By Kurt Kragthorpe
Considering the way Johnny Miller dominated the PGA Tour at various times during his career with 25 tournament victories and two major titles, there’s not much more he could have done to enhance his credentials. But a Masters victory is missing from his legacy.
The best opportunity for the former BYU golfer came in 1975, in one of the best-remembered tournaments of all. Miller tied for second place with Tom Weiskopf, one stroke behind Jack Nicklaus. Miller shot 65-66 in the last two rounds, but Nicklaus’ closing 68 was good for his fifth green jacket.
Remember, 1975 was right in the middle of Miller’s prime, coming between his wins in the 1973 U.S. Open and the 1976 British Open.
A victory for Miller would have been remarkable, considering he opened the tournament with a 75. He started the final round four strokes behind Weiskopf and three behind Nicklaus. Miller made eight birdies and two bogeys on Sunday, with birdies on Nos. 13, 15 and 17 applying pressure to Nicklaus, who had bogeyed No. 14. But Nicklaus responded with birdies at Nos. 15 and 16 and pars on the last two holes to finish at 12 under par and hold off Miller and overtake Weiskopf, who bogeyed No. 16 after taking the lead.
Miller tied for second two other times (with Nicklaus), finishing two strokes behind Charles Coody in 1971 and two shots back of Tom Watson in 1981.
By Kurt Kragthorpe
In October, for the first time in five years, the Utah Golf Hall of Fame will welcome another group of inductees.
The Class of 2020 includes 10 people, bringing the total membership to 38 since the Utah Golf Hall of Fame’s first ceremony in 1991. This class includes four members being honored in the newly created historic category, representing the selection committee’s effort to make sure deserving figures of bygone eras are remembered.
That group includes Marion Dunn, Jeannie Goddard, Florence Halloran and Lou North. The traditional inductees for 2020 are Sue Nyhus, Steve Schneiter, Riley Stottern, Doug Vilven, Joe Watts and Scott Whittaker.`
In Logan, they like to say that Conley Watts invented the one-handed shot in basketball. His son is known for being similarly forward-thinking, amid his love of history and tradition.
Joe Watts has combined those traits in his administration of golf in Utah. His 18-year tenure as the Utah Golf Association’s executive director is marked by his creation of the Arizona-Utah Shootout team matches that have become an annual competition for nearly three decades. He also has been determined to preserve the history of the game, notably driving the production of the book 100 Years of the Utah State Amateur.
Although he left the newspaper business in 1976, Watts maintained his view of the media’s valuable role in chronicling golf in Utah. Even after retiring from the UGA in 2008 at age 70, he continued to write stories almost daily about Utah-connected golfers for the association’s website.
Anyone familiar with the Watts family knows that Joe and his siblings are defined by their passion. There’s no such thing as having mild interest in a subject; they become immersed in it. In Joe’s case, golf is one of those obsessions, to the lasting benefit of golfers in the state.
Basketball also runs deeply in the Watts family; to this day, Joe is known for his early morning sessions at a recreational facility. Yet nothing quite took hold in him like golf, extending far beyond his own enjoyment of playing the game. His parents built the first home along the Logan Country Club, near the No. 7 tee, but he didn’t really pursue the game until his mid-20s.
A graduate of Logan High School and Utah State, where he played basketball as an undersized guard, Watts became the sports editor of The Herald Journal and then moved to The Daily Herald in Provo. In that role, he became enamored of the State Amateur in 1967, watching twin brothers Craig and Kean Ridd battle in a 23-hole match at Alpine Country Club as their father, Jack, watched with a mixture of pride and agony. He was hooked.
Just try finding anyone who loves the State Am more than Watts, who raised a daughter and son with his wife, Sharon. As he once told The Herald Journal, “There are just so many interesting and fascinating stories of common people, just getting a chance for their moment in the sun.”
Watts became part of a long, Logan-based history of UGA involvement, and he’s now following Mark Passey and Keith Hansen into the Utah Golf Hall of Fame. After serving as president, he succeeded Passey as executive director and became a UGA institution. His influence extended beyond the amateur body, throughout the Utah golf community.
