Old Fashioned Hard Work Has Cougars Winning

by Jay Drew

A Champions Season

Making a Dent in Salt Lake City Golf

by Kurt Kragthorpe

by Mike Sorensen

High School Golf State Championships

Destination Golf - Scotland

by Mike Sorensen

by Garrett Johnston

February 2017 Issue

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of the Utah Golf Association

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Cover Feature • November 2016 • By Dick Harmon

Old-Fashioned Hard Work

Has Cougars Winning













BYU men and women are piling up collegiate golf victories as impressive as any season in recent history.

 They’ve combined for five collegiate titles since the 2016-17 season began in September.  If you count the last 12 months, the number of wins is 12. It’s a significant golf story as the 2016 year concludes.

The feat marks a renaissance of sorts for BYU Men’s golf under 23-year veteran coach Bruce Brockbank and definitely underscores a major trend by women’s coach Carrie Roberts, in her sixth year at BYU.

Both Brockbank and Roberts credit recruiting and an intensified work ethic for the success and say they’ve had players really elevate their games.

The rise of BYU’s women golf began with a school record five tournament victories (six if you included a head-to-head match with Colorado State University) and advancing through an NCAA Regional to the national championship. They stretched their win total to seven this fall to make it the greatest tournament victory run in school history.

It started when the women won the Ptarmigan Ram Classic in Fort Collins, Colo., in fall of 2015. They then won the Aggie Invitational in Las Cruces, New Mexico hosted by New Mexico State in October. In Hawaii a few weeks later they finished first at the Rainbow Wahine Invitational.

In spring of 2016, that same school year, Roberts’ squad hosted and won the BYU Entrada Classic in St. George in mid-March.  They then won the West Coast Championship in April and qualified for the NCAA championships.

“They’ve been really incredible,” said Roberts, who lost star senior Lea Garner to graduation after the spring season.

“It’s getting better players and having the returners get better,” said Roberts, daughter of retired PGA Tour Champions player Bruce Summerhays and cousin to current PGA Tour star Daniel Summerhays.

“We went out and recruited a ton. We got a lot of rejections, but we got others. BYU is a unique place and it took some work to find girls who would fit and thrive in our environment. It was good old-fashioned work.”

“Kendra Dalton and Brooklyn Hocker are examples of players who started careers in walk-on roles and developed their games.  We put ourselves out there in recruiting and got our name spread around and it paid off.”

Alexandra White, a senior from Lompoc, Calif., was the first big recruit, a solid American Junior Golf Association star with a proven junior pedigree.  Sophomore Rose Huang is another. Born in Beijing, China, she prepped in Honolulu and was the No. 17 ranked recruit in 2015 and runner-up in the 2012 Callaway Junior World tournament.

Dalton, who trades with Huang as the No. 1 player, is from Wake Forest, N.C., and actually came to Roberts and said she loved golf and BYU.  Roberts was impressed and invited her to BYU’s summer camp.

“I found that this kid really means what she says. She did everything we asked of her and we gave her a chance as a walk-on to prove herself.  She worked hard as a redshirt freshman and actually elevated our entire team work ethic.

“The next year, as a freshman, she played in every tournament, literally moved her way into a starting role. It forced everybody else to wake up and push themselves because she was taking their spots.”

White has also stepped up when Garner ended her eligibility. White won medalist honors last spring at Entrada. Huang finished first at the Rainbow Wahine Invitational and while the team competed and won at Tacoma, they left Anna Kennedy home to compete as an individual in the Hobble Creek Fall Classic hosted by Utah Valley University. She won medalist honors.

Dalton, who won the Utah State Women’s Amateur championship this summer at Victory Ranch, finished first place at the Juli Inkster Spartan Invitational. Hocker is the defending Idaho State Women’s Amateur champion and was the Utah Women’s State Amateur runner-up in 2015.

Individual excellence and team victories, they’ve kind of rolled right along.

“It’s really hard to get to nationals,” said Roberts. “To win five tournaments in a season, that is not an easy thing to do. It is hard to win in golf and it is hard to win a conference title. It is tough to get to regionals in the NCAA.”

In the new fall season the women won the Juli Inkster Spartan Invitational in San Jose, Calif., September 20. Two weeks later, they finished first at the Gonzaga Match play in Spokane, Washington, at Manito Country Club.

That is seven tournament victories and a second place finish at the Pat Lesser Harbottle Invitational in Lakewood, Washington, at Tacoma Country Club Oct. 11, 2016.

Roberts gets hard work out of her squad. Nobody is lazy, they hunger to improve and they are competitive as shown by second and third round scores from top to bottom.

For Brockbank on the men’s side, it is hard to imagine replacing a player the caliber of Zac Blair, the most dominating Utah amateur golfer in a quarter century.

