Volume 24 • Issue 1 • March 2015

The Passing of a Legend

by Kurt Kragthorpe

Players of the Year

Official Monthly Digital Magazine

of the Utah Golf Association

April 2015 Issue

by Kurt Kragthorpe

Five Join the Utah Hall of Fame

by Kurt Kragthorpe

A Comfortable and Affordable

Sense of Belonging

by Dick Harmon

A Renewal at The Ledges

Utah Championship Makes a Move

by Dick Harmon

Product Review

TaylorMade, Callaway, Nike, Exotics, Sun Mountain

by Mike Stansfield

by Dick Harmon

View the March 2015 Issue Below

The Passing of a Legend

by Kurt Kragthorpe

Cover Feature • March 2015

Billy Casper loved to hug people, but he cautiously shook hands, barely extending his fingers in order to preserve the tools of his golf game.

“He knew he had this amazing gift of hands,” Johnny Miller said Feb. 14, during a funeral service that highlighted Casper’s helping hands and heart.

One of the top players in golf history, William Earl Casper Jr. died Feb. 7 at his home in Springville at age 83. He was buried in Springville’s Evergreen Cemetery.

Miller, who followed his friend as a U.S. Open champion, was among Casper’s pallbearers. In his brief, unscheduled remarks, Miller mentioned how much he owed Casper, and then backed away from the podium, having said he would need “a miracle” to avoid breaking down.

Casper ranks No. 7 in PGA Tour history with 51 tournament victories, but his lack of self-promotion may have kept his achievements from being fully appreciated. Only in his 80s did Casper really start receiving the degree of recognition he deserved.

A San Diego native, Casper spent two phases of the past 40 years living in the Utah County towns of Mapleton and Springville with his wife, Shirley, raising 11 children. Casper is a charter member of the Utah Golf Hall of Fame, created in 1991.

Proud of his golf legacy, yet always humble and gracious, Casper most recently was honored in Utah in April, when he and Johnny Miller received Lifetime Achievement awards in the Governor’s State of Sport Awards program. Health issues prevented him from attending the event,

which featured an in-person tribute from Jack Nicklaus. “Billy was just so consistent, played so well all the time week after week,” Nicklaus said that night. “I don’t think he ever really got the credit he deserved.”

In his prime, Casper was overshadowed by Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, but he competed favorably against them. His book is titled “The Big Three and Me.”

He always played along good-naturedly with the angle of being overlooked. The cover photo of his recent autobiography shows him celebrating a big putt in the 1966 U.S. Open in San Francisco. Casper liked to joke about the mixed reaction of the fans in the background, with some percentage of them being disappointed that he was overtaking Palmer. Casper trailed by seven strokes as they started the back nine, eventually forcing an 18-playoff that he won the next day.

Palmer would remain stuck on seven major titles. Casper preferred to view the ‘66 Open as his victory rather than Palmer’s loss, although he wrote, “You always think about what you denied someone else of.”

Palmer led by seven strokes as they moved to the back nine on Sunday, but Casper caught him and won an 18-hole playoff the following day. Casper also won the 1959 U.S. Open and the 1970 Masters.

Casper’s ‘66 victory was celebrated in 2012 when the U.S. Open returned to The Olympic Club. That summer, he also promoted Utah’s first United States Golf Association event, the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at Soldier Hollow Golf Course in Midway.

In 2013, he was inducted into the Utah Sports Hall of Fame, continuing a late flurry of honors that he appreciated. “If I’d been receiving the recognition at the time I was performing, I would have never accepted it the way I’m accepting it now,” Casper said. “Wherever I go in the world, it’s just overwhelming.”

One of Casper’s favorite victories came at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi in 1998, when he teamed with his son, Bobby, to win the inaugural Champions Challenge, hosted by Miller. He also won nine Champions Tour events, including the first senior tournament held in Utah. In claiming the 1982 Shootout at Jeremy Ranch, he shot a final-round 65.

Lee Benson, who assisted Casper in writing his recent autobiography, spoke during the service about borrowing a golf history book from Casper and discovering that as of the 1990 publication, Casper was listed behind only Sam Snead, Nicklaus and Palmer among the greats of the game.

Asked to guess where he ranked, Casper figured about 10th. He genuinely seemed surprised to learn where he stood in the book—even though it was on his shelf for more than 20 years, Benson observed.

Casper’s absence of self-awareness was replaced by his interest in others. “Statistics were not nearly as important to Billy as people,” Benson said.

Whether the encounters were in the Champions Locker Room of Augusta National Golf Club or at a street taco stand in his native San Diego, Casper was known to engage in personal conversations with anyone he met, said LDS Church authority W. Craig Zwick.

