BYU’s top 17 golfers of all time

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BYU has a storied history in golf.

The 2014 BYU golf team won the West Coast Conference championship on XXX. (Photo by BYU Photo)

The 2014 BYU golf team won the West Coast Conference championship April 16 in Bremerton, Washington near Seattle. (Photo by BYU Photo)

The Cougars golfers are perennial contenders for conference championships, and the PGA tour has benefited greatly over the years with the talents of former BYU golfers.

BYU’s most successful team came in 1981. After a string of six straight top-five NCAA finishes without a title, the Cougars golf team broke through and captured the NCAA Championship. Three BYU golfers – Dick Zokol, Keith Clearwater and Rick Fehr – finished in the top 15 individually.

Today, the tradition continues. BYU’s 2014 men’s golf team captured first place last week in the West Coast Conference tournament. The Cougars’ Bruce Brockbank was named Coach of the Year, and three players were named to the 2013-14 All-WCC team.

Now the talented 2014 Cougars await the NCAA Regionals May 15-17. Perhaps in the national spotlight, a future PGA tour professional from BYU will get noticed.

Of course, the skeptics out there and saying, “perhaps not.”

Admittedly, the PGA tour is brutally competitive, and only the best of the best have a chance to become stars. But, against all odds, BYU golfers have achieved the dream in past.

Let’s look back at some of the greatest golfers to swing a club for the Cougars. Most, but not all, also had successful professional careers on the PGA Tour.

Many of these BYU all-time greats played for College Hall of Fame coach Karl Tucker. From 1969 through 1991, his teams won 19 conference championships and had 17 top 10 finishes in the NCAA Golf Championships. Tucker died at age 82 on Jan. 8, 2010, from congestive heart failure.

Brockbank recognizes Tucker’s contribution to BYU golf. “He is the reason we’ve had a great golf program over the years,” Brockbank said.

Following is our list of the BYU’s top 17 golfers of all time.

Johnny Miller (BYUCougars.com)

Johnny Miller (BYUCougars.com)

# 1: Johnny Miller (1964-1968)

Perhaps the most obvious choice for this list is Hall of Famer Johnny Miller.

Miller was one of the top golfers in the world in 1970s. He was the first to shoot 63 in a major championship to win the 1973 U.S. Open. In 1976 he won another major, the British Open. Altogether, he won 25 PGA Tour events. In Mark McCormack’s world golf rankings, Miller ranked second behind Jack Nicklaus in 1974 and 1975. Johnny won the PGA Tour money title in 1974.

Miller qualified for the 1966 U.S. Open during his freshman year at BYU, and he finished in a tie for 8th place, the low amateur by three strokes. He was all-American at BYU and graduated in 1969 with a degree in physical education.

He is currently the lead golf analyst for NBC Sports.

Mike Weir (BYUCougars.com)

Mike Weir (BYUCougars.com)

# 2: Mike Weir (1988-1992)

Michael Weir is a left-handed Canadian golfer who is most remembered for winning the Masters in 2003.

But the Ontario native has had much more success than that. He has 15 professional victories, including eight PGA wins. He was ranked in the top 10 of the Official World Golf Ranking for 110 weeks between 2001 and 2005.

He is still competing, and in the recent 2014 Masters one bad round kept him from a high finish.

Weir was a second-team All-American selection at BYU in 1992.

Mike Reid (BYUCougars.com)

Mike Reid (BYUCougars.com)

# 3: Mike Reid (1972-1976)

 An interesting fact about Mike Reid, the player affectionately known as “Radar,” is that he finished in the top-10 on the PGA tour 70 times, and the Provo resident became the first golfer to earn a million dollars prior to winning a single professional tournament.

For his career, Reid has two PGA Tour victories, one Japan Tour win and two Champions (Senior) Tour wins.

Playing for BYU golf coach Karl Tucker, Reid was an All-American from 1973-1976.

Buddy Allin

Buddy Allin (John “J-Cat” Griffith)

#  4: Buddy Allin (1964-1966)

Allin was Johnny Miller’s teammate at BYU. He won five PGA Tour events in the 1970s.

In October 1994, at the age of 50, he shot a Senior Tour record low round of 61 at the FHP Healthcare Classic. In 1997 he had a Senior Tour victory at the American Express Invitational.

He served in the Army as an artillery officer during the Vietnam War, where he was honored with the Bronze Star and an Air medal. He died in 2007 at the age of 62 from cancer.

