The hike, an all-day trek in September to the top of 11,750-foot
Mount Timpanogos, which overlooks the Brigham Young campus in
Provo, Utah, was supposed to be a fun, get-to-know-you
experience for the BYU golf team. But on the way down, a mile
and a half from the base of the mountain, Andy Miller, a
two-time All-America and the team's unofficial leader, broke
into a jog and turned the hike into a race.
The race was won when the southbound Cougars ran into some
northbound hikers on a narrow portion of the trail. While most
of the Cougars slowed, wily senior Matt Thurmond made a
strategic detour through the woods--"Caught 'em with their pants
down," he says--and reappeared on the trail in front of his
surprised teammates. "When Andy and I saw Thurm jump around us,
we looked at each other and started sprinting after him," says
Todd Miller, a freshman and Andy's younger brother. It was a
twist-and-shout mad dash to the finish.
What kind of golfers race down mountains? Really competitive
ones, which is one reason 23rd-ranked BYU is a bona fide NCAA
contender. Much of the fire comes from the Cougars' version of
My Three Sons. This year Scott Miller, a 22-year-old sophomore,
has joined brothers Andy (20) and Todd (18) on the BYU roster.
The Millers are the three youngest sons of NBC analyst and Hall
of Fame member Johnny Miller, who attended BYU from 1965 to '68.
The boys, along with another brother, 28-year-old John Jr., a
club pro in Utah--they also have two sisters--have been
competing against one another for years. "Whenever I play
basketball or soccer or anything with them, we might fool around
at first," says Todd, "but at the end we're intense."
The Millers hope to restore BYU as a golf powerhouse. From 1975
to '82 the Cougars finished no worse than fifth in the NCAAs and
won the national title in '81. At the very least BYU would like
to get back to the big dance next June at Hazeltine National in
Minneapolis, something it hasn't done since 1993. The Cougars
are off to a good start. In their first big tournament in the
fall portion of the season, they finished a strong second to
Texas at the Tucker Invitational in Albuquerque despite the
absence of junior Jesse Hibler, who played in a Nike tour event
that week. In addition to the Millers and Hibler, the Cougars
can count on sophomore Billy Harvey, whose father, William
Harvey, played at BYU with Johnny Miller. Billy shares the Las
Vegas Country Club record (62) with Tour player Jim Gallagher
Jr. "Can we win the national championship?" says BYU coach Bruce
Brockbank. "If we get going good, I believe so. We've got five
or six guys who believe we can, too."
Defending champ UNLV will be tough to beat, as will Georgia
Tech, led by Matt Kuchar. Texas's Fab Five freshmen--Culley
Barragan, Matt Brost, David Gossett, John Klauk and Russell
Surber--make up one of the best recruiting classes ever.
Georgia, Clemson and Texas Christian are also highly rated, as
are perennial powers Oklahoma State, Arizona State, Arizona and
Whether BYU belongs with that bunch remains to be seen. The
Cougars thought they did last year, when they were ranked 23rd
going into the tournament, but they failed to advance past the
NCAA regional. Afterward, the normally quiet Andy Miller, taking
a page from a certain TV analyst, told it like it was: We didn't
make it, he said, because we didn't work as hard as those who
did. "I'm sure some of the guys didn't want to hear that," Andy
At the first team meeting this year, Andy spoke up again. "He
said, 'Guys, you've got to give it your best every day,'"
Brockbank remembers. "'If you show up late for practice or jump
out of the car and run to the 1st tee, golf doesn't mean enough
to you.' Then Todd--a freshman who didn't know anyone--stood up and
said, 'You can't quit. You can always turn a poor round into a
decent one.' He almost had tears in his eyes."
Andy, a junior who won the Western Athletic Conference title as
a freshman, is a dead ringer for his dad. He has the same round
shoulders, long arms and lazy gait. Andy is ambidextrous, plays
the guitar and is an artist. On the course he's a creative
shotmaker, a superb wedge player and a much-improved putter.