Julia Cervantez, Casper’s daughter, cited “babies and dogs” as natural evaluators of any person, and both groups loved him. The floral display in the LDS stake center near the BYU campus included a Masters flag, commemorating Casper’s 1970 victory at Augusta National. Casper “not only mastered his career,” Cervantez said, “he mastered humanity.”

Casper is survived by Shirley, his wife of 62 years, and 11 children. Benson once asked Casper if he ever had an entourage of coaches and advisers, as many modern-era golfers do. “Never needed ‘em,” Casper replied. “I had Shirley.”

Among the attendees were longtime PGA Tour member Doug Sanders and several Utah golf figures, including PGA Tour rookie Tony Finau. Gov. Gary R. Herbert declared “Billy Casper Day” in Utah.

Casper was beloved in the state. His absence hits home for multiple generations of golfers. Casper was “a hero in my eyes,” Finau said via Twitter. “Your legacy lives on with your family and golfers all over the world, including myself.”

In July, the Web.com Tour’s Utah Championship will move to Thanksgiving Point. That’s where Billy and Bob Casper topped a field that included father-son teams captained by Nicklaus, Miller and Hale Irwin, plus the likes of John Daly-Laura Davies and Fuzzy Zoeller-Craig Stadler. Billy Casper’s legendary putting prowess was on display that day in a scramble format that brought out the best in him, resulting in a memorable triumph.

The 2015 Utah Championship will commemorate Casper’s career, in a setting where his dual loves of golf and family once came together in another glorious performance.

 

Kurt Kragthorpe is a Salt Lake Tribune sportswriter and frequent contributor to Fairways.

Utah Golf Association
Players of the Year

by Kurt Kragthorpe

Feature • March 2015

The group of Utah Golf Association Players of the Year for 2014 includes two unrelated golfers with the same last name and two senior stars who hardly seem old enough to fit into that category.

Here’s a closer look at the performances of Zac Blair, Sirene Blair, Sue Nyhus and Kirk Siddens:

Zac Blair

Of all of Blair’s achievements in golf, this one might be the most difficult for anyone to match: He’s a UGA Player of the Year and a candidate for PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, thanks to his play in the same calendar year.

As of March 2014, Blair was an amateur golfer. By the start of 2015, he already was an established pro with nearly full access to the PGA Tour schedule.

Prior to turning pro, the former Fremont High School and BYU golfer won four of the UGA’s Player Performance Ratings events, plus another tournament. That showing was sufficient to last him for a whole season of Utah amateur golf, while he was off to international pursuits as a pro. Blair concluded his amateur career with a sixth straight Player of the Year award (solo or shared), and he’s proud of that distinction.

“Every year, it was always a goal of mine to win this award,” he said. “So to win it is a huge accomplishment. … It was extremely nice to end my amateur career with this prestigious award.”

Blair won the Coral Canyon Amateur by eight strokes, the St. George Amateur by six shots, the Sand Hollow Amateur by one stroke (thanks to an opening-round 63), the UGA Winterchamps with a near-record point total and the 18-hole Schneiter Memorial Amateur by five shots.

And then he headed to PGA Tour Latinoamerica, the Web.com Tour and the PGA Tour, all in a seven-month period. Through nine events of the 2014-15 season, Blair has made six cuts, with four top-25 finishes and a tie for sixth in the Sony Open in Hawaii. He had earned more than $500,000 and ranked 46th in the FedEx Cup standings, giving him an excellent chance of maintaining his tour card for 2015-16.

 

Sirene Blair

Much like Zac Blair, who also won a State Amateur title as a teenager, Sirene has made her name in amateur golf inside and outside of Utah. That was true again in 2014, when she reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship and the Western Amateur.

Yet there’s no doubt that winning the Women’s State Amateur trophy was a highlight of her season. That was her first State Am title, although this is her second Player of the Year award, having been recognized in 2012.

Now a San Diego State sophomore, Blair wore an Aztec hat in July when she topped former Weber State golfer Allison Cliff 1 up in the State Am final match at the Ogden Golf & Country Club.

The former Bingham High School star had gone 4 up through 11 holes, only to have Cluff win four of the next six holes to tie the match. Blair won the 18th hole with a par. “I tried just to keep my composure,” she said. “The last you want to do is get really frazzled, so I tried to stay calm. But I definitely felt the nerves, for sure.”

In the Public Links in Washington state, Blair advanced to match play as the No. 18 seed and won three matches before losing to Vanderbilt golfer Cindy Ha in the quarterfinals.

