By Kurt Kragthorpe
The entry points into golf were very similar for Caylyn Ponich and Berlin Long. Their ultimate destinations are unknown at this stage, but what’s evident is that two Utah families have nurtured golfers who love the game and will play it for a lifetime.
The next checkpoint for these two players is May 13-14, when the Class 6A girls state tournament will be staged at TalonsCove Golf Course and Ponich’s Davis Darts will challenge Long’s Lone Peak Knights, the defending champions. Inevitably, the two will contend for medalist honors and be compared to each other, after each posted a score in the mid-60s in a high school tournament as a freshman (Ponich is now a junior).
Yet each of them has her own, developing story in golf. And it is apparent that they will be more concerned about the team competition in Saratoga Springs, having embraced that part of high school golf.
This is the first thing anyone familiar with Utah junior golf wonders about Caylyn: Is she Cole Ponich’s sister? Yes. Living at Jeremy Ranch at the time, Tom and Becky Ponich didn’t have designs on building a family of junior golf stars and future collegians (or beyond), they just wanted a sport the family could play together. But it didn’t take long for the children, who are a year apart in school, to become interested in playing in tournaments.
Cole has gone on to play in the Jr. Ryder Cup and earn a scholarship to BYU, starting in 2019. The sibling dynamic is supportive. “I’m sure it hasn’t been easy living in the shadow of his success,” Becky Ponich said. “Cole has had many opportunities that few in junior golf ever get the chance to experience. I know she somewhat feels that pressure, and I’m sure it’s not always easy, but she never shows it.”
Caylyn said, “Watching my brother and seeing how successful he is pushes me to work harder.”
The Ponich family enjoyed a memorable day last June when the siblings won their divisions of the Utah State Jr. Amateur at Oakridge Country Club, after a long week of match play.
The family’s move to Kaysville made Cole and Caylyn part of Davis High School’s golf tradition, in addition to their extensive competition in the summers. As a freshman in 2017, Caylyn shot a women’s course-record 64 at Glen Eagle, making six consecutive 3s on the back nine. “I love the team aspect of high school golf,” she said. “Each girl on the team is part of this special family we have built. We have become so close and have made so many fun memories that I will remember for a long time. We are all supportive of each other and I love each and every girl out of the 18 on the team.”
Even in individual tournaments, amid her competitive, focused nature, Caylyn enjoys the camaraderie with the other players, her father said.
Becky Ponich added, “Everyone is a friend to Caylyn, if she doesn’t know someone that she is paired with, they will be friends by the end of the round. She’s just a very sweet, loving soul and I love that about her. I think the thing I love the most about her is that she never beats herself up over anything not going her way; there truly is no drama on the course with her.”
The rest of this story is going to sound much the same, as the discussion turns to Berlin Long, who also is known for being genuinely kind to others and mature for her age. The main difference is that while she has older brothers, she’s being followed by a younger sister, Aadyn. Each sister already has competed at Augusta National Golf Club in the finals of the Drive, Chip & Putt competition. Berlin also has played in tournaments around the country, once joining Mike Weir in Nick Faldo’s Major Champions Invitational in Florida.
Rob and Courtney Long, of Lehi, were persuaded by the Joneses, another prominent Utah Junior Golf Association family, to join Alpine Country Club as a bonding opportunity. Berlin’s talent and drive became evident in early lessons with Rob Stanger at Alpine (she now works with teacher Clay Ogden). Tournament competition soon followed. Her mother, Courtney, laughingly tells the story of a US Kids event in which Berlin was the only entrant in her age group, “so she won.”
Almost ever since then, Berlin has played in older divisions of UJGA events and is willing to compete in traditional adult events in the UGA. Playing for Lone Peak this spring, she has shot a school-record 65 at Sleepy Ridge and a 66 at the Ridge.
Much like Caylyn, Berlin has embraced the team element of what she knows mostly as an individual sport. “I love the team aspect of high school golf and all the friendships that have come from it,” she said. “I have loved playing in team events for the UJGA, but high school is a whole different level of team golf. I love being able to cheer on my teammates.”
So each of them will enjoy the state tournament, and then move into another summer of high-level competition, locally and nationally. Then come college possibilities. Ponich has committed to Utah Valley University; Long still has some time to go through the recruiting process and make her choice.
And then who knows where their golf careers may take them? Tom Ponich makes a good point, in that regard. He remembers his motivation as a father, from the start. He just hoped his son and daughter would enjoy the game as much as he does, and play it the rest of their lives.
That’s what Caylyn Ponich and Berlin Long are sure to do, and they’ll pass that love of golf along to the next generation.
Kurt Kragthorpe is a Salt Lake Tribune sportswriter and frequent contributor to HER Fairways.
Photos by Fairways Media/Garrit Johnson
By Kurt Kragthorpe
Darci Olsen looks out the window toward Glenmoor Golf Course’s No. 1 tee and sees the past, present and future of a landscape that has shaped her life and continues to do so.
Creating a make-believe story to top this real-life tale would be difficult. Having grown up at Glenmoor in a Dehlin family that loves golf, becoming the course’s head professional and living through the emotional turmoil of the facility’s threatened closure last year is good stuff, and it’s about to get even better for her. Big plans are in the works with Glenmoor’s new ownership, on the property Olsen always has treasured.
“I can’t picture myself doing anything else,” Olsen said. Or anywhere else, really.
But let’s back up, because the word “picture” provides a road map for Olsen’s career. The siblings are 15 years apart, so Darci was a kindergartner when her oldest brother already was playing golf for the University of Utah. Devin Dehlin never would have known how he was influencing his sister to follow him into the golf business, but there’s historical evidence. It’s found in the drawing Darci created, saying her career ambition was to become a golf professional.