Keith Clearwater (BYUCougars.com)

Keith Clearwater (BYUCougars.com)

# 5: Keith Clearwater (1979-1982)

Orem, Utah, resident Keith Clearwater turned professional in 1982. He has won two PGA Tour events: the Colonial National Invitational and the Centel Classic.

In 1981, his junior year, he helped BYU win the NCAA Championship and was named first-team All-American. His teammates included future professional golfers Rick Fehr, Richard Zokol and Bobby Clampett.

Clearwater has 25 top-10 finishes in PGA Tour events.

Bobby Clampett (BYUCougars.com)

Bobby Clampett (BYUCougars.com)

#6: Bobby Clampett (1977-1980)

A three-time All-American and two-time Collegiate Golfer of the Year at BYU, Bobby Clampett won important amateur titles including the Porter Cup, the Sunnehanna Amateur and the Western Amateur. He also won the 1978 World Amateur medal and was the low amateur at the 1978 U.S. Open and 1979 Masters.

Clampett played on the PGA Tour from 1980 to 1995 and began playing on the Champions Tour in 2010. He has one PGA Tour win, and two other professional victories. He had almost three dozen top-10 finishes in his career.

He is currently a television golf analyst, golf course architect, writer and professional golfer.

Rick Fehr (BYUCougars.com)

Rick Fehr (BYUCougars.com)

# 7: Rick Fehr (1980-1984)

A two-time All American at BYU, Rick Fehr won numerous amateur tournaments including the 1982 Western Amateur. He was the low amateur at both The Masters and the U.S. Open in 1984.

After earning a degree in finance, Fehr joined the PGA Tour in 1985. He won two PGA Tour events: the 1986 B.C. Open and the 1994 Walt Disney World/Oldsmobile Classic. He finished second or tied for second nine times and had 41 top-10 finishes on the PGA tour.

Fehr is currently a sports agent for professional golfers.

Dick Zokol

Dick Zokol (National Speakers Bureau)

# 8: Dick Zokol (1977-1981)

Richard Zokol was captain of the 1981 NCAA golf championship team at BYU and was an All-American, second team. He was Bobby Clampett’s roommate for three years.

The British Columbia native has played on the Canadian Tour, the PGA Tour and Nationwide Tour. He won at least one event in each tour. His PGA Tour victory was the 1992 Greater Milwaukee Open, the same year he won the British Columbia Open.

As an amateur, he won the 1981 Canadian Amateur Championship.

John Fought (BYUCougars.com)

John Fought (BYUCougars.com)

# 9: John Fought (1979-1980)

John Fought (rhymes with “boat”) was a key member of the BYU golf team for four years. He helped the Cougars win four titles at the Cougar Classic, four WAC championships and 29 total tournament titles. He was ranked No. 1 amateur by Golf Digest in 1977, the year he won the U.S. Amateur.

After turning pro in in 1977, Fought won two PGA Tour events back-to-back, the Buick-Goodwrench Open Sept. 16, 1979, and the Anheuser-Busch Golf Classic on Sept. 23, 1979. His highest finish at a major was fifth in the 1983 PGA Championship.

Injuries in the mid-1980s forced him to retire from full-time tour play. He now works as a golf course architect and plays a limited number of tournaments on the Nationwide and Champions tour events.

Ray Leach (BYUCougars.com)

Ray Leach (BYUCougars.com)

#10: Ray Leach (1968-1972)

In the late 196s when Johnny Miller departed BYU, Ray Leach enrolled. One sportswriter called it “the changing of the guard.”

Leach had a long list of amateur titles when he came to BYU, and by the time he left he had added significantly to his resume. He won more titles than any other golfer in BYU history (17), and was an All-American four years in a row. He is in the BYU Hall of Fame.

Leach qualified for the PGA Tour in 1975. In the first PGA tour of the 1976 season, Leach made the cut. He then competed in the Phoenix Open the next week, but he had little overall success on the PGA Tour.

# 11: Pat McGowan (1973-1977)

Pat McGowan, a native of Grand Forks, N.D., played on the BYU golf team with fellow PGA Tour player Mike Reid and graduated in 1977.