Blair’s collegiate record is not considered in the UGA award criteria, but she had an outstanding fall season for SDSU. She posted four consecutive top-10 finishes, including a second-place showing in Colorado State’s tournament and a third-place award in New Mexico’s event. Blair was named the Mountain West’s co-player of the month for September.

 

Sue Nyhus

She’s best known now as Utah Valley University’s women’s golf coach, but Nyhus is making a name for herself in the second phase of her playing career. Partly because of her move into senior golf, she soon will complete an unprecedented cycle of appearances in United States Golf Association events. When she tees off with Annette Gaiotti in the USGA Women’s Four-Ball Championship at Bandon Dunes in Oregon in May, Nyhus will become the first woman to have played in every USGA tournament. She’s already looking forward to 2018, when the USGA will conduct the first U.S. Senior Women’s Open.

The irony is that Nyhus’ UGA Player of the Year award ended Gaiotti’s two-year reign. Nyhus edged Gaiotti by one stroke in the Mary Lou Baker Open at Spanish Oaks Golf Course, shooting 73-82 and holding on at the end. A similar story played out in the UGA Women’s Senior Amateur at Crater Springs Golf Course, where Nyhus posted 71-76 to finish one shot ahead of Elizabeth Jones. In this case, however, Nyhus had to make a big putt on the final hole.

Nyhus won a first-round match in the USGA’s Senior Women’s Amateur in New Jersey, bringing back memories of 1999, when she finished second in the Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship. In fact the entire 2014 season reminded her of ‘99, “just that I’m a lot older now,” she said.

Nyhus also enjoyed competing with younger players, notably her UVU golfers (including her daughter, Kimberly). The mother and daughter advanced to match play in the State Am, and trying to keep up with her young Wolverines has invigorated Nyhus. “I’ve got the bug back,” she said.

 

Kirk Siddens

If the surprising fact that he was 50 years old was the story of the 2013 season for Siddens, 60 was his number to remember in 2014.

That’s because he shot a 60 at Rose Park Golf Course in the final round of the Salt Lake Senior Amateur. And he needed almost every bit of that historic performance just to beat Jeff Powars, topping him by two strokes. After opening with a 66 at Glendale Golf Course, Siddens remarked to Powars as they started the final round, “It looks like I’m going to have to shoot 60 to beat you.”

So he did, with a round highlighted by an eagle at the par-5 No. 12 and a hole-in-one on No. 13. Siddens described the day as “something that probably will never happen again.”

Then again, he never limits himself on the golf course. Siddens again proved that he could complete with the younger generation by winning the overall title in the UGA Tournament of Champions, shooting an opening-round 63 on Soldier Hollow’s demanding Gold Course. He followed that with a 73 and beat Kai Ruiz and Jason Hargett in a playoff.

Siddens repeated as the UGA Senior Match Play winner, with a 2-and-1 victory over Patrick Murphy at TalonsCove. In the quarterfinals vs. Rob Bachman, Siddens was 2 down with two holes to play but extended the match and then won with a chip-in on the 21st hole.

He also tied with Mike Jorgensen in the senior division of the St. George Amateur, won the UGA Four-Ball Championship with Brett Sampson, tied for third in the UGA Winterchamps and placed fifth in the UGA Senior Amateur.

Siddens practices and plays considerably less than he once did, but the results are seemingly the same or better. “It’s funny how much expectations can hurt you, the more pressure you put on yourself,” he said, explaining his success. “If I can put my finger on anything, it’s that I wasn’t expecting to do as well.”

The UGA Players of the Year were presented with their awards at the UGA Annual Meeting which was moved to January of each year to better accommodate a full golf season prior to award voting by the UGA awards committee. The meeting was held this year at Oakridge Country Club.  In addition to the Players of the Year awards, Doc Iverson was named the 2014 UGA Volunteer of the Year, Sally Milbank was given the UWGA Lady Award and Randy Dodson was named the 2014 Gold Club award recipient.

 

Kurt Kragthorpe is a Salt Lake Tribune sportswriter and frequent contributor to Fairways.

Five Join the Utah Hall of Fame

by Kurt Kragthorpe

Feature • March 2015

Selection to the Utah Golf Hall of Fame is an exclusive honor. Induction ceremonies are held every three or four years, rather than annually, ensuring that every class meets the high standards of the award.

The Class of 2015 includes five members, bringing the total of inductees to 38 since the Utah Golf Hall of Fame was founded in 1991. Jeff Beaudry, Jimmy Blair, Keith Hansen, Mike Malaska and Mark Passey will be honored later this year, with the date and details of the event to be announced. A closer look at the Class of 2015:

Beaudry will always have the distinction of being the first executive director of the Utah Section PGA, and his impact extends nationally and internationally now that he works for the PGA of America. Beyond that, his administrative style is so admired that having the section’s “Gentleman Jeff” award named for him speaks for itself.

