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Cover Feature • June 2016

25 Years of Golf

From the Pages of Fairways

By Kurt Kragthorpe

This story could be told so many ways, from so many angles. The overall theme: A lot can happen in 25 years, and that's especially true of the Utah golf community.

Fairways is celebrating its 25-year anniversary in the summer of 2016, having chronicled all kinds of developments in Utah golf over that time. The PGA of America gives its members quarter-century recognition to validate their careers in the game, and Fairways has earned its own distinction.

To help frame those 25 years, think about the state of things in Utah in the early summer of 1991. Bruce Summerhays had yet to turn 50. Tony Finau was a toddler and Zac Blair was not walking quite yet. Mike Weir was about to begin his senior year at BYU. The Utah Golf Hall of Fame was preparing to honor its charter class of inductees. Doug Bybee was preparing for a successful defense of his State Amateur championship. Wingpointe Golf Course's back nine was just opening. John Daly was about to win the PGA Championship, 11 months after claiming the Ben Hogan Utah Classic in Provo.

And consider the equipment you were using in 1991. I remember standing on the No. 1 tee of Riverside Country Club during BYU's Cougar Classic that spring, and marveling to assistant pro Craig Norman about how many college golfers were using these new metal woods. Only later would such clubs become standard issue.

And picture the golfing landscape without these courses, to name only a few: Thanksgiving Point, Riverbend, South Mountain, Stonebridge, Soldier Hollow, The Ranches, TalonsCove, Eaglewood and Sand Hollow Resort.

The Summerhays family alone could illustrate this entire story in a 25-year family portrait. Bruce Summerhays was 47 in '91, living in Heber City and just beginning to think about preparing for a possible career on what then was called the Senior PGA Tour, where he would win three tournaments and earn more than $9 million. His youngest child, Carrie, was 11, pursuing multiple sports before focusing on golf and going all the way to the LPGA Tour before becoming BYU's successful women's golf coach. His nephews Boyd and Daniel were 12 and 7, already developing swings that would take them to the PGA Tour.

Daniel Summerhays, Finau and Blair all would win the State Am, before joining forces as the first three-member class of Utah high school graduates ever to play the PGA Tour at the same time, qualifying for the 2014-15 season. They all kept their tour cards for 2015-16 and are in strong position to do so again. Finau made the cover of Golf Digest as a rising star and Blair became a popular subject in PGA Tour productions and other national golf press with his plans to design his perfect idea of a golf club for Utah, called the Buck Club, having gone viral through his social media accounts and already being marketed with a line of hats.

Among other touring professionals, Jay Don Blake, from Dixie High School and Utah State, had just won a PGA Tour title. It would be another 25 years before another Utah native won a tournament, as Finau triumphed in Puerto Rico in March. In between, Utah residents Dan Forsman, Mike Reid and Weir thrived on the tour, with Weir winning the 2003 Masters as the biggest achievement.

Utah's biggest tournaments have evolved considerably in that time. As of '91, Utah's Senior PGA Tour (now Champions Tour) event was being played at Jeremy Ranch, then a public facility. The Ben Hogan Tour event (the first of many names) was being operated by the Utah Section PGA at Riverside. The Utah Open was being staged at Willow Creek Country Club, drawing mini-tour players from around the country.

Some rotating would follow. Willow Creek became the longtime host of the PGA Tour-brand event (now played at Thanksgiving Point), while the Utah Open moved to various sites including The Jeremy Golf & Country Club and now is played at Riverside. The Champions Tour event went to Park Meadows Country Club for 10 years and then was taken off the schedule, due to sponsorship issues.

The State Amateur just kept going, celebrating its 100th playing in 1998 at Riverside as the world's longest continuously held tournament, and now has expanded to 288 contestants at two courses, prior to the cut to 64 for match play. The UGA recently merged with the State Women's Golf Association and now operates the Women's State Am and other major events.

And finally, the United States Golf Association brought a long-awaited national tournament to Utah, staging the 2012 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at Soldier Hollow Golf Course in Midway.

Scott Hailes, Annie Thurman and Clay Ogden brought USGA trophies home to Utah and several other star players have emerged in the amateur, college and club professional ranks in this quarter-century, notably Brad Sutterfield, Bybee, Brett Wayment, Jon Wright, Kim Thompson, Steve Scheniter, Henry White, Chris Moody, Zach Johnson, Rachel Newren, Natalie Stone, Kelsey Chugg and Sirene Blair. Sue Nyhus completed a cycle of qualifying for every USGA championship offered to her.

Many girls were joining boys on high school golf teams in 1991, but the notion of girls having their own teams was almost a couple of decades away from entering anyone's mind. The growth of girls high school golf became a highlight of the Utah Section PGA's impact, as promoted in April in a Golf Channel feature about each of the PGA of America's 41 sections.

The governing bodies of Utah golf have undergone personnel changes in 25 years, from Joe Watts to Thomas Pagel to Bill Walker as executive director of the UGA and from Jeff Beaudry to Mark Lynch to Scott Whittaker to Devin Dehlin as executive director of the Utah Section PGA. Those groups continue to work well together, with a relationship formalized and broadened through the Golf Alliance for Utah, designed to promote and protect the game in the state through collaboration and lobbying efforts.

Looking back, it is remarkable what these 25 years have produced in Utah golf, and Fairways has been there for all of it. Here's to another wonderful quarter-century.



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