And here she is at Glenmoor, although that picture became somewhat blurry in the past couple of years. Olsen and her husband, Joey, moved home to South Jordan after they worked together for six years at Roosevelt Golf Course in eastern Utah, only to discover that an ownership dispute raised the strong possibility that Glenmoor would be sold to real estate developers.
At one point, Olsen said, “I thought it was a totally done deal.”
With the property in receivership, legal issues prevented her from becoming the face of the Save Glenmoor initiative. In practice, though, the community rallied around Olsen and her programs. “Show your value.” That’s what PGA professionals always are being told to do, and there was plenty of available evidence in Olsen’s case. The success of the PGA Jr. League, men’s and women’s leagues and other programs showcased Glenmoor’s place in the community and eventually led to a saving investment last September.
The “White Knight” whom Olsen references in detailing the story wants to be known strictly by the Glenmoor Holdings LLC title. What’s clear is that saving the course was just the start of what’s to come in the southeastern Salt Lake Valley. From his perspective as the Utah Section PGA’s executive director, a child of Glenmoor and a brother of the pro, Devin Dehlin said, “I can’t wait to see it in five years.”
The Dehlin family’s ties to Glenmoor already cover more than 40 years of the course’s 50-year history that was celebrated last summer with a 50-hole event and party. The late Pat Dehlin discovered the course and moved his family from Taylorsville, to be closer to it. Devin, Dustin, Danna and Darci all worked and played at the course, and their mother, Jeanne, still lives nearby.
Olsen keeps looking out that window as she speaks, on a rainy April afternoon. Her voice catches, as she tries to describe Glenmoor’s impact: “That’s our legacy. That’s our history. That’s a huge part of our lives.”
And that will become even more true for her, in the coming years. Her 8-year-old daughter, Randli, loves to play (“as long as it’s her idea,” Olsen clarified) and is likely to embrace the PGA Jr. League the same way that more than 100 youngsters do at Glenmoor. In the program’s third year, three levels of golfers are competing this spring, turning an individual sport into a team and family event on Friday evenings. And they deserve some of the credit for the success of Save Glenmoor, as South Jordan officials recognized what was happening.
“That was the game-changer,” Olsen said. “It totally changed their minds, just by doing my job and growing the game.”
The course is saved, but Olsen’s continually acts as if her work is just beginning. “My sister has lots of ideas,” Devin Dehlin said. “It’s like, ‘Darci, you can’t do all of ’em.’ But she does do all ’em all. It’s been fun to watch.”
She loves being a golf pro, thankful that the game enabled her to meet her husband. She was an assistant pro at Willow Creek Country Club when Joey was hired as an assistant superintendent. She started playing golf together and a marriage blossomed among the willow trees in Sandy.
Professionally, Olsen was encouraged by PGA members who kept telling her about career possibilities. “You can go anywhere you want,” they would tell her.
“I’m really lucky,” she said. “I’ve just always had great opportunities and pros that pushed me.”
She’s pleased that the Utah Section PGA is creating more chances for female pros to compete, and thankful that a male-dominated profession is so accepting of her and other women. She can picture herself, one of these years, as a section officer.
And as we know, the things Olsen pictures tend to become reality.
Kurt Kragthorpe is a Salt Lake Tribune sportswriter and frequent contributor to HER Fairways.
Photos by Fairways Media
By Jennifer Hess
Just4Golf is a trendy, fashion forward brand of high quality golf accessories that specializes in knit pompom covers. Just4Golf evokes quality, value and style with a unique mix-and-match concept that encourages every golfer to express their own personality. The Just4Golf ‘s style leads to almost-countless options for women golfers.Just4Golf head covers allow you to express yourself out on the course while supporting a company that gives back to the community. This year Just4Golf has partnered with Play for P.I.N.K., the campaign offers customers a discount on event orders of quantity, and a portion of the discount amount is donated to Play for P.I.N.K where 100% of the profits are used for cancer research. For more information on Just4Golf visit just4golf.com.
By Jacob Miller
The Utah Golf Association and Fairways Media are always looking to provide more to the Utah golfer. The latest endeavor is a project we have dubbed “Her Fairways”. Starting in April of 2019, Fairways Media and the Utah Golf Association will begin a brand-new newsletter about and for the lady golfers of Utah. The newsletter, which will be sent out six times per year, will focus primarily on the happenings of Utah women’s golf but will also feature any relevant national stories and women’s golf initiatives.
Each newsletter will contain the digital Her Fairways magazine and be accompanied by a list of upcoming events/results. Inside the digital magazine you can expect articles covering Utah women’s golf tournaments and events from around the state, equipment reviews specific to women and the latest trending topics in women’s golf. The digital magazine will be complemented by a page on the UGA website that will house more content. One exciting area that will be included online is instructional videos and tips from local and national female PGA professionals as well as Utah’s top female amateurs.
The UGA and Fairways Media are committed to continue the advancement of women’s golf in the state and we are excited to create a one-stop shop for Utah women’s golf information. The newsletter will be sent to the entire female membership of the UGA as well as other subscribers. You can find and subscribe to the “Her Fairways” newsletter on the UGA website under the “News” tab or at www.uga.org/her-fairways.
The UGA and Fairways Media cannot be everywhere, and amazing things are happening in women’s golf in Utah every day! You can help us spread news about the game here in the Beehive state by submitting articles to the UGA to be included in the Her Fairways newsfeed on the UGA website. Join in the conversation by letting us know the great stories in your area and at your club.
Jacob Miller is the executive director of the Utah Golf Association and a frequent contributor to Fairways.