But it appears he’s on the way with a cadre of highly skilled competitive players led by current Utah State Amateur Champion Patrick Fishburn and a pair of sizzling freshmen talents in Utah’s Rhett Rasmussen and California phenom Peter Kuest from Fresno’s Clovis West High School.

“With the addition of the new freshmen, guys working hard over the summer and Patrick coming into his own, it has been a great summer and fall,” said Brockbank.

Fishburn hasn’t finished out of the top 10 in five events and won a title, Rasmussen, the Utah amateur of the year in 2015, finished third and sixth in his first two events and nearly won a championship and Kuest also had a top five.

“It’s hard to single any one player out, but Fishburn has really come on,” said Brockbank.

The Cougars started the 2016-17 season with a win at the University of San Francisco Intercollegiate Championship held at the famed Olympic Club in September.

The Cougars won by 8-strokes over St. Mary’s and nine shots better than TCU.  Rasmussen finished third individually and Fishburn tied for fifth.

“It was a great team effort,” said Brockbank.  “All five of our players finished in the Top 20.  They had a lot of confidence. This is a neat young team. We led the whole tournament and it was an exciting day for us.”

The men followed that victory with a third-pace finish in the William H. Tucker Invitational in Albuquerque behind San Diego State and Colorado State. Rasmussen again finished as the highest Cougar with a tie for sixth while Fishburn tied for 8th place.

On October 4th at San Joaquin Country Club in Fresno, BYU won the Nick Watney Invitational, dispatching runners up Nevada and St. Mary’s. Fishburn finished third and Kuest, playing in his hometown, finished fifth.

The men closed out October with a dominating 16-stroke victory over Grand Canyon, Sacramento State and Long Beach State at the Pacific Invitational at Stockton Country Club. Fishburn took medalist honors with a 54-hole 9-under par 204. Rasmussen tied for second place, two strokes back with a 7-under 206.

In Fishburn, a junior and Rasmussen a rookie, Brockbank has a powerful one-two punch.  Fishburn is the top ranked amateur in the Utah Golf Association’s Player Performance Rankings with 385 points, Rasmussen is nexted with 363.8 points. This ranking is a roundup of finishes in tournaments recognized by the UGA with points earned at designated events throughout the year. It is a ranking Blair dominated during his career as a Cougar before turning professional.

Brockbank said a real key to this year’s success is the unsung guys, the fourth and fifth player who posts low scores that can make a huge difference.  He’s had that in C.J. Lee who is having his best season as a collegian. “Our fifth guy has been at par or under par and it’s been a long time since we’ve had that.”

At Stockton, Lee bogeyed the final hole of his final round but posted a 68.  “That was absolutely huge.  It makes such a big difference.  It used to be you could have two or three players post rounds under par and get by.  But the way it is now, you have to have everyone down the lineup come through, especially the No. 5, like Lee.”

Brockbank, two years removed from a West Coast Conference title team, said 2015 was a frustrating year for his players and staff and he challenged them all to work harder during the summer.

They did.

“We have a long ways to go to play well on a consistent basis. If they do, we’ll be a very good team.”


Feature • November 2016 • By Kurt Kragthorpe

A Champion's Season

The Utah Golf Association conducts all of Utah’s amateur championships each year throughout the state. From individual championships like the Utah State Amateurs for men, women and seniors to team events both here and abroad, hundreds of amateur golfers have played multiple times for the right to wear the crown of a UGA champion. Some new names found themselves at the top of Utah’s leaderboards joining those who have already made a name for themselves among Utah’s amateur ranks. Here’s a year-in-review look at A Champion’s Season.

Patrick Fishburn

After everything that happened in his six matches of the 2016 State Amateur, Patrick Fishburn remembers his last full swing.

Aaron Smith admirably played through heat exhaustion to reach the final match and then extended Fishburn to the 34th hole by winning two holes in a row. So Fishburn came to the par-3 No. 16 at Alpine Country Club leading by three holes, but not feeling secure.

“Knowing that I had to hit a great shot, I decided to pull out a 6-iron and hit it really pure,” Fishburn said.

He nearly made a hole-in-one, with the ball coming to rest a couple of feet away, and Fishburn knew he had earned the victory.

“It had been a battle all day – Aaron and I played some amazing golf,” Fishburn said. “I was just relieved it was over and that I was lucky enough to come out on top. It was a great memory looking around that green to see family and closest friends that had come down to support me and having one of my best friends, Ryan Sarlo, caddying for me for the last few matches was key to my success.”

Growing up in the Ogden area, Fishburn is one of those Utah golfers who dreamed of winning the State Am since his preteen years. “Actually accomplishing that goal has been an amazing feeling and something that I will always be proud of,” he said.

