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Native Utahns impressively lead BYU to WCC golf championship

Fielding five former Utah high school stars, BYU won its final WCC championship appearance at Gold Mountain

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Zac Jones tees off as he and Simon Kwon play in match play for the 124th Utah State Amateur Championship.

Zac Jones tees off as he and Simon Kwon play in match play for the 124th Utah State Amateur Championship at Soldier Hollow Golf Course in Midway on July 16, 2022. Jones, who plays collegiately for BYU, this week led the Cougars to the WCC tournament championship.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

In BYU’s final stab at the West Coast Conference golf championship, the Cougars defeated San Francisco and defending champion No. 6-ranked Pepperdine with a team comprised totally of former Utah high school stars. It took place at Gold Mountain Olympic Course in Bremerton, Washington, as the month of April concluded.

Big 12-bound BYU overcame crazy lies, relief from a tractor track and a 90-foot eagle putt in the final round to hold on for a one-shot win over San Francisco on the final day of the 54-hole WCC championship.

Sophomore Zac Jones, the defending Utah State Amateur champion, won medalist honors with a score of 9-under to lead the Cougars. BYU’s assigned NCAA regional site will be announced Wednesday on the Golf Channel.

The fact that head coach Bruce Brockbank’s team was comprised of native Utahns made this final season in the WCC even more sweet. Historically, it’s been Pepperdine at the top with everyone else chasing second. BYU finished at 21-under followed by San Francisco one shot back. Pepperdine finished 10-under.

“It’s a big course. It’s hilly with a lot of trees and the wind was swirling especially the last two rounds,” said Brockbank. “Our guys, when we get rolling, we’re a pretty good golf team. And it’s all the guys. One guy will step up one day and another guy will step up on another and that’s what happened. We just put it together. 

“We showed signs of being very good that last round, but we struggled at times as well, then we’d bounce back,” he continued. “Coming down the stretch the guys just got after it and we were fortunate enough to sneak by San Francisco.”

For his entire career, Brockbank’s teams have ridden the back of senior and All-American Carson Lundell. But this time it was young Jones, also from Lone Peak High, who led the field. BYU’s Max Brenchley finished T3 at 8-under, Lundell was T8 at 4-under, Tyson Shelley came in at T13 at 1-over while Dave Timmins was 6-over and finished tied for 27th.

The Cougars led the field with 62 birdies (San Francisco had 57 and Pepperdine 56) and were 26-under on the par-5s. Timmins led the field in pars with 40. Jones, Shelley and Brenchley were all 7-under on the par-5s. BYU and San Francisco tied with four eagles.

Gold Mountain hosted not only the Husky Invitational, but the WCC women’s championship the week prior and has a U.S. Junior Publinx and NCAA regional on its resume.

In the final round, Brockbank watched his team lead, lose the lead, take the lead, lose the lead and then finish in style with birdie-filled finishing holes. As the tournament wound down, Brenchley, who doubled No. 10, made a 90-foot eagle putt on No. 14 before making birdie on 18.

Lundell birdied 14, 15 and 18 coming home and Jones birdied 11 and 17. Shelley birdied 10, 14 and 17 to help the Cougars climb on top and put away the Dons.

Jones got relief out of a tractor track on No. 14 and saved par. On that same hole, Brenchley made his bomb eagle. “It was just one of those things where the guys came through. We needed one more birdie, then one more birdie, and they made them and we ended up on top.”

Brockbank personally feels how special this title was because of the Utahns. As a former two-time Utah State Amateur champ, a player out of Timpview High who earned all-conference honors, he’s watched former juniors like Tony Finau, Daniel Summerhays, Zac Blair, Rhett Rasmussen, Patrick Fishburn and many others make it big on the national scene.

He takes care not to discount the efforts of local players, but he knows personally that he played two strokes better in his career in Utah than when he crossed state lines to compete. He knows that can be a monkey on the back of Utah players and that’s why his five guys closing the door after being down six strokes in the final round really meant something for not only themselves and the school but for the state of Utah.