It would be fair to say that the UGA and the Utah Section PGA were not always completely aligned. They work together well now, and that’s a credit to Watts, according to Jeff Beaudry, a former executive director of the Section: “Joe’s tenure was marked simply by, ‘What’s best for golf?’ Fortunately for golfers in Utah, that philosophy is still practiced today, making Utah unique in the country.”
Watts’ seemingly ageless nature and his enthusiasm for golf came through consistently. He once said, “I’ve never had a job I didn’t have fun at.” That includes the lumber supply business, and the Utah golf magazine he founded as the forerunner of Fairways.
This publication remains part of his legacy in a game he described as “the greatest sport for bringing a community together. It’s a unifier, not a divider.”
That’s a good summary of Watts’ own career in the game, taking him into the Utah Golf Hall of Fame.
Doug Vilven loved the Rules of Golf, yet his mind was tuned more toward creativity than rigidity. His vision for the creation of the Utah Section PGA and the Golf in the Round facility resulted in lasting landmarks that frame his induction into the Utah Golf Hall of Fame.
Born in Kansas, Vilven moved with his family to Salt Lake City and attended Highland High School. He played for the Rams’ golf team and claimed medalist honors in the state tournament, while earning a $250 scholarship from the Utah Golf Association. Living near The Country Club of Salt Lake City led to his getting part-time jobs at the facility and furthering his love of the game.
The experience of caddying for Bob Goalby in the Utah Open, then a PGA Tour stop, convinced him that a touring pro’s lifestyle was not all that appealing. So he became a club professional and worked at courses in Utah, California and Illinois after playing golf for Utah State University.
Vilven enjoyed working at Park City Golf Course, where the seasonal nature of the job gave him considerable time with his family. Eventually, his visionary side took over. He was involved in the building and operation of Golf in the Round in South Salt Lake from 1993 to 2012, with a huge driving range featuring covered stalls that allow for year-round practice.
When the weather was unseasonably warm in December one year, Vilven said he looked forward to the arrival of winter and “my little monopoly” that the snow would create.
Denise, his wife of 43 years, was heavily involved in the facility’s operation, providing much of the practical application of Doug’s dream. Vilven, meanwhile, seemingly always made a good impression on people during his 70-year life.
When he died in 2018, this was a sampling of what others said about him:
Doug Rosecrans observed, “In the 20 years we were partners at Golf in the Round, there were good times and tough times, but we never had an argument.”
Mike Jorgensen, a former Utah Golf Association board member, said, “I will never forget his smile, his amazing, happy demeanor, his love for the game and his loyalty to his friends.”
One of his students labeled Vilven “a savant in his ability to give lessons that made sense to the pupil,” adding that he was “always interested in you and your life.”
That ability to communicate made him an effective Rules official and a good broadcaster, working on live, local telecasts from Jeremy Ranch during the annual event that was part of what’s now called PGA Tour Champions.
Vilven was named the Utah Section PGA’s Professional of the Year in 1986 and 2000 and was an eight-time winner of the section’s Horton Smith Education Award. That recognition reflects his commitment to the profession and to the PGA of America, as a national board member. Vilven’s persistence was instrumental in the founding of the Utah Section PGA in 1986, after the state’s pros formerly belonged to the expansive Rocky Mountain Section. Scott Whittaker, another member of the Class of 2020, also was a key figure in that process.
In 2018, Vilven was the annual honoree of the Utah Senior Open. Reflecting on his career in an interview with Jeff Waters, he said, “I haven’t had 10 bad days, really.”
The best days included meeting his wife at The Country Club and being influenced in the profession by the likes of Tee Branca and Jimmy Thompson.
During the winters he spent at Tamarisk Country Club in Palm Springs, California, Vilven was associated with Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, the Marx brothers, Kirk Douglas and Dean Martin. All of them are memorable characters in the entertainment industry, in the same way as Vilven is unforgettable in the Utah golf community.
Scott Whittaker and other caddies would play Oakridge Country Club with mixed-and-matched sets of clubs and use golf balls they had found on the course. Those Monday rounds hooked him on the game.
“That’s when I learned to love it,” he said. “Just playing the game and being around the people.”
Whittaker’s father, Don, recognized his attachment to golf, but once asked his son if he really believed it was possible to make a living in the game. Scott succeeded, with the support of his wife, Jan. He became a head pro shortly after his father died.