A graduate of Cyprus High School and the University of Utah, Beaudry worked as an assistant pro at Mountain View Golf Course and head pro and general manager of the Copper Club. He joined the Utah Section PGA in its founding, after being part of the Rocky Mountain Section. The section office actually was his house in those early years.

When the PGA Tour launched what is now known as the Web.com Tour, various PGA sections were asked to stage the events. Beaudry was heavily involved in that effort, with the Utah Classic held at Provo’s Riverside Country Club from 1990-96. In the process, he helped make golf an official sport in Special Olympics International. That development stemmed from a clinic involving Special Olympics Utah athletes at Riverside, and the section’s involvement with the organization has continued to evolve, with athletes serving as volunteers for the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open. That relationship goes far beyond the usual tournament-charity affiliation.

As Beaudry once said, “It went from us just wanting to write a check to actually making a difference in people’s lives and changing perceptions.”

Describing himself as “so incredibly happy” working for the Utah Section PGA, Beaudry moved to the PGA of America in 1998. He was named the western director of PGA employment services in 2013.

Beaudry received the UGA’s Gold Club Award in 2002, among other honors from the PGA and Special Olympics.

Jeff Beaudry

Jimmy Blair

Members of the Utah Golf Hall of Fame are not selected to fill particular categories. If they were, Blair would qualify for multiple honors. He’s a player, first and foremost, and also has built credentials as an entrepreneur and operator of golf facilities.

Much like 2011 inductee Jay Don Blake, Blair thinks of himself as an active player and is taken aback by receiving the award at this stage of his career. Yet he already has done enough to merit selection.

An alumnus of Ogden High School and BYU, Blair won the 1973 State Amateur and the 1981 Utah Open, giving him a rare distinction in Utah golf history. In between, he was part of the 1976 BYU team that finished second in the NCAA Championships and sent six players to the PGA Tour.

James C. Blair III, who will turn 60 in May, has thrived on the club professional level in Intermountain area tournaments, with four Wyoming Open victories among his achievements. He was named the Utah Section PGA Player of the Year in 1987 and 2000 and is a three-time Senior Player of the Year.

He has competed in six PGA Championships and has performed well in limited access to high-level senior events, including the Senior PGA Championship and the Senior British Open.

As a businessman, Blair was ahead of his time. The golf industry has recognized that the traditional approach to attracting players needs an overhaul. Blair made that discovery long ago, incorporating family activities into his Mulligan’s Golf & Games facilities in Ogden and South Jordan. His current focus is managing SunRiver Golf Club in St. George, which he finds fulfilling.

Blair considers the rise of his son, Zac, in becoming an established PGA Tour player the “culmination” of his life in golf, with more to come.

Keith Hansen

Hansen jokes that his induction into the Utah Golf Hall of Fame will significantly raise the membership’s average handicap index. Then again, the group’s collective knowledge of the Rules of Golf will increase just as much.

The graduate of Logan High School and Utah State is considered the consummate volunteer, on both the UGA and United States Golf Association levels. He’ll contribute wherever he’s needed, from a junior golf event to the U.S. Open.

Hansen received the USGA’s Ike Grainger Award in 2013 for 25 years of service and was the UGA’s Gold Club Award winner in 2009.

His credentials include having worked for more than 1,000 days (the equivalent of nearly three years) in local events and officiating in more than 70 national championships.

“I’ve had some great things happen to me in my life, by doing what I love,” Hansen said.

He believes he has been well rewarded for service, because of his experiences in golf, and encourages others to volunteer for the same reason. He quoted the advice of longtime USGA administrator Ron Read, who always said it is amazing what can happen “if you just show up.”

Hansen has been showing up early and staying late at golf events for a long time. Encouraged by fellow Utah Golf Hall of Fame members George Marks and Mark Passey, Hansen pursued his interest in the Rules of Golf and becoming a USGA committee member and UGA president.

Mike Malaska

Mike Malaska’s victory in the 1974 Utah Open was good for him and the entire Utah golf community.

Winning that tournament in the middle of his Weber State tenure gave him the evidence he needed to pursue a golf career, and he never forgot its impact. The Granite High School alumnus has come home to play in the event nearly every year since then, even while living in Japan.

That degree of loyalty to the state is among the reasons Malaska appreciates his selection to the Utah Golf Hall of Fame, just as much as his 2011 national teacher of the year award. The induction represents “so much of my history and so much that I owe to that whole community,” he said. “It’s honoring those people, too.”

