FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The NCAA Div. I Men’s Golf Championship is underway.
Well, for one team at least.
On a day where the other 29 teams competing for a national title at Arkansas’ Blessings Golf Club played a practice round, the BYU Cougars played not their first nor their second, but their third round.
Why? Because third round play is scheduled for Sunday, a day where the Cougars don’t compete due to religious reasons. So as soon as the morning practice round finished, BYU hit the course to play its third round on Thursday evening, just as the team did at last year’s NCAA Championship at Oklahoma State’s Karsten Creek.
Leading up to this year’s tournament, BYU played as individuals in practice to try and find the right pace and rhythm to produce the feel of a normal round, but that appeared to be easier said than done. The Cougars struggled Thursday, shooting 21-over par as a team.
“We played as a solo leading up to this tournament to try and get into a rhythm and I didn’t do a very good job with that today,” said BYU’s first man out Rhett Rasmussen, who shot a 7-over 79. “I started off horrible, wasn’t playing my own game and got off to a bad pace, but (playing as a solo) wasn’t the reason. It’s just a good, tough course.”
The team struggled with finding rhythm as individuals at last year’s championship as well. Before coming to Arkansas, BYU’s Director of Golf Todd Miller had one message for his team: take your time.
“Take some deep breaths, take some time, don’t feel like you’re in a rush,” Miller advised. “Talk to the officials, try to create some kind of normal atmosphere for yourself.”
Longtime head coach Bruce Brockbank said it was on he and Miller to try and slow the pace and help the players find a rhythm, while also noting how he and the team learned a lot from last year’s tournament.
“What we challenged the kids to do was embrace this,” Brockbank said of his team’s unique challenge, pointing out how they’d rather play a normal schedule “but that’s not the way it is.”
“You have to learn to be very patient,” said Brockbank. “It’s a great experience for them, they just have to keep it in perspective and not get too frustrated.”
While the team thinks playing a normal round the rest of the way will help, the players refused to use their situation as a crutch or make excuses. Ask any one of them and they’ll tell you: We just didn’t play well.
“It shows you a lot of character, the guys were working hard and it just didn’t happen,” Brockbank said of his team. “The best thing we can do is come out the next two days and see if we can shoot some good scores. We’re definitely better than what we did today.”
The Cougars will be back out on the course Friday afternoon at 2 p.m. CT alongside Clemson and Georgia.