Whittaker’s initial fascination with golf stemmed from the challenge of it, and his interest expanded to the many dimensions of golf. He’s known as the first pro of the course now called Bountiful Ridge, a founding father of the Utah Section PGA (he wrote the constitution) and the Section’s longtime executive director.
Jeff Beaudry, a Utah Golf Hall of Fame member and the Section’s first executive director, remembers attending a PGA Business School in San Francisco with Whittaker nearly 50 years ago. “Since that time,” Beaudry once wrote, “Scott has planned his career with one goal in mind: to make as positive a contribution as he can to golf.”
It all started in Kaysville, where neighborhood friend Ken Pettingill told Whittaker about the caddying opportunity at Oakridge when they were teenagers. From there, they became involved with the newly built Davis Park Golf Course, working for legendary pro Pierre Hualde when Whittaker was 15. As almost a “second father,” Whittaker said, Hualde “taught me the real, internal things that made a difference, in dealing with people.”
Those lessons stuck with him as he moved to Bountiful City’s new course on the bench in 1975. He would stay there until 2002, when moving into the Section’s top job became “the only opportunity that could entice me away,” as he said at the time.
During that quarter-century in Bountiful, Whittaker was a two-time Professional of the Year in the Utah Section PGA and received a UGA Gold Club Award, while also being honored twice as a Merchandiser of the Year in the Section.
His experience in the creation of the Section in 1986 helped develop his interest in the broader administration of the game, and he served as a PGA of America board member in 1993-96.
Having officiated high school basketball, Whittaker marveled about being involved in a game where players would call penalties on themselves. That’s partly why he enjoyed learning about the Rules of Golf and operating tournaments.
Among the hallmarks of Whittaker’s tenure as the Section’s executive director were the remarkable growth of girls high school golf from its infancy and the rebirth of the Utah Open as both a playing opportunity for Section members and a showcase of the game in the state. The Section’s operation of what’s now the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open is a success story, with sponsors supporting eight pro-am events during the tournament week.
Whittaker is known for having a mind that’s always working. Golf professional Steve Wathen once observed that “Scott has more good ideas in an hour than most of us have in a year.”
Implementing those ideas is the difficult part, and Whittaker made them work. His impact in Utah golf was recognized with a third Professional of the Year award in 2015, when he retired.
Beaudry recently introduced Whittaker as a winner of the Section’s Gentleman Jeff Award, while noting that the recipient would respond by listing all the reasons he was unworthy of the award. Now comes his induction into the Utah Golf Hall of Fame, with even more recognition for a deserving steward of the game.
Steve Schneiter has accomplished more than any other Utah professional golfer in history, without ever becoming a PGA Tour or Senior PGA Tour member.
That statement may even be true from a national perspective. The graduate of Jordan High School and BYU has compiled a remarkable record as a club pro, with his 12 appearances in the PGA Championship unlikely to ever be matched. In 2016, he became the first player to add a Senior PGA Professional Championship to his victory in the PGA Professional Championship, 21 years earlier.
Schneiter’s induction into the Utah Golf Hall of Fame enables him to join his grandfather, George Henry Schneiter, a charter member. Past honorees also include Ernie Schneiter Sr., George’s brother, and Ernie Schneiter Jr.
Steve Schneiter won the State Amateur at age 18, shortly after claiming a high school state title. He turned pro after an All-American career at BYU and launched his pro golf ambitions. At 56, Schneiter describes that pursuit as “a little different than I pictured.” Although he never became a PGA Tour member, his uncommon level of persistence resulted in major achievements regionally and nationally, while representing the family’s Pebblebrook Golf Course in Sandy.
Explaining his success, Schneiter said, “I’m very driven. When I get focused on something, I can block out a lot of stuff. … I’ve just always believed in my ability.”
He’s a winner of an estimated 100 pro tournaments, including the Provo Open (three times) and state opens in Idaho (twice), Wyoming (two in a row) and Arizona. He’s also a four-time winner of the Utah Section PGA Championship and has claimed four straight titles in the Utah Senior Open.
Schneiter’s biggest breakthrough came in the 1995 PGA Professional Championship at PGA West in Southern California, where he rallied from four strokes behind with a closing 68.