A graduate of Fremont High School, Fishburn is a BYU junior. He nearly became the first golfer to win both the State Am and the Utah Open in the same year, tying for fifth place.

Kendra Dalton

As former BYU teammates who once played together in winning the UGA Women's Four-Ball Championship, Kendra Dalton and Lea Garner staged a memorable duel in the final match of the 2016 Women's State Amateur at Victory Ranch.

Dalton, who's now in her junior year with the Cougars, took a 1-up victory over Garner, who had completed her eligibility in May.

“I had a lot of great moments out there that week, but the best was finishing off my winning putt and knowing I had pulled it off,” Dalton said, looking back. “There's nothing better than that feeling of winning.”

Dalton won the par-3 No. 17 with a par to take the lead and held on, halving No. 18. Brooklyn Hocker, another BYU golfer and a 2015 finalist, had lost to Garner in the semifinals, while Dalton eliminated Cobair Collinsworth 5 and 4.

“I have always looked up to Lea, and she gave a great fight,” said Dalton, who's from North Carolina. “It's a relief to have dealt with the nerves and well enough so I could play my best.”

Dalton hoped to use the State Am win to propel her into BYU's fall schedule, and that has happened.

“The win gave me a lot of confidence going into the school season, and to win at Victory Ranch, which is such a challenge, felt awesome. I'll be able to continue drawing on the experience.”

Dalton's theory proved true in mid-September when she was the medalist in San Jose State's Juli Inkster Spartan Invitational, shooting 70-71-71.

Sue Nyhus

In multiple ways, 2016 has been difficult for Sue Nyhus. Two close friends, Joyce Billings and Jeff Smith, died this year after having made a big impact on her. Joyce encouraged her to pursue women's amateur golf in Utah and Smitty was a fellow coach in women's college golf, working at Weber State while Sue has coached at BYU and Utah Valley University.

Memories of her friends powered Nyhus to a victory in the Women's Senior Amateur in August and playing with her daughter, Kim, made a Women's Four-Ball win more meaningful in June.

In the Senior Am at Hobble Creek Golf Course, Nyhus shot 77-76 to win by four strokes over Elizabeth Jones, Annette Gaiotti and Roberta Scott. She overcame a triple bogey in the first round and ended the tournament with a birdie on No. 18, all while thinking about her departed friends. She often played Hobble Creek with Joyce and coached her players in tournaments at the course, alongside Smitty.

“The moment that sticks out was the award ceremony on the balcony, looking over the beautiful scenery, dedicating the win to my friends,” Nyhus said.

The Four-Ball victory was also emotional. The mother-daughter team shot 62-71 at Glendale GC and Mountain Dell GC, winning by one stroke. “It meant a lot that Kim would have me as her partner and that event was the first time it was not about me coaching and teaching as we played,” Nyhus said. “It was about both of us trying to win the tournament as a team.”

Randy Hicken

Having stepped away from Utah Golf Association competition for about 10 years, Randy Hicken appreciates everything about the organization and the golfers who compete in its championships. He liked winning the Utah Senior Amateur at the Logan Golf and Country Club, but the tap-in putt for a par that gave him a playoff victory over Steve Poulson in the 54-hole event is not where his mind goes immediately, as he looks back.

His review never mentions the five birdies that enabled him to shoot a 2-under-par 68 in the final round, catching Poulson at even-par 210 for the tournament (with Brett Sampson another stroke behind). Instead, Hicken thinks about playing that round with club member Robert Underwood and defending champion Craig Wilson in a grouping that “could not have been more enjoyable,” he said.

“In my opinion, you couldn't find a better example of how to conduct yourself on the golf course and represent the game.”

In turn, the high level of competition in UGA championships made Hicken's victory meaningful to him. The Utah County resident was a top-tier player in the UGA in the previous decade, before spending more time watching his children play sports. For example, he beat Pete Stone in the 2005 State Amateur, the summer when Stone turned pro and won the Utah Open.

Hicken is back in the UGA competition now, and he looks forward to more of it as the reigning champion of the Senior Am.

Kelsey Chugg

In her job as the Utah Golf Association's membership director, Kelsey Chugg has become a student of Utah golf history. She appreciates the impact of Mary Lou Baker, a member of the Utah Golf Hall of Fame.

“This tournament is a great way to honor her,” said Chugg, who was thrilled to win the event for a third straight time, with the latest victory coming via a duel with Naomi Soifua at Park City Golf Club.

The teenager caught her after four holes of the second round, but Chugg responded with four birdies in six holes and went on to claim a victory that was “important to me, because I was able to handle my nerves and defend my title for the third year in a row,” she said.