Malaska is the director of instruction at Superstition Mountain and Las Sendas Golf Courses in the Phoenix area and the worldwide director of instruction at Nicklaus Golf Academies. Having become an established teaching pro in Salt Lake City, he made a career advancement in 1991 by working with Jim Flick in the Nicklaus/Flick Golf Schools.

Malaska’s ability to combine physical fitness with the golf swing helped him create a niche in the teaching industry, making him a fixture on multiple lists of the country’s top teachers. He has produced a book and instructional DVD and been featured on Golf Channel and in magazines. His teaching style is based on his students’ physical abilities, rather than asking them to do something they’re not capable of doing. Malaska was inducted into Weber State’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999.

 

Mark Passey

A graduate of Cyprus High School and Utah State, Passey served as the UGA’s executive director in the late 1980s before moving to the United States Golf Association, where he has enjoyed a successful quarter-century tenure.

“Getting up every morning and doing what I love is exciting and fun,” said Passey, who labels himself “a bit of an impostor” in the golf industry, even after all of these years.

The former grocer from Logan has come a long way in the game. Passey, who now lives in Colorado, is the USGA’s Central Region director, with Utah as part of his territory. He was instrumental in helping the Utah golf community land the 2012 U.S. Amateur Public Links at Soldier Hollow, the state’s first USGA event. Passey downplayed his role, but it was a proud moment for him.

“I have an emotional attachment to golf in our state,” he said at the time. “I was so glad to finally see it happen.”

Passey is involved in staging several of the USGA’s annual championships. His most visible role over the years has been maintaining the handwritten scoreboard outside the clubhouse of the U.S. Open venue. That’s fitting duty, because Passey’s artistic ability became his avenue into the golf business. Dean Candland, the former Logan Golf & Country Club pro, admired Passey’s grocery store artwork on produce signs enough to have him do the scoreboards at the club, including the 1980 Utah Open. That led to more scoreboard opportunities, and eventually to the UGA and then the USGA.

Passey received the UGA’s Gold Club Award in 1993.

 

Kurt Kragthorpe, a Salt Lake Tribune sportswriter, is a member of the Utah Golf Hall of Fame selection committee and a frequent contributor to Fairways.

A Comfortable and Affordable

Sense of Belonging

by Dick Harmon

Feature • March 2015

It’s been almost 47 years since Bill Casper arrived on a Lear jet, rushed to the ground-breaking ceremonies of the new, Bill Neff designed, Bloomington Ranches and Country Club just south of St George during the summer of 1968.

The late Hall-of-Famer had just finished playing in the PGA Tour’s San Antonio Open.  A giant photo of the landscape and Casper with a gathering of dignitaries hangs on the wall of Bloomington’s boardroom to this very day.

Quoted by then Deseret News columnist George Ferguson, Casper told the crowd,” The alfalfa patches on this Bloomington site remind me of the rough I have been battling all week at San Antonio.”

The first head golf professionals at Bloomington were twins Kean and Craig Ridd.

Since that time, the course has enjoyed millions of golf rounds.  The layout is golfer friendly and fair.  It is a popular course to walk and its broad fairways and large greens make it attractive to snowbirds and a retirement community which Bloomington has relied upon for memberships since its inception.

Today, like most private clubs, Bloomington is actively pursuing an increase membership and has opened its fairways to the public on a limited basis to gain exposure and log rounds.

Bloomington’s head golf professional and general manager Scott Brandt is a 23-year veteran at the site and very familiar with the needs and demands of the southern Utah golf market, according to Bloomington Club President Bill Daley.

Bloomington has 137 active equity members and the club is looking to grow that by 115 with some remarkable membership offerings.  They include country club membership packages with no initiation fee, unlimited golf for family members and access to the driving range, swimming pool and tennis courts.

“We have an aging membership and our numbers are down.  We’re looking to invite a younger golfer who can mix with the friendly club community that is active with a myriad of fun activities offered including bridge and cribbage players, motorcycle rides and fashion shows, fine dining parties and of course championship golf.

“This is a course that has no forced carries.  The staff is friendly and approachable.  It’s not a long course and its fun to play.  The pace of play is very good and four hour rounds are common even on a busy day,” said Daley.

The new packages include the following membership choices:

Young Executive:  $199 per month for golfers between 21 and 36 for unlimited golf privileges extended to spouse and children 22 years of age and younger who reside at home.  The membership includes access to clubhouse facilities, restaurant and full bar, swimming pool, snack bar, tennis and pickleball courts and invitation to all social events and guest privileges.