That victory gave Schneiter access to several PGA Tour events the following year and, more important, a lifetime exemption into the PGA Professional Championship. He took phenomenal advantage of that opportunity, qualifying for the PGA Championship on 11 more occasions, even as the number of club pros advancing to the major tournament kept being reduced.
Schneiter made the 36-hole cut in the 2005 PGA Championship at Baltusrol in New Jersey, where the low finisher among club pros was officially recognized for the first time. He posted a final-round 70, highlighted by an eagle on No. 18.
Schneiter once qualified to play what is now the Korn Ferry Tour and spent multiple seasons in Canada, while narrowly missing full access to the PGA Tour Champions schedule after turning 50. Yet he continued to thrive as club pro, making the PGA Championship field again in 2014 as a 50-year-old. He played that summer at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, where he had made his first appearance in the major tournament in 1996.
His victory in the 2016 Senior PGA Professional Championship at the PGA Golf Club in Florida featured an unforgettable moment. Facing a difficult, 15-foot par putt on the last hole, Schneiter felt the presence of his grandfather and father, the late George M. Schneiter. “I don’t know what it was, but something came over me,” Schneiter said that day.
“This one’s for you both,” he said of his relatives, during the trophy presentation.
Reflecting on his unsuccessful chase of a PGA Tour career, Schneiter said, “I just kept going, for some crazy reason,” figuring that someday “the golf gods are going to give me what I wanted.”
That didn’t happen, but everything else he’s done as a professional golfer has served to reward his talent and drive in different ways. The entrance of another Schneiter family member into the Utah Golf Hall of Fame is further validation.
Sue Nyhus holds a distinction as the only person ever to have played in every United States Golf Association championship available to her. That statement overlooks the best part of the story, how the USGA kept adding new events and she just kept qualifying for them, maintaining her achievement.
Nyhus’ participation in the 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball (with Annette Gaiotti) and the 2019 U.S. Senior Women’s Open extended her remarkable record, covering nearly 40 years of USGA competition.
It all started in the U.S. Girls’ Junior in 1980, before the former Sue Billek left home in Florida to enroll at BYU. That move launched her longtime Utah residence, an existence framed by her decade-long tenures as the women’s golf coach of BYU and Utah Valley University, while she and her husband, Steve, became parents of three daughters.
“I’m grateful to the people I have met on the golf course that have shaped my life,” she said.
She loved sports while growing up, and came into golf almost accidentally. Her high school added a girls golf team in the interest of conforming to Title IX, and her brother volunteered her to fill the last spot necessary to create a team. “I fell in love with it,” she said. “I could work as hard as I wanted at it, and I could get better.”
As a golfer, Nyhus has gone from amateur to professional, back to amateur and again to pro, with the latest move enabling her to teach golfers apart from her UVU players. Her initial return to amateur status, after she played four seasons on the Ladies European Tour, made her a fixture in Utah women’s golf. Nyhus is a two-time winner of the Women’s State Amateur, in different phases of her life, and she made national impact in 1999 as the runner-up in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links.
Nyhus was named an Academic All-American during her BYU career and has two degrees from the school, plus a doctorate from the University of Utah. She led the Cougars to a Western Athletic Conference championship and a 14th-place national finish as a senior.
As BYU’s coach, she was a two-time Mountain West Coach of the Year and mentored two All-Americans, while taking the Cougars to their first NCAA appearance in 20 years and helping Carrie Summerhays Roberts become an LPGA Tour member.
At UVU, Nyhus’ knack for recognizing and developing talent was reflected in Carly Dehlin Hirsch’s completing her career as a three-time All-WAC player with the lowest stroke average in the program’s history, after having little competitive golf experience prior to college. Nyhus had the memorable opportunity to coach her daughter Kimberly in the Wolverine program.
For the record, here’s the list of her first appearances in those USGA events: U.S. Girls’ Junior, 1980; U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, 1983; U.S. Women’s Open, 1983; U.S. Women’s State Team, 1995; U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, 1995; U.S. Women’s Amateur, 1999; U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, 2013; U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball, 2015; U.S. Senior Women’s Open, 2019.