When he and his dad were paired with Jack Nicklaus and his son,
Steve, in the 1997 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Andy made
16 birdies in three rounds. "He thumped all of us," Johnny
Miller says. Later that year Andy bogeyed the last two holes to
miss qualifying for the U.S. Open by a shot and reached the
final of the Western Amateur. This summer he made it to the
Sweet 16 of the U.S. Amateur.
"Andy is a Fonzie or a Clint Eastwood type," says his mother,
Linda. "He doesn't say a lot, but everybody gravitates toward
him." Between rounds in Albuquerque, Andy was sitting in the
shade by the 9th tee, eating a sandwich, when SMU's Hank Kuehne,
the Amateur champ, walked by. That morning Kuehne had shot a 71,
Miller a 76. "Hey, Andy, let's you and I pick it up a little
this afternoon," Kuehne said. Andy, cool as always, barely
looked up. "Don't worry about me," he said. Miller shot a 71,
Kuehne a 72.
Scott, a sophomore (he left school for two years on a Morman
mission after his freshman year), is stronger and huskier than
his brothers, and if he has the choice between an easy four-iron
and a hard five, he's going to blast the five. No one was sure
how much he would contribute following the time off, but after
switching irons and getting a putting tip from Dad, Scott was
low amateur in this summer's Utah Open and the surprise
qualifier for the team BYU fielded in Albuquerque, where he shot
three impressive 70s to finish second, a shot behind Texas's
Gossett. Scott's sudden improvement has him playing like a man
on a mission, not someone just back from one. "Scott's got the
heavy hit, like Craig Stadler or Tom Lehman," says his dad, who
used binoculars to follow all of his sons at the Tucker. "He
doesn't look as if he's swinging hard or generating clubhead
speed. He's like Jack Nicklaus, who looked as if he was getting
ready to hit a 20-pound ball. He hits it long."
Some think that Todd could be the best of the Miller boys. He's
consistent, a straight driver and a good putter. Perhaps because
he's the youngest, Todd is the most determined. "Todd wants to
win so bad it kills him when he doesn't," says John Jr. "I beat
him by a stroke the other day and he didn't speak in the car for
At this summer's Canon Cup, a Ryder Cup-style event for juniors,
Todd played in the last match with his team trailing by a point.
He was up against Erik Compton, the nation's top-ranked junior,
their match was tied through 15 holes, and their teammates (plus
Johnny and Linda) had come out to watch. Todd drained a 30-foot
putt at the 16th, but Compton ran in a 25-footer to halve. Todd
made a 12-foot birdie putt at the 17th to go ahead, then sank a
clutch five-footer at the 18th to win the match and give his
team a tie. "Everybody went crazy," Todd says. "It was exciting."
As competitive as they are, the Miller boys are close, which is
good, since they share a condo near campus. They all plan to
follow Dad into golf, which won't be easy. Says John Jr., "You
think, I want to be as good as my dad, but you're comparing
yourself to one of the top 10 or 20 players ever, an incredibly
high standard you might never reach. It can be frustrating, but
it helps you get the most out of your game. You're never
satisfied with pretty good."
Losing doesn't sit well with the Millers. That's why Todd wants
another shot at Timpanogos. When Thurmond mentions that there
are other mountain trails, Todd shakes his head. "No, no, it has
got to be Timpanogos," he insists. Then he grins. "We can start
keeping our times."
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY CHRIS COVATTA Murderers' row Miller (left) taught (from left) Andy, Scott and Todd to play to win. [Johnny Miller, Andy Miller, Scott Miller, and Todd Miller on golf course]
B/W PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY CHRIS COVATTA Here's Johnny Miller was a BMOC at BYU in 1966.
"I want to be as good as my dad," says John Jr., "but you're
comparing yourself to one of the top 10 or 20 players ever."