Country Club Membership: $245 for individuals and $295 for families.  This package is specially priced at $210 less than what Daley currently pays as a longtime member at Bloomington.  It has full access to all amenities and no age limits or restrictions.  There is a low initiation fee and a 12-month commitment required. Unlimited rounds of golf and full club privileges make this offer one of the most popular in years.

Recognizing that growth may come from outside the St. George area, Bloomington is also offering a Seasonal Membership from $420 per month up to four months per calendar year.  The membership includes unlimited access to golf and full use of clubhouse facilities.  Privileges extend to spouse, and children 22 years of age and younger who reside at home.   The contract is flexible with no initiation fee.

With reciprocal agreements with many of the private country clubs throughout the Wasatch Front, a membership at Bloomington Country Club, at these new member offerings, is a very attractive offer for those looking for the country club lifestyle.

“Our golf course is a fun experience,” says Brandt. “You can really challenge yourself by playing our total yardage or choose the right tee box for your game and enjoy and exceptional round of golf. And our membership is an active group with a wide variety of interests that come together often, here at the club, for numerous activities and friendship. Everyone feels welcome here.”

For more information on these limited time Bloomington Country Club membership packages, call 435-673-4687.  Bloomington is located at 3174 Bloomington Drive East, St. George , Ut. Bloomington Country Club is a private equity club owned by its members. Learn more about the club and its offerings at www.BloomingtonCountryClub.com.

 

Dick Harmon is a sportswriter for the Deseret News and a frequent contributor to Fairways.

A Renewal at The Ledges

by Mike Sorensen

Feature • March 2015

While it’s been a bit of a roller-coaster ride for The Ledges Golf Club since it opened eight years ago, the scenic golf course just northwest of St. George is on an upward climb and on track to be one of the top golf courses in Utah.

It’s already one of the best courses in southwest Utah with its well-manicured layout and picturesque setting near the red rocks of Snow Canyon. But The Ledges can sometimes get lost in the shuffle with a plethora of top courses in St. George and Mesquite.

The Ledges was designed by the late Matt Dye, a nephew of Pete Dye and opened in March of 2007, under local ownership with future plans to make the course a private club. That didn’t work out and a couple of years later when the recession hit, the course was taken over by a Park City management  company and things only got worse as course conditions were in less than championship form and the course became less popular.

However, the course was re-acquired by the original owners in the spring of 2013 and things are back on track and better than ever.

Head pro Michael Sweet prefers not to dwell on the past, saying his course is on a strong path after a couple of rough years.

“The golf course is phenomenal—I’d put it against any golf course in the county,’’ he said, and that’s saying a lot considering outstanding courses such as Sand Hollow, Coral Canyon, Green Spring and Sunbrook in the area.

Under Superintendent Brian Schafer, The Ledges is in terrific shape and is a pleasure to play for golfers of all abilities with at least four tees on each hole and a layout that doesn’t beat you up.

You might call The Ledges a desert links—a course with a lot of open space and few trees, yet situated in a desert setting, with no ocean in sight. The greens are large and smooth, some with a lot of undulations, but no buried elephants or overly tricky mounds to contend with.

The two nines are actually quite different, the front nine being situated on fairly flat ground with desert on at least one side of every fairway, while the back nine is set amid the red rock with narrower fairways and some forced carries.

You start off with a slight dogleg left followed by a par-3 and go across the road for three holes, a par-5 and a par-4 that run parallel, followed by another par-3, which is only 161 yards from the back tees. Then it’s back across the road as you head toward the clubhouse, concluding with one of two holes on the course where water comes into play. The par-4 ninth has a water hazard hugging the fairway on the left side the last 140 yards to the green, which is narrow and over 100 feet long.

The 10th hole is a par-3 and then you go across the highway to the scenic holes closer to Snow Canyon.  The five-hole stretch from 12 to 16 is the best on the course.

No. 12 is a short par-3 with just a couple of small bunkers on each side, but has a beautiful backdrop of Snow Canyon. No. 13 is a downhill dogleg left to a three-level green that slopes away.

No. 14 gets narrow near the green and features a stunning backdrop of red rock. The smartest drive on the signature par-4 15th over a ravine is a mid-iron, but long-hitters might want to try to drive over a second ravine to the green. No. 16 is a dogleg right par-5 with a double fairway approaching the green and features that scary drive over a canyon. The dogleg right 17th hole has three bunkers on the left side of the fairway to avoid and then 18, like No. 9 has a lake on the left side all the way up to the green.

Local golfers around St. George love the layout, but The Ledges attracts golfers from all over—many from the Wasatch Front in northern Utah, a lot from California, which is only a few hours away, and a fair amount that make the trip from Canada, particularly during the winter months.

The course is open year-round (aside from any freak snowstorms) with the peak playing times being from February to June and September to November.