She was thrilled to qualify for the Senior Amateur at age 50 – at the time, temporarily completing her lifetime achievement. Then came the two added events, with their demanding qualifying stages. The Senior Women’s Open became a career capstone, even though she didn’t play well at Pine Needles in North Carolina.
As she reflected at the time, “I always want to play better but it was an amazing culmination to a lifetime of USGA Championships. … It’s been a wonderful life. Golf has given much to me and I hope to give back as long as I can.”
In one of the biggest accomplishments of his career, Riley Stottern played a major role in the development of a Utah golf course that staged a PGA Tour-brand event. His final project involved the construction of a new facility chosen to host an LPGA Tour-sanctioned tournament.
Stottern is the first superintendent selected to the Utah Golf Hall of Fame strictly for his work in the profession; Todd Barker’s playing record contributed significantly to his induction. Stottern, who died in 2018 at age 75, brought distinction to the state as the president of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. His GCSAA role in 1986 as the leader of a 6,700-member organization came during his tenure at Jeremy Ranch, which hosted an event on the circuit now known as PGA Tour Champions.
A graduate of Olympus High School, Stottern attended the University of Utah and studied turf management at the University of Guelph in Canada. He worked at Willow Creek Country Club in Sandy, Oakridge CC in Farmington and Desert Inn CC in Las Vegas before coming to Jeremy Ranch and helping fulfill the vision of architects Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay. Stottern prepared the new course for Utah’s first senior professional tournament in 1982, when the tour consisted of only 11 stops.
“There were all kinds of issues with that first tournament, and he was terrific,” said Lanny Nielsen, Jeremy Ranch’s first head professional. “He really had a good feel for growing grass in.”
“He took a lot of pride in that event,” said Larry Emery, one of several assistants under Stottern who moved into head superintendent positions.
Emery forever will appreciate Stottern’s management style of hiring the right people and letting them do the job. “He was a wonderful mentor, absolutely … He was a good man. His knowledge and professionalism were excellent, but his quality as a person is what really set him apart,” Emery said.
The GCSAA’s final tribute to Stottern further endorsed him as a family-oriented man, raising three daughters with Barbara, his wife of 53 years.
Stottern was born into the golf course maintenance profession and he loved nurturing new facilities. That’s partly why he moved often, always looking for the next grow-in opportunity. His course-construction list also includes Shadow Creek, Casablanca and Southern Highlands in Southern Nevada and SunRiver and the new Copper Rock GC in Southern Utah.
Copper Rock was awarded a Symetra Tour women’s event in September. To extend the 2020 connection to Stottern’s legacy, the Utah Golf Association booked the State Amateur for Jeremy Ranch in June.
Stottern worked at Copper Rock in Hurricane the day before he died, completing a life that began in Colorado Springs, Colo.
He followed his father, John, and grandfather, Wilford Thorne, as a superintendent, embracing the profession. He took that lineage seriously, explaining his commitment to mentoring the next group. As he once wrote, “I like to think that in some ways, golf course superintendents are like the turfgrass on which golf is played. With proper care, turfgrass is constantly regenerating, while the older turfgrass serves as a base. The game has been entrusted for now to our generation. May we continue to carry on in the best tradition of our predecessors.”
In a Golf Course Management Magazine story, Stottern once said of the superintendent’s job description, “You need lots of talents. You’re an agronomist, a weatherman, a mechanic, a carpenter, personnel manager, accountant (and) public relations liaison with your crew, the members, the directors and the community.”
He added to the job description, “Best of all, you get to work on a golf course. The job’s always challenging and always interesting. What more could you ask?”
With such a positive outlook, it is no wonder he thrived in that setting, for nearly his entire life.
Marion Dunn was born in Colorado, but he became a loyal Utahn from age 2. His pride in the state and its residents was reflected in his newspaper coverage of golf for more than 40 years.
Dunn once said, “I’d rather cover a Utah Open than a U.S. Open. You’re writing about people who you live with all year long, people you know.”
Dunn’s being honored by the Utah Golf Hall of Fame is a tribute to how much he cared about the game and the people who played and administered it in Utah. Nearly everyone who was a subject of his stories would describe him as supportive, hoping they would succeed.