Brockbank credits Utah’s junior golf competition, Utah Golf Association tournaments and other native opportunities for both boys and girls for producing an impressive field of golfers at every level.

To have Jones come through after winning a tournament earlier in Arizona with a 16-under score was huge because BYU didn’t have to have Lundell carry the team as he’s done time and time again.

Jones was up for one of the six spots on the all-conference team going into the WCC championships. His win guaranteed the honor.

Jones, Lundell and Brenchley, as well as head Brockbank, each received WCC all-conference honors, the league announced Monday.

“I’m super proud of Zac, Carson and Max,” said BYU director of golf Todd Miller. “They have worked so hard this season to unlock the potential Bruce and I knew they had. It’s nice to see their hard work and their strong play recognized by the conference.”

Jones fired rounds of 69-66-72—207 to finish at 9-under, before making a birdie on the first hole of the sudden-death playoff to capture his second individual title of the season.

“Bruce and I knew when we signed Zac that we got a player who could win tournaments during his time here,” said Miller. “His first year coming off his mission was a challenge, but it never changed his drive or confidence and we’ve only seen the beginning of a fantastic career. He didn’t have his best stuff at the conference tournament, but still got the job done. That is the mark of a great competitor.”

Lundell earned his third-straight All-WCC first-team selection after finishing eighth at the WCC championship last week. The fifth-year senior concluded his 2022-23 regular season with nine top-25 finishes, seven top-15s, five top-10s and three third-place finishes. The two-time All-American held a scoring average of 70.5 and led the Cougars to three team championships this season.

“Carson is one of the best players I’ve had the opportunity to coach,” said Miller. “He is strong, has great course management, is an unbelievable ball striker and simply doesn’t have any weakness in his game. I’m proud of Carson and all his accomplishments during his collegiate career.”

Brenchley was named an All-WCC honorable mention after his 8-under. The junior has competed in eight events for the Cougars this season while recording four top-25 finishes and two top-10s. The Lone Peak High product was a consistent performer for BYU this year as he recorded a scoring average of 71.7.

“Max has been playing really solid golf over the last year,” said Miller. “He is always determined to improve, and it’s paid off. He had a lot of pressure to play well in that fifth spot at conference and he really stepped up. His play was a major part of us winning the tournament.”

Named WCC Coach of the Year for the second time, Brockbank has earned a total of seven such honors in his coaching career.

“Bruce just keeps adding to his hall-of-fame coaching career,” said Miller. “He has a strong work ethic and always helps his players be prepared to compete. His wise decision-making as far as who to put in the lineup has been very evident this season. I’m happy for Bruce and this recognition is well deserved.”

Here are capsules of the native Utahns who stormed to the WCC championship last weekend.

Zac Jones — Sophomore (Alpine), Lone Peak High. Earlier won the Arizona Thunderbird Intercollegiate with a score of 16-under, a three-time 5A state champion, 2019 player of the year in Utah, and defending Utah State Amateur champion. 

Carson Lundell — Senior (Alpine), Lone Peak High. Collegiate All-American, three-time 5A state champion, 2022 NCAA Regional champion at Stockton, California, 2022 and 2021 Ping Classic medalist at Riverside Country Club.

David Timmins — Senior (Sandy), Brighton High, Westminster College. All-State golf team, 2016 UJGA Eddie Hogan Cup Team, 2014 5A State medalist.

Tyson Shelley — Sophomore (Salt Lake City) Skyline High. The 2021 individual high school state champion with a 65-67, the lowest two-day total in state playoff history, Skyline Athlete of the Year as a senior.

Max Brenchley — (Alpine) Lone Peak High. Member of three-time state 5A championship team, third in Junior America’s Cup, seventh in Optimist, 15th in IMG Junior World 2017.

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Lone Peak’s Carons Lundell hits out of the sand on the 18th hole as he competes Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015, in the Class 5A High School State Championships in Midway at Soldier Hollow Golf Course. Lundell was among the BYU golfers who helped lead the Cougars to the 2023 WCC championship.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News