For at least a few months this season, it looked as if Boise State senior Kyle Mitsunaga wasn’t going to have a chance at a storybook ending to his golf career.
After competing in 12 tournaments in 2015-16, including the 2016 Mountain West Championships, where he tied for 22nd, the Boise High graduate played in just five tournaments this season. He was taken out of the rotation for two months, due mainly to the emergence of a quartet of first-year golfers.
“Last year I was in the lineup every tournament. This year we’ve got all these new guys that are good,” Mitsunaga said. “... It’s put pressure on me. It’s not going to be handed to me.”
Rather than pout about lost opportunities, Mitsunaga continued to work. That paid off in Provo, Utah, at the PING Cougar Classic.
Mitsunaga made the cut and finished tied for 27th, and became one of five members of the Broncos’ Mountain West lineup. He will lead three freshmen (Connor Johnstone, Mason Schulze, Brian Humphreys) and first-year transfer Donny Hopoi into what Boise State hopes is a strong ending to Mitsunaga’s roller-coaster career. The championships are Friday through Sunday at the Omni Tucson National course in Tucson, Ariz.
“I don’t know that there’s a No. 6 guy on any team that’s really cheering for the 4 or 5 guy to go out there and play their best in tournaments,” Boise State coach Dan Potter said. “But if there is somebody that gets that, that understands that, Kyle’s one of them. And it takes a different kind of level of maturity to understand that. And he does.”
Mitsunaga is the lone Bronco in the fivesome who has played in the Mountain West Championships and also is the only one who has played at the Omni Tucson National Resort and Spa. Boise State, which averages 293.31 strokes per tournament — ranked eighth of 11 teams in the conference — needs him and his teammates at their best.
But Mitsunaga is just happy to be back in the fold and is prepared to finish his career with a bang.
“I believe if you keep doing the right things, good things will happen.” Mitsunaga said. “At the right times, it will all click. And hopefully, that’s this coming week.”
Mountain West golf story lines
1) The dominance of UNLV
The Rebels are the lone ranked team in the Mountain West (t-No. 17). Their average score per tournament is 283.93, nearly seven strokes better than second-place New Mexico. John Oda is the No. 10 men’s golfer in the nation, according to Golfstat. UNLV is worth the price of admission at the tournament in Tucson, Ariz.
2) Can Boise State make history?
The Broncos are in their sixth season in the Mountain West. They have never finished higher than sixth at the conference championships and were ninth in 2016. Though UNLV is the defending champion and a clear favorite to repeat, Boise State has a shot to have its best Mountain West finish, at the very least.