player, had a weather-delayed second-round meltdown that rocked him to his core as he started the day with a pair of double bogey three-putts then hit his approach on the par-3 9th into the water.
“I don’t think I’ve ever hit it in the water on that hole,” said the senior.
When he stopped in the clubhouse to use the restroom, he said he was burning with rage over his start.
That’s when he saw Ainge, a friend of the program who has hung out with the team over the years.
Ainge reminded Lundell he was a great player and he needed to settle down and take it one swing at a time.
Ainge then followed Lundell’s group the rest of the way in the final round.
With freezing temperatures due to the wind chill, Lundell’s ears felt frozen and he could hardly feel his hands.
He’d been struggling all year with his ball-striking, riding the safety of his excellent short game.
He’d just finished runner-up at the Western Intercollegiate in the Bay Area of Pebble Beach.
With teammate Timmins struggling and his scorecard blowing up to 5-over-par in 10 holes, Lundell took the advice of Ainge and bore down.
BYU’s team followed suit.
The Cougars trailed San Diego by three at the turn in the final 18 of the 54-hole tournament.
Lundell made birdies on holes 3, 5, 6 and 8 and then made four birdies in a row on 13, 14, 15 and 16.
BYU’s team went 13 under par inside holes 13 through 17 to regain the lead and distance itself from San Diego.
Timmins birdied 15, 16 and 17 and Cole Ponich made two long birdie putts in his final four holes.
Tyson Shelley, one of the youngest players on the team, drove the No. 16 par-4 green that played down wind and sunk a 25-foot eagle putt.
Lundell described his turnaround as just hitting a different gear. Even in horrible weather conditions, he found his rhythm and it was impactful on the field.
“I bogeyed from spots where you couldn’t ask for better place to be,” he said. “Honestly, I was furious.”
Those holes were the back-end of Friday’s delayed second round played Saturday morning and included 16 and 17.
Lundell had a perfect sand wedge dead center in the fairway on 16 and came up short in the bunker and made a bogey.
He then hit a terrible shot on the par-3 17th and made bogey.
“I came into the bathroom and Danny Ainge was in there. He’s been so nice to our program and I’ve got a good relationship with him,” said Lundell.
“I told him how frustrating it was, and he kind of just talked me off the edge. I proceeded to go out and birdie six of my next seven holes. I was just stuffing it. The longest putt I had was 10 feet.”
Ainge, a former executive with the Boston Celtics organization who is now with the Utah Jazz, won the Naismith Trophy as college basketball’s player of the year when he played for the Cougars in the early ’80s.
Ainge remains one of the most competitive athletes in BYU history.
“Isn’t it just more fun to make birdies?” Ainge told Lundell. “I can’t say it was any one thing he told me.
“It was just that he was there and encouraging me. That positive energy gave me hope, and I think honestly, that made all the difference.”
BYU director of golf Todd Miller said Lundell has a lot of talent and energy. It’s just a matter of directing it in the right direction — which he did.
Head coach Bruce Brockbank praised his players for doing what they had to do in the comeback win — scoring big and going low on the back nine holes.
“We wouldn’t have been where we were on Saturday if it wasn’t for the 63 by Timmins on the first day,” Brockbank said.
“I’m happy for Carson and how he finished. He did what he had to do and what we know he is capable of doing.”
BYU and San Diego meet next week at Lake Las Vegas in Henderson at the West Coast Conference championships.