McGowan qualified for the PGA Tour on his first attempt in the fall of 1977. He had an excellent rookie year. Golf Digest named him Rookie of the Year in 1978. Highlights of his professional career include his victory in 1984 Sacramento Classic in the Tournament Players Series, a second-place finish in the 1978 Canadian Open and a fourth-place finish in the 1983 PGA Championship.

He married the daughter of one of golf’s leading instructors, Peggy Kirk Bell. He was playing at Pinehurst when he first met Bonnie Bell, his future wife.

# 11: Dean Wilson (1989-1992)

 Hawaii native Dean Wilson, a 1992 graduate of BYU, was the winner one PGA Tour event, The International, in 2006. He defeated Tom Lehman in a playoff for the victory.

Wilson has won six times on the Japan Golf Tour, including the Japan PGA Championship in 2001.

Although Wilson lost his PGA Tour playing rights after a weak 2009 season, he regained full tour status in 2010.

# 12: Daniel Summerhays (2002-03, 2005-07)

Daniel Summerhays, from Farmington, Utah, was a first-team All American at BYU in 2006.

While still in high school,, he won the Utah State Amateur Championship in 200 and 2001. He became the first amateur to win a Nationwide Tour event on July 15, 2007. Because he was still an amateur, he did not get the $108,000 first-place award.

He recorded his best PGA Tour finish to date in June, 2012, finishing in a tie for fourth at the Memorial Tournament. In July, 2012, he lost a sudden-death playoff to Woody Austin at the Sanderson Farms Championship.

# 13: Mike Taylor  (1964-68)

 While Mike Taylor may not have the overall accomplishments of others on this list, he was instrumental in getting BYU on track to a winning tradition. When coach Karl Tucker remembered the beginnings of BYU’s successful program, Taylor came to mind.

“Mike was the first player I saw who look like he could lead us out of the wilderness,” Tucker said.

Taylor was All-WAC for four years, an All-American in 1966 and was on the team that won the first WAC golf championship. He was inducted into the BYU Hall of Fame in 1984.

# 14: Andy Miller (1996-2000)

A four-time All-American in the late 1990s at BYU, Andy Miller was another great BYU golf team member. The son for golfing legend Johnny Miller, Andy played on the 2000 U.S Palmer Cup team in 2000.

Palmer turned professional in 2000 and played on the Buy.com (now Nationwide Tour) in late 2002. He won the State Farm Open, earning a tour card for the remainder of the year. He then earned his PGA Tour card at Q. School. His best finish on the PGA Tour was a tie for 31st at the 2003 British Open.

# 15: Mike Brannan (1974-78)

California native Mike Brannan was a four-time All-American at BYU in 1970s.

He won the U.S. Junior Amateur in 1971 to become the tournament’s youngest champion at 15 years, 8 months. That record stood for 20 years until broken by Tiger Woods in 1991 (15 years, 6 months).

Brannan turned professional in 1978 and played on the PGA Tour from 1979 to 1983. His best finish on the tour was second place at the 1979 Houston Open.

Brannan died in 2013.

# 16: Brent Franklin (1985-87)

 Like Weir, Franklin came to the BYU golf team from Canada.

While at BYU, he was All-American Honorable Mention in 1985, All-American First Team in 1986 and All-American Second Team in 1987.

One year after leaving BYU, Franklin turned professional. He won the 1988 Canadian PGA Championship and was selected as the Rookie of the Year on the 1988 Canadian Professional Golf Tour. He went to the Japan Golf Tour, where he had a lot money success, although he never won a tournament.

Franklin was planning to move to the PGA Tour after 1995, but he was seriously injured while cycling in Vancouver. He recovered but was never able to regain his earlier form. 

17: Zac Blair (2009-13)

Among the recent graduates of the BYU golf program, Zac Blair has to be considered among the most talented.

Blair turned professional this spring after winning his final amateur event, the UGA Winterchamps in St. George in March 2014. The next day he flew to Mexico where he began his professional career on the PGA Latino American Tour.

While at BYU, Blair was named the UGA Golfer of the Year five times, the most for any Utah golfer.

 

 

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Ron Bennett is a recently retired university journalism professor at Brigham Young University-Idaho, where he taught journalistic writing, editing and mass media classes. He received the Distinguished Faculty award at BYU-I in 2012, and he was honored by the College Media Advisers Association in 2002 with the Distinguished Newspaper Adviser's Award. Prior to entering education, he was a professional journalist at several newspapers, including the Gazette-Journal in Reno, Nevada.

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