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HIGHLAND — If the BYU men's golf team were playing as a squad in the 123rd Utah State Amateur Championship, the Cougars might be rolling away from the pack.
As the oldest amateur tournament in Utah golf, they'll have to settle with some of the top golfers.
Playing in your own backyard has some advantages.
BYU freshman Max Brenchley shot 6-under-par 66 to tie former champion Nick Nelson in Monday's opening round of the state amateur.
A year after the state amateur leaderboard was filled with Utah golfers, Brenchley led three Cougars in the top five, including 2020 BYU graduate Spencer Dunaway who is one shot back at 67 at the longest continuously running amateur golf tournament in the world.
"I think there is a comfort level here; they play really, really well here," said BYU sophomore Brock Goyen, who carded a 4-under 68 for fourth place. "I know a couple of them are members (at Alpine), too.
"We don't necessarily play here every day, but there's definitely a comfort zone. And for me, it feels good to be back in Utah playing again."
Goyen is tied for fourth with former Dixie State golfer Tyson Tanner at 4-under 68, just ahead of the trio of Carsen Dopp, Carl Jensen and Brady Stanger at 67.
Even the 6-foot BYU sophomore from Gilbert, Arizona, took advantage of familiar surroundings Monday at Alpine, opening with four birdies on the first 10 holes to jump out to an early lead before finishing with back-to-back birdies on Nos. 17 and 18.
"I hit a lot of good iron shots," Goyen said. "I didn't really have too many balls off the fairway that got me in trouble. Keeping in play was big today."
Nelson carded six birdies and drained an eagle on No. 17 to tie Brenchley for the early lead. The 2007 state amateur champion who played at Utah Valley had just two bogeys.
Steven Croft, Braxton Barber, Camron Saunders and Ryan Brimley each shot 70 to round out the top 10 and ties.
Golfers like Brenchley who played at Thanksgiving Point on Monday will play Alpine starting at 7:30 a.m. MT in the final round of stroke play Tuesday, while golfers like Goyen who played Alpine will finish at Thanksgiving Point.
Brenchley will tee off at 2:10 p.m. in a threesome that includes BYU teammate Kelton Hirsch, who shot 2-over 74 Monday.
David Timmins, a BYU teammate who recently qualified for the U.S. amateur at Oakmont Country Club, was 4-over on the day. Timmins qualified for the United States' top national event alongside fellow Cougar standouts Carson Lundell and Cole Ponich, who are not in the state amateur field.
Reigning champion Mitchell Schow won't return to try to defend his title; the University of Utah golfer made his Korn Ferry Tour debut last week at the TPC Colorado Championship at Heron Lakes.
The top 64 golfers will qualify for match play beginning Wednesday morning at Alpine.