Dunn was “a kind, humble guy who never made an enemy,” Deseret News columnist Dick Harmon wrote in 2004, when Dunn died at age 81.
From 1948 through 1990, Dunn worked for the Deseret News, The Salt Lake Telegram, The Salt Lake Tribune and The (Provo) Daily Herald.
In an editorial, the Deseret News said of Dunn, “He didn’t badger people into giving him stories; he made them want to open up and share.”
Dunn was a major promoter of golf in Utah. His style, both in his interactions with people and his writing of stories, validated and encouraged golfers. His columns often ended with an exhortation, such as “Go get ‘em.”
He once described the Utah golf community as being “almost like a family,” and that’s how he approached his role in covering the game. As the sports editor of The Daily Herald, his primary job involved writing about BYU’s major sports. Yet he enjoyed nothing more than spending weekends covering golf events in Utah County, such as the Provo Open at the old Timpanogos Golf Course or the Sizzler Open at the venue then called Tri City GC in American Fork.
He considered reporting about BYU’s 1981 NCAA golf championship among the highlights of his career. “His message was that golf personalities, professionals, events and college programs should be elevated as big news in the state,” said Harmon, a former colleague at The Daily Herald. “Accordingly, golf found a high profile on the print pages. His work became a standard for those he worked with at the time and those who followed after him.”
Dunn, who wrote a book about Bingham Canyon, the area where he grew up, was inducted into the Utah Sports Hall of Fame in 1990. When he received the UGA’s Gold Club Award in 1992, he said that recognition meant even more to him, due to his love of golf.
“Golf is the greatest game ever invented,” he said. “It demands so much concentration that you’re forced to put all other problems aside.”
He liked to play golf, and he loved to write about golf. That’s why he put so much effort into it.
Lou North once took a 10-stroke lead into the final round of the State Amateur.
That sentence helps illustrate two distinguishing elements of North’s tenure as a Utahn in the 1950s. He was dominant amateur golfer, and two of his three State Am titles came during an unusual, two-year move to stroke play in the historic tournament.
The State Am would not have another three-time winner until Doug Bybee in the 1990s.
North, who was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 1987, “represents in every way what the USGA wants in an amateur golfer,” a Colorado pro once observed.
In other words, he was a lifelong amateur golfer who maintained a high-level game while pursuing a business career. North operated a pharmacy in Colorado and in 1954 moved his family to Salt Lake City, where he bought a propane distributorship, according to his profile in the 1998 book 100 Years of the Utah State Amateur.
During his relatively brief stay in Utah, North compiled a phenomenal record in the State Am and other notable tournaments. In the seven-year period from 1954-60, he won three State Am titles, while losing in the final match, twice in the semifinals and once in the quarterfinals, posting a 17-4 record in match play.
“I enjoyed living in Utah a lot,” he said in an interview for the book, published when he was 84. “It was a great life and a lot of fun. … We had a lot of good players in the Utah State Amateur back then and it was very competitive.”
North lost 2 up to Jerry Cloninger in the 1954 final match at The Country Club of Salt Lake City in his first year as a Utahn and was eliminated in the quarterfinals the following year.
His first State Am trophy came via a 3-and-2 win over John Bowers at the Country Club in 1956. He lost to Joe Bernolfo in 20 holes in the ‘57 event, before adding his second title in ‘58 in a stroke-play format at Oakridge Country Club. North shot 73-75-73-72 to beat Brian Goldsworthy by two strokes.
In the ‘59 event at Bonneville Golf Course, North posted 69-66-68 to take a 10-stroke lead after 54 holes, then added a 75 in coasting to a five-shot win over Bowers. Other top finishers that year included Utah Golf Hall of Fame member Jack Ridd and Babe Hiskey, who would become a three-time winner on the PGA Tour.
North’s biography in the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame also credits him with six wins in the Salt Lake City Amateur and two victories in the City Parks Open, along with several other titles in Utah.
The most popular professional golf event in modern Utah history could not exist without Jeannie Goddard.
The timing may have been coincidental, but it’s true: The Park City stop on what is now known as PGA Tour Champions went away soon after Goodard’s passing in 2002 at age 70, a couple of months after her last tournament as the volunteer coordinator at Park Meadows Country Club.
