Fairways Department - By Dick Harmon
Provo firefighters search through the wreckage of the Fairways Media offices in downtown Provo a week after a fire that destroyed the 100-year old building. The fire, which started in the basement of the Los Hermanos restaurant below Fairways Media, was started by “spontaneous combustion” of restaurant towels stored in the prep kitchen, according to Provo City’s Fire Marshal reports.
Randy Dodson’s cell phone contacts, relationships, and family are his most valuable possessions but it was hard to preach that the night his Fairways Media offices burned down on downtown Provo’s Center Street.
That night in February, Dodson was having dinner with me and Vince Recine, general manager of Utah’s PGA Tour Superstore, at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas some 377 miles away. We had just finished attending media day for the historic Las Vegas Country Club where owners unveiled a statue of Rat Pack star entertainer Dean Martin before a great round of golf.
Dodson received a text from this magazine’s art director, Garrit Johnson, who was working in the office a little late that night. Johnson said he smelled smoke, went outside and saw smoke billowing out of a back wall vent of Los Hermanos Mexican restaurant’s basement a few floors below the Fairways Media offices. Johnson immediately dialed 911 and while waiting for firefighters to arrive, he grabbed his computer and a handful of his external hard drive storage devices. Firemen did not allow him to return to the building. Reportedly, a firefighter fell and injured his arm trying to access the basement where an investigation days later claimed recently laundered towels spontaneously caught fire. It didn’t help that the main floor of the restaurant was undergoing resurfacing and hardwood floor stain fumes engulfed the 100-year-old building.
Dodson sat at dinner receiving photos and texts from Provo, watching in sober silence as flames overtook the building and burning through the roof. An army of firefighters and pump trucks used hoses to dump thousands of gallons of water on the fire and the roof above his offices. The fire and weight of the water crushed the roof and sent two of Fairways Media’s four offices through the floor all the way through the restaurant into the basement.
The photos and Johnson’s reports made Dodson sick. It was like each message through cyberspace dumped a brick on his chest. One after another the updates came.
After a sleepless night, he canceled the next day’s plans and returned home where snow and freezing temperatures turned the building’s smoldering remains into blocks of ice. He couldn’t inspect anything for a week.
The fire destroyed Dodson’s offices. The decor included a framed and signed poster by Billy Casper and tournament hole flags used at the USGA’s 2012 Amateur Public Links Championship at Soldier Hollow. It took down two autographed collectible PGA Tour bags by Craig Stadler and Johnny Miller, which Dodson paid nearly $2,000 for at charity auctions. Gone were nearly 28-years of back issues of Fairways magazine, the official voice of the Utah Golf Association, boxes of collectible vinyl rock and roll records, two sets of original framed first year Apple Computer posters, framed magazine covers and tournament posters from Johnny Miller’s Champion’s Challenge at Thanksgiving Point that included autographs of every golfing legend and celebrity that played over the life of that tournament. Gone also are computers, monitors, camera equipment and printers as well as smoke and water damaged files containing client contracts.
Also lost was a big chunk of Utah golf history, books of color slides of years of tournament play featuring some of the historic top pro and amateur players from the past 27-years. Gone also is a significant file of old black and white Utah Open and Utah State Amateur photograph originals donated by former sports writer Roger Graves. Dodson’s own desktop computer was filled with water, his computer screen melted, an executive desk and credenza donated to him by his father were destroyed as were two golf bags and clubs belonging to Jesse, his son. Jesse also lost a framed autographed picture of Karl Malone and John Stockton from the glory days of when Fairways Media published the Utah Jazz HomeCourt magazine. Historic framed photos of Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan and Billy, destroyed. Gone are the Utah State Amateur Media Day trophies and nameplates that were the only record of winners, a fun icon of local media who cover golf in the state.
More than 50 percent of the Fairways office floor is simply gone, as is 100 percent of the roof.
As devastating as this fire of 2019 was to Dodson, his employees and the publishing home of the UGA, it hasn’t killed the spirit of the crew. Remarkably, they found temporary space within a day at TAMS, a computer recycling business in Pleasant Grove owned by a friend, Brad Morley. On the cusp of a deadline to publish the Utah Book of Golf and the February issue of Fairways 18 digital magazine, the staff missed just about 36 hours of actual production time.
Slowly, like Phoenix rising from the soot, a recovery took hold. TAMS remarkably recovered data from Dodson’s external hard drives. The hard drives saved by Johnson’s quick-thinking action saved many years of digital photographs, story layouts, graphics, videos and production software. New computers and camera equipment will be purchased. A Gofundme effort triggered by East Bay Golf Course Head Professional Brett Watson drew an immediate response and Dodson’s business insurance is expected to cover some losses outside the valuable, irreplaceable collectibles.
Fortunately, former UGA Executive Director Joe Watts is working on a book chronicling the history of golf in Utah taken from the pages of Fairways magazine, of which he has one copy of each Fairways issue published from 1992 through 2017. “If there was anyone you’d want to have those copies in hand, it would be Joe Watts,” said Dodson. That collection takes the sting out of losing all the back copies of the magazine, now in ashes or waterlogged.
Bruce Strom, manager of Wasatch State Park for the state of Utah, found replacements for the signed Billy Casper poster and Publinx hole flag, leftovers from the national championship and the 50-year anniversary flag from Wasatch golf course. Dodson has spent hours reconstructing contracts and paperwork and his bookkeeping files, slowly reestablishing his business foundation.
