It was called the “Second Annual BYU Media Appreciation Golf Tournament” on Monday at Cedar Hills Golf Club, but this time it was a group of former Cougar football players, including two who are in the NFL, who ran off with the team title.

No surprise there. Of course professional and college athletes are generally going to beat a bunch of media hacks, although last year a media foursome did emerge victorious.

Really, the real winners were all who attended, as head football coach Kalani Sitake again welcomed participants by saying he noticed that legendary coach LaVell Edwards had a great relationship with media members and he wants to do the same.

“I have heard people say, ‘Oh, you are just trying to work the media with this event,’” Sitake said. “Well, I have never done that, but I have seen LaVell Edwards and how he had a great relationship with the media, and I thought that was something special.

“When he was alive and I would talk to him, he would always tell me that the media was different, but he had a huge respect for the media that actually did it the right way — the professionals,” Sitake continued, speaking to a group of reporters after the luncheon provided by Tucanos Brazilian Grill of Orem. “That’s why we want to highlight you guys and show you appreciation and make you play golf on a hot day and hang out with us, and then ask me questions afterwards.”

For the record, the team of former Cougars Blake Freeland (Indianapolis Colts), Dax Milne (Washington Commanders), Baylor Romney and Hank Tuipulotu shot a 14-under 57 in the scramble format to win the event.

A BYU Radio-sponsored team of Hans Olsen, Mitchell Juergens, Matt Jarvis and Jake Murphy tied for second at 12-under 59 with the KSL Sports Zone team of Patrick Kinahan, Jake Hatch, Jake Scott and Alex Kirry.

The BYU Radio team got the second-place prizes in a scorecard playoff.

Sitake’s team of himself, defensive coordinator Jay Hill, special teams coordinator Kelly Poppinga and offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick shot 63, barely edging the Deseret News’ team, which came in at 64.

“I just like the competition,” said Sitake, who hatched the idea last year with Brett Pyne and Kenny Cox of the BYU football sports information department.

“I like getting people out of their element and just seeing how they handle it. … This is really cool. You have to let your guard down. You are vulnerable. Because let’s fact it: none of us are that great at golf.”

BYU running backs coach Harvey Unga won the long drive competition on hole No. 4 and former Cougar and current graduate assistant Hayden Livingston had the longest drive on hole No. 11.

Is Sitake worried that his assistant coaches are getting too good at golf?

“Nope, not at all. They are not too good at golf,” he said, laughing. “The crazy thing is, I know they won a lot of the stuff today, but that was probably one out of 100 shots they made today that was actually decent. You know what I mean? So Harvey got the long drive, but you guys should have seen the other drives that I saw. They were nowhere near (that).”

Brandon Gurney of ESPN 960 Sports got closest to the hole on No. 8, while Mike Stansfield of Fairways Magazine got closest on No. 11 and got a year’s supply of pizza from Nico’s Pizza in Provo.

New BYU tights end coach Kevin Gilbride made the longest putt, while Jeff Rhineer of Fox 13 Sports won a golf bag by hitting his tee shot closest to said bag, some five feet, on No. 1.

Speaking of No. 1, the 320-yard par-4 that features the steepest drop from tee to fairway of any golf hole in Utah, current BYU receiver Kody Epps and Milne were both able to drive the green.

“I drove two greens today, both over 300 yards,” said Epps, who was just picking up the game at this same tournament last year and estimates that he is a 20-handicap but rapidly improving.

“Shoutout to my coach, Rob McLam, who is my swing coach now. I have been working with McLam Golf Academy and been getting my driver and my irons dialed in. I’m getting better. My goal is to break 90. That’s the mission.”

Receiver Chase Roberts, quarterback Jake Retzlaff, offensive lineman Connor Pay and safeties Micah Harper and Talan Alfrey also played — after arriving late due to an early morning workout session.

“Not a chance in heaven did I ever see myself loving golf as much as I do,” said Epps, who grew up in Southern California and figured he would never get access to, or be able to afford, a decent golf course there.

“I am so thankful for being out here in Utah with all the public courses and how cost-efficient it is to get out and play some good golf out here. It has definitely changed my perspective on life and changed my perspective on the game of golf. I enjoy it.”

Poppinga, who joined Sitake’s staff last season after stints at Virginia and Boise State, said Monday’s event was “unique” and he’s never seen or heard about anything like it.

“Kalani, with his personality, just loves this kind of stuff,” Poppinga said, acknowledging that former BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall wouldn’t have gone for such a thing when they were both at Virginia.

“It is a pretty special thing, with who Kalani is and what he does. Yeah, I think it is totally unique compared to other places I’ve been.”

Another team of BYU coaches — linebackers coach Justin Ena, Gilbride, Unga and cornerbacks coach Jernaro Gilford — shot a 4-under 67.

“Respectable,” Gilford said.

Two incoming transfers, quarterback Gerry Bohanon and linebacker Jack Kelly, didn’t play golf because “we just started to play didn’t want to embarrass ourselves,” Kelly said.

They participated in post-lunch interviews, however, and Bohanon said he “never experienced anything like this” during his time at Baylor and South Florida.


Retzlaff was also enjoying every minute of it.

“I could also tell you 100 things I never imagined I would be doing, but that I’ve done, at BYU,” Retzlaff said, “and my dad would say 100 more.

“Coming to this level, and doing the things I get to do, and being around the people I get to be around, it has been a different world I had no idea existed. I always wanted to be a Power Five football player, but I had no idea what it entailed, actually. They keep us really busy, but in a good way, though.”

Plenty of football was also discussed Monday. Keep watching the Deseret News for future stories on the offense, the quarterback situation, the defensive upgrades, and more, before Big 12 football media days July 9-10 in Las Vegas.

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