Schafer, who has been the course superintendent since its opening, said his course is one of a few in the southwest that uses rye grass, allowing the course to stay green year-round without having to be over-seeded and closed for a couple of weeks each fall.

The course features T-1 bent grass greens, which roll well and usually rate about 10 on the stimpmeter.

“It’s a fun course to play,’’ Shafer said. “You get rewarded for good shots, penalized for bad shots and you have to think your way around the course. It’s really a fair course.’’

The beautiful 10,000-foot clubhouse features a full restaurant, The Fish Rock Grille, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The restaurant also hosts monthly concerts that have proved very popular on weekend nights and can also accommodate weddings and banquets.

To get to The Ledges, you can take the Bluff Street exit in St. George and travel straight north for four miles up Bluff Street, which turns into Highway 18 for another four miles. When you get to Ledges Parkway, turn right and follow the signs to the clubhouse.

“People think it’s far away, but it’s only eight miles from the freeway and five minutes from the boulevard,’’ Sweet said. “It’s such an easy drive—just keep going straight up Bluff Street.’’

Another surprising aspect about the Ledges is that it is about 1,000 feet higher than downtown St. George’s 2,880-foot altitude, meaning the Ledges is much more playable in the summer months when the temperature is a good 6 to 8 degrees cooler, than the other courses in Washington County or Mesquite.

Like many modern golf courses, The Ledges was designed with homes around the course, although they are well off the course and tastefully blend into the surrounding terrain with the brown and tan, low one-story buildings.

The Ledges also has a new “Stay and Play” package available through The Ledges Vacations Rentals. Three units on the south side of the No. 18 fairway are available to rent as well as a unit near the No. 1 green.

The prices at The Ledges are actually lower than they were when the course first opened eight years ago, at $75 Sunday through Thursday and $85 on Friday and Saturday. And it’s hard to beat the Twilight rate of $50 with a cart any time after 1 p.m.

Sweet also believes he has the best range in the area with Titleist range balls and a spacious hitting area between the No. 1 and No. 9 holes.  The course also features a brand new fleet of carts with a GPS system that give you exact yardages to the pin.

If you’ve never played The Ledges, it’s definitely a course worth playing, and for those who haven’t been there in a while, it’s absolutely worth another look.

 

Mike Sorensen is a Deseret News sportswriter and frequent contributor to Fairways.

Utah Championship Makes a Move

Feature • March 2015

by Kurt Kragthorpe

Jeff Robbins and the Utah Sports Commission needed a place to play. Mark Whetzel and Vanguard Golf Management wanted another big event to operate.

That explains how two major players in Utah’s golf industry have teamed up at Thanksgiving Point Golf Club, staging the annual Utah Championship presented by Zions Bank.

The Web.com Tour event will be played July 30-Aug. 2, extending Utah’s long history with the PGA Tour brand. The move to Thanksgiving Point comes after a successful 16-year run at Willow Creek Country Club, where major renovations kept the venue from being able to accommodate the tournament this summer, based on the PGA Tour’s infrastructure requirements. Otherwise, the Utah Sports Commission would not have considered moving, because Willow Creek has been a very good host, Robbins said.

The contract with Thanksgiving Point is for one year, and what comes next is subject to discussion after the 2015 tournament. Whetzel’s stated goal is clear. He hopes Thanksgiving Point makes such a strong impression on everybody involved that the only choice is to keep the event at his venue.

Thanksgiving Point meets the event’s needs in terms of a championship course and the experience that Whetzel and his staff provide in having staged the Champions Challenge for 12 years. Sponsorship issues ended that event in 2009, making Whetzel eager to get involved in another big production.

Basically, Robbins and the Utah Sports Commission will deal with sponsorships and other ongoing concerns in their contract with the PGA Tour, and Whetzel and Thanksgiving Point will handle the actual tournament operation.

“We can focus on what we do best,” said Whetzel, whose group is thrilled to be “back in the game.”

Whetzel’s staff demonstrated its ability during the Champions Challenge, although that event featured an exclusive field and did not involve live television coverage. So the Utah Championship is different, with 156 players and Golf Channel’s production. Thanksgiving Point Golf Club also has hosted two Utah State Amateurs and one Women’s State Amateur.

“There’s a little bit of angst,” Whetzel acknowledged. “I know what I’m getting into in some ways; in other ways, it’s new.”

Robbins spoke of “a very, very small learning curve” for Whetzel’s staff and is confident Thanksgiving Point will be a great venue for the tournament.

The golf course itself will add a new dimension to the Utah Championship. Willow Creek produced very low scores, including a 59, creating excitement. Thanksgiving Point should develop drama in its own way, with more length and greater difficulty.