Remarkably, by holding this magazine in your hands, you have a trophy representing the overcoming of a disaster, commemorated by the fire icon in the cover’s Fairways logo flag.
In weeks following the destructive blaze that left most of Fairways Media offices in the rubble of trusses, soot, ash, ice and garbage, firefighters pumped nine truckloads of water out of the basement of the restaurant. Dodson had worked at that location in historic Provo for eight years.
Dining with Dodson that night in early February when he got word of the fire, witnessing his pain ever since, and seeing he and his staff doggedly rise up through the big takedown, has been inspiring.
It’s hard to start over. But he realizes his greatest assets are his relationships over a lifetime and the 27-plus-years of the magazine. I first met Dodson when we both worked at the Daily Herald in Provo in the 90s before there was the Internet. He doesn’t quit, even in a string of bogeys and the danged doubles. He always believes a birdie is just around the next green.
That’s an attitude you can play with every single day.
Dick Harmon is a sportswriter for the Deseret News and a frequent contributor to Fairways.
Sand Hollow Amateur
By Dick Harmon
Beware, the young gun is hot this winter and he has his eyes on the Utah State Amateur.
Lone Peak senior Zach Jones continued his winter dominance by winning the San Hollow Amateur in early February. It was his second victory in the Dixie Swing which included a win at the St. George Amateur and runner-up finish at the Coral Canyon Amateur in January.
Jones, the defending 6A Utah State High School medalist, fired rounds of 70-72 for a two-under par 142 to win by four strokes over Braydon Swapp (74-72 146). Jake Vincent was third at four-over par.
Jones’ first round of two-under par was one of the only red numbers on the leaderboard at Sand Hollow although conditions were mild. His consistency through the second round was the difference.
“I was still hitting it good the second day like I was the first day,” said Jones. “I didn't make many birdies though early on. I had a couple of three putts and eventually I was over par going into my last nine holes. I already birdied 10 and 11 to get a one-under par and the rain picked up and I made a double bogey on number 12. I was able to make pars all through that really hard stretch of 13 through 16 and I birdied 17 which was my last hole.
The BYU-bound recruit, who signed with the Cougars in November, had a 20-foot eagle putt on No. 17 that he eventually tapped in for birdie but the best shot of his tournament came on the tough, picturesque par-3 No. 15 in the final round.
“The rain started to come down a little bit and it was windy and it was playing about 200 yards,” said Jones. “The pin was on the back and that green is really small. So I hit a four-iron because it was in the wind and I hit it to about 15 feet right below the hole. I think that was a really good shot because lots of people are struggling on that whole stretch towards the end and it was hard to even hit that green.”
Jones’ winter run has come with his driver. “When you put yourself in the fairway you're going to hit more greens and so it helps with irons and it makes everything better. I’ve hit fairways and I think that’s led to some good rounds.”
Jones took it to 17-under par in the three tournaments in Dixie. He finished second to University of Utah golfer Kyler Dunkle in the Coral Canyon Amateur, going six-under par. He tied Ute Tristan Mandur at 9-under at the St. George Amateur at the St. George Golf Club and won on the second playoff hole with a 30-foot birdie. It was his second win at that event in three years.
Jones took his official recruiting trip to BYU the week after his win at Sand Hollow and said he would time his two-year mission plans after high school graduation in May so he can compete in the Utah State Amateur in July.
By going winless last year in UGA Player Performance point events, Jones said he entered this season with a chip on his shoulder. “This has been a real good start and I want to play well and see what I can do the rest of the year.”
Rob Bachman shot 76-74 six over to win Super Seniors over Al Simkins by four shots. Richfield’s Mike Jorgenson won the Senior division by two shots over Randy Hicken with a four-over par 148. Richard Luke was the First Flight winner with a 7-over par 151.
Dick Harmon is a sportswriter for the Deseret News and a frequent contributor to Fairways.
Siddens’ Aces Underline Coral Canyon Am
By Randy Dodson
What are the odds?
Kirk Siddens doesn’t care, all he knows is that he doubled is career hole-in-one total, in a four hole stretch, and won the Senior Flight of the Coral Canyon Amateur, a Utah Golf Association Senior Player Performance Rankings event.
Acing both the par-3 3rd and the par-3 6th holes jump started Siddens’ opening round 7-under 65 and provided just enough cushion to edge Randy Hicken (-3) by a stroke after a final round 75, to claim the 36-hole title.
“I didn’t see it go in on the first one because of the hole location but on 6 I hit it right over the flag and it sucked back and kept trickling, trickling and then it disappeared,” said Siddens. “Then we went crazy because that doesn’t happen.”
Meanwhile, University of Utah Senior golfer Kyler Dunkle continued his winning ways with an 11-under 66-67 – 133 performance to outpace runner-up Zach Jones by five strokes to get the Championship Flight win.
Since his runner-up finish in last year’s Utah State Amateur, Dunkle has been crowned champion in the Colorado State Amateur, Low Amateur in the Utah Open, medalist in two of Utah’s fall season tournaments and now the top spot 2019 Coral Canyon Amateur.
“I’ve been able to capitalize on some of the better opportunities that I’ve had and haven’t been making too many mistakes. I’ve been able to make a lot of birdies. I hit driver every time I can and try to get down the hole as far as I can. I just need to give myself decent birdie looks,” said Dunkle.
Brigham Young University commit Jones finished the tournament at 6-under par as runner-up. Jereme Johnson shot a (+2) 73-73 – 146 to claim First Flight honors.
Randy Dodson is the publisher of Fairways magazine and president of Fairways Media.
Jones Wins St. George Am;