That’s just part of her legacy in the Utah golf community. She’s remembered as the first first woman to serve on the Utah Golf Association’s Board of Directors, for her role in the growth of the Utah State Women’s Golf Association and for chairing both the State Amateur and the Women’s State Amateur.
Goddard has been described as “the godmother of Utah golf,” with her influence perpetuated by the Jeannie Goddard Cup matches. In 2019, that event became a competition between Utah’s top female pros and amateurs, illustrating how the women’s game has grown.
Goddard was a multidimensional person. She sang in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for 18 years and was a longtime comptroller for Rex W. Williams & Sons.
Her work with the Friends of Utah Golf, operating the senior tour event, was a labor of love. Goodard was known for having great relationships with the players, who enjoyed her friendly personality. They knew she could answer any question or solve any problem, according to Laury Livsey, a PGA Tour media official who got his start in the profession by working at the Jeremy Ranch event.
Her husband, Richard, was supportive of all the time and effort Jeannie expended in helping to operate the tournament, and seemed to enjoy how she became well known among the tour players.
Having attended Granite High School and the University of Utah, she took up golf relatively late in life, while raising five children with Richard. She caught up quickly, becoming an avid player and contributor to the game. She was instrumental in the senior tour event’s remaining on the calendar for as long as it did, working in various roles in the staging of the tournament at Jeremy Ranch and Park Meadows.
Bryan Naugle, a longtime tour administrator who took over the operation of the event, labeled Goddard “a wonderful asset to the tournament and the Utah golf community.”
Naugle added, “But more than that, Jeannie was a great friend. She touched many lives.”
Goddard received the UGA’s Gold Club Award in 2001, recognizing her service to the game that now is being rewarded with induction into the Utah Golf Hall of Fame.
Florence Halloran earned medalist honors by 19 strokes in an 18-hole competition and never played beyond the 12th hole in any of her matches.
The history of Utah women’s golf has been framed by dominant players of their eras, and Halloran’s reign was as overwhelming as anyone’s. She won five consecutive State Am titles (1917-21) and added a sixth win in 1924, a total that has been exceeded only by Bev Nelson’s eight victories. Halloran is tied with Helen Hofmann Bertagnole, Mary Lou Baker and Marcia Thayne, all members of the Utah Golf Hall of Fame.
Halloran was roughly the same age as the legendary George Von Elm and her Utah golf achievements came in a very similar time frame (Von Elm’s State Am titles were won in 1917, ‘20 and ‘21). Her father, William J. Halloran, was a prominent Salt Lake City businessman who owned the Boston Building and the Grand Hotel.
Florence Halloran and Von Elm staged an opening-day exhibition at Nibley Park Golf Course in 1922 and were reported to have joined Bobby Jones and three-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Alexa Stirling in another exhibition in the East.
Halloran had arrived on the golf scene in 1913, when she was described as “a vivacious and athletic young golfer,” although she lost a State Am match.
Newspaper accounts of women’s golf in Utah were inconsistent in those days, when married women were identified in the sports sections by their husband’s names. For example, Halloran’s first State Am victory came via a 3-and-2 win over Mrs. R.W. Salisbury at The Country Club (what’s now known as Forest Dale Golf Course).
According to the 2006 book 100 Years of History: The Utah State Women’s Amateur, Halloran’s titles in 1918 and ‘19 were acknowledged in newspapers only in 1920, when she was credited with a fourth straight victory. Halloran defeated her opponent 10 and 8 in the final match at the Ogden Golf & Country Club.
In 1921, also in Ogden, she shot a course-record 86 to become the medalist by 13 strokes and then, as The Salt Lake Tribune reported, “Halloran was in perfect form and practically unbeatable” in match play, defeating Mrs. Paul Keyser 4 and 2 in the final match.
Her sister, Mary Halloran Sowles, won the 1922 title in a 21-hole final match. In 1924, Florence was more dominant than ever, shooting an 85 in qualifying at The Country Club’s current location (the next-lowest score was 104) and winning 8 and 7 in the 18-hole final match.
The book’s profile of Halloran says she married George M. Lewis in 1925 and moved to Beverly Hills, California.
Kurt Kragthorpe is a senior writer for Fairways.