The Utah Championship will be part of the tour’s 25-year anniversary season. Originally known as the Ben Hogan Tour, the Web.com Tour made Utah part of its original calendar in 1990. The Utah Classic was conducted by the Utah Section PGA at Provo’s Riverside Country Club for seven years, before sponsorship issues ended that run. The event was revived at Willow Creek in 1999 and the Utah Sports Commission eventually took over its operation, creating the new name.

The new venue will be convenient for players, because of the hotels adjacent to Thanksgiving Point, and for spectators coming to northern Utah County from both directions, with easy I-15 access.

 

Kurt Kragthorpe is a Salt Lake Tribune sportswriter and frequent contributor to Fairways.

Product Review

Department • March 2015

by Mike Stansfield

  • TaylorMade R15 Driver

    TaylorMade

    R15 Driver

    R15 features a lower and more forward center of gravity (CG), to promote higher launch and lower spin. The Front Track system performs like a Speed Pocket, reducing spin and increasing the size of the sweet spot, and the 4° loft sleeve along with new sliding split weights (12.5g each) make dialing in your tee shots easier than ever—slide the weights to center for max distance, heel for max draw, toe for max fade, or split them for max stability.

    Combining15 years of groundbreaking technology with brand new innovations has resulted in their best driver ever according to TaylorMade.

  • TaylorMade AeroBurner Driver

    TaylorMade
    AreoBurner Driver

    The AeroBurner driver features an advanced aerodynamic shape designed with a rounder toe, raised center crown and new hosel fin to deliver maximum distance. Its new and improved Speed Pocket increases the size of the sweet spot and reduces spin.

  • Callaway XR Driver

    Callaway XR Driver

    Callaway’s XR Driver has two steps at the front of the crown to reduce aerodynamic drag and the face is 10 percent lighter.  The center of gravity is 17 percent lower than last year’s X2Hot with a ribbed structure near the crown and sole to increase the most flexible area of the face. These improvements according to Callaway make the club lighter for a faster swing speed.  Each of the lofts in the XR and the R Pro include Callaway’s eight-way adjustable loft hosel. Callaway also recently introduced the XR fairway woods, hybrids and irons.

  • Nike Engage Wedges

    Nike Engage Wedges

    The Nike Engage wedges are available in three distinct sole grinds: Dual Sole, Square Sole and Toe Sweep. The Square Sole was designed to be played with a squared-up club face while the Dual Sole offers two distinctive surfaces for a wide range of shots. The Nike Engage wedges are precision milled with X3X grooves to deliver maximum spin on full shots. The grooves have more volume and sharper edges to deliver a more consistent shot in any condition as well as a more consistent ball flight. The precision milling process that makes the X3X grooves is offered for the first time with the Engage Wedges.

    The Engage wedges will all utilize an athlete-authentic raw finish instead of chrome plating that Nike says will reduce glare as well as increase surface roughness to improve spin and control.

  • Sun Mountain C-130 Golf Bags

    Sun Mountain

    C-130 Golf Bags

    Sun Mountain expanded its collection of top-selling C-130 golf cart bags to include three different models. The C-130S stand bag is for cart-golfers who like to carry their bag to the practice range and enjoy the convenience of the stand. The C-130 7-way has a seven-way divided top for those who don’t care for the individual club dividers. And, the C-130 14-way is the traditional version of the C-130 for golfers who prefer the individual, club-divided top. All models of the C-130 feature: two full-length clothing pockets, two velour-lined valuables pockets (including one sized for a rangefinder), a beverage pocket, and several additional pockets for balls and tees and other accessories. C-130 7-way and 14-way also offer an integrated putter well.

  • Exotics E8 Fairway Wood

    Exotics

    E8 Fairway Wood

    The E8 capitalizes on Exotics technology and player adjustability to produce unprecedented distance and performance according to the company. E8 fairway woods deliver an easy-launching high trajectory.  The E8 also uses an upgraded 475 Carpenter steel cup face that is combobrazed to the hyper-steel body The shallow face design delivers easy playability and long, high-flying shots.

    The re-engineered Power Grid is longer to reach more of the heel and toe, increasing spring effect for even more surface area on the face. Cut-away steps positioned back in the heel and toe help increase MOI to maximize stability on off-center contact. The heel and toe sole relief also reduce turf drag, allowing for a maximum club head speed at impact.

    The E8 incorporates trajectory control courtesy of an adjustable sole weight. The club comes standard with a 9-gram sole weight. An optional E8 weight kit can be purchased and includes a 6-gram, 11-gram, and 14-gram sole weights.

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