University of Utah golfer Blake Tomlinson made a couple of trips into the trees last month at the 32nd annual Duck Invitational college golf tournament in Eugene, Oregon, but it wasn’t to hunt for a wayward tee shot during an eventual fourth-place finish.

“For my last nine holes, I was dealing with the stomach flu, and it wasn’t fun,” Tomlinson said. “But I got through it and played well and finished up strong.”

Despite the wave of illness that swept through almost everyone on the Utah men’s golf team — Tomlinson believes the Utes picked it up during a practice round a few days prior — the Utes posted their strongest outing of the season and ended up second at Eugene Country Club, 17 strokes behind champion Washington.

Three other Utes, also battling the stomach flu, finished inside the top 10 to give Utah its second top-two finish of the season.

“We are at a great regional that will be really competitive and we play a lot of our college golf on the West Coast, so it is a great opportunity to go play well on a course that we are familiar with.” — BYU men’s golf coach Bruce Brockbank

“It was a brutal day for the Utes, because we were all sick, but we all battled and showed what we are made of,” said Tomlinson, who shot 5-over 76 in the final round but still tied for second thanks to a 6-under 65 in the middle round. “That was a highlight of the season, even with all those multiple trips to the trees (to throw up).”

Even coach Garrett Clegg caught the bug, which was not COVID-19. Tomlinson said the illness and showing in Eugene galvanized the Utes. Sophomore Javier Barcos tied for sixth at 1 over, while true freshman Braxton Watts and senior Tristan Mandur tied for ninth at 2 over.

“We had a tough day today, but had a great event,” Clegg said in a school news release. “I don’t think I have ever had four players in the top 10 individually without winning the tournament. … I’m proud of the boys and excited about what this can mean for the weeks ahead.”

With Tomlinson finishing tied for sixth individually in the Pac-12 championships, Utah tied for eighth — its second-best finish since it joined the conference.

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That brings us to this week’s beginning of the 2022 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championships. The Utes teed off in the Norman (Oklahoma) Regional on Monday in the three-round, 54-hole tournament. The top five squads from each regional and the lowest individual not on a qualifying team advance to the NCAA Championships May 27-June 1 at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona.

It is Utah’s second straight NCAA regional appearance, and fourth overall.

Joining Tomlinson, Barcos, Mandur and Watts in Utah’s six-man starting lineup are 2021 Utah State Amateur champion Martin Leon and sophomore Oscar Mayfield of Highland High.

BYU also received an at-large invitation and is competing in the Stockton (California) Regional this week. Weber State won the Big Sky championship to get that league’s automatic bid and is also in the Stockton Regional.

More on the Cougars and Wildcats below.

Tomlinson’s time to shine

The NCAAs mark the final hurrah on outstanding college careers for Tomlinson and Mandur, who participated in last year’s regionals and nationals as an individual.

Tomlinson, Mandur, Maxfield and teammates Sam Tied and Axel Einarsson were among the 107 Utah student-athletes who received their degrees two weeks ago. Tomlinson’s was in family, community and human development, and he also got a minor in business administration.

“It is something that I have been working toward for a long time — an extra year, even,” Tomlinson said. “But yeah, it was really good to get it and my parents are definitely happy with me, so it was good.”

Tomlinson toyed with the idea of turning pro last summer after losing to Leon in an epic 39-hole match in the State Am finals, but is glad he stuck around and got his degree.

“Absolutely I am,” he said in a telephone interview with the Deseret News last week. “I am thankful coach Clegg gave me the opportunity to come back this year. I felt like I needed a little more development. It all worked out well.”

Tomlinson will turn pro when the Utes’ season ends.

A Skyline High product, he has conditional status on the Mackenzie Tour (PGA Tour Canada) after having tied for 16th in qualifying school last March.

“It isn’t a full tour card, but it is at least something to start on and I am just going to kinda go from there,” he said. Former Utes Mitchell Schow and Kyler Dunkle are on the Canadian Tour now, and Dunkle has some conditional status on the Korn Ferry Tour.

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Tomlinson is proud that he has been part of the Utah men’s golf program turnaround, along with his teammates. Prior to last year, Utah hadn’t played in an NCAA regional since 1992.

He said he wants his legacy to be that of a local kid who stayed home and helped the program.

“Coach Clegg took a chance on me, so I knew I had to do my best for him and everyone else,” Tomlinson said. “I knew I had a good support system behind me, my parents and family and all my friends, and Salt Lake City itself.

“Yeah, I just got a good deal from it. I have worked hard, but I have also been very fortunate for the things I have had and the people that are close to me,” he continued.

As for his and the Utes’ chances this week, Tomlinson remains optimistic, especially if they avoid the flu bug, he said with a laugh.

“None of us have played the course, so it is really hard to kinda tell how we will do,” he said. “It is our first time in Oklahoma and I mean, the scores could get crazy low, crazy high. I am just expecting to hit the ball well and try to make pars and try and make birdies and let the rest fall where it does.”

Utah golfer Blake Tomlinson will lead the Utes into the NCAA golf regionals. | University of Utah Athletics

BYU at Stockton Regional

Having placed second to defending national champion Pepperdine in the West Coast Conference championships last month, BYU is in the NCAA regionals for the seventh time in eight years. The Cougars finished in the top five in seven of 12 events this season, and won two team tournaments.

“We are at a great regional that will be really competitive and we play a lot of our college golf on the west coast, so it is a great opportunity to go play well on a course that we are familiar with,” BYU coach Bruce Brockbank said.

The Cougars are playing at The Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton, California, a 7,132-yard course near the University of the Pacific, a WCC member.

Senior Carson Lundell, juniors David Timmins and Cole Ponich, sophomore Max Brenchley and freshmen Tyson Shelley and Zac Jones form BYU’s six-man lineup.

Weber State at Stockton Regional

The Wildcats won the Big Sky title at Talking Stick Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona, in late April and Weber State’s Reese Fisher, of Medford, Oregon, won the individual title.

“I am so happy for this squad,” Weber State coach Scott Erling said in a school news release. “They have worked so hard all year and really deserved this. I couldn’t be prouder to coach this team.”

Joining Reese in competing for the Wildcats this week are former East High star Hayden Banz, Ogden’s Hunter Howe (Weber High), Isaac Buerger of Redmond, Oregon, and Pleasant Grove’s Brody Childs.