Chugg shot 71-70 to top Soifua (73-70), whose rally fell one stroke short.

In the UGA Winterchamps, Chugg became a first-time winner. Her 90-point total at SunRiver and Sky Mountain was one point better than Haley Dunn's. She posted 51 points with seven birdies and an eagle (offset by three bogeys) in a big rally at Sky Mountain, feeling rejuvenated after a long break from playing and practicing. “It was nice to get back out on the course and compete,” Chugg said. “I had a great round going the final day and I was just trying to make as many birdies as I could and I ended up with the win.”

Chugg had finished second in the Winterchamps multiple times, so “it was nice to finally capture the title,” she said.

Rhett Rasmussen

No one who has watched Rhett Rasmussen's game develop in Utah Golf Association competition in his teenage years is surprised by the way he has started his BYU golf career.

The freshman from Corner Canyon High School in Draper is an emerging star for the Cougars, displaying the ability that enabled him to win UGA tournaments such as the 2016 Winterchamps. Rasmussen posted a 90-point total to edge Connor Howe and Ben Jorgensen by three points in the event at The Ledges and SunRiver courses in southern Utah. Howe and Jorgensen had shared the first-round lead, but Rasmussen overtook them. He made 12 birdies in two days, and needed all of them to beat a strong field in the UGA's kickoff event of the schedule.

About a month later, Rasmussen returned to SunRiver and shot a 9-under-par 62 in the final round to win the Southern Utah Open, while paired with PGA Tour member Zac Blair, who carded a 69.

Having long ago committed to play for BYU, Rasmussen has transitioned well to the collegiate level. He finished third in the USF Olympic Intercollegiate in San Francisco and tied for sixth in the William H. Tucker Invitational in New Mexico, impressing his coach, Bruce Brockbank.

“Rhett helped the team so much, finishing low in the first two events,” Brockbank said. “That says a lot about him and what he contributes to the team.”

Kurt Owen

A common theme of the winners' reflections as they look back at their 2016 performances in UGA championships is the way they finished. The competition almost always brings out the best in the eventual winners, and that was true of Kurt Owen in the UGA Mid-Amateur Championship at Hill Air Force Base's Hubbard Golf Course in June.

Battling with Dan Horner and other top players as he tried to maintain his lead, Owen birdied the par-5 No. 15 and then faced a birdie putt of about 30 feet on the next hole. He made it, extending his lead to three strokes with two holes to play.

Owen, a former Weber State golfer, completed the three-shot win over Horner, posting 70-68-71.

Horner, who held a one-stroke lead going into the final round, shot 66-71-74 and was followed by Jon Wright and Cameron Crawford, each another stroke behind in a strong field of players 25 and older.

Owen said he has “always been close to a big win,” and finishing the Mid-Am the way he did was very satisfying.

“A tournament win like that for me helped solidify where my game is, and it keeps me motivated to continue practicing and getting better,” he said.

David Jennings

In extremely windy conditions at Tuhaye Golf Club, only one team in the championship division of the UGA Four-Ball Championship broke par in the opening round. And even posting that 1-under-par 71 required an eagle by David Jennings, eventually propelling him and partner Preston Alder to a three-stroke victory.

Jennings, a former Viewmont High School and Dixie State University golfer, remembers coming to the par-5 No. 6 (the team's 15th hole of the day) feeing like the team was “playing better than our score.”

He responded with a long drive into the wind, giving him a chance to go for the green. His hybrid shot over the water went long, but he holed a 50-foot chip for the eagle “which we definitely needed, especially in those conditions, and it set the tone for the next day,” he said.

Jennings/Alder then posted a 67 in the second round to beat Kurt Owen/Kirk Nielson by three shots. The team made another eagle, plus four birdies, in the second round with one bogey, after absorbing four bogeys in the difficult first round.

“The win just gives me more confidence in my game and my ability and hopefully can translate to more wins in 2017,” Jennings said.

Preston Alder

The UGA Four-Ball Championship became a breakthrough for Preston Alder, beyond golf. His game slumped in the summer of 2016, but that's explained by what he described as “some unexpected health issues.”

The former BYU golfer from Boise, Idaho, underwent surgery and radiation treatment for testicular cancer, and recovered sufficiently to team with David Jennings for the victory at Tuhaye Golf Club in September.

The team shot 71-67, overcoming strong winds in the opening round and maintaining their lead as Kurt Owen/Kirk Nielson surged with a 66 in the second round.

Alder played golf as a BYU freshman in 2009-10, then stepped away from the game until walking on to the team as a senior, having served a church mission and then devoting himself to marriage, school and work. He missed golf, so he rejoined the Cougars and has kept competing, while helping to start a couple of businesses, moving to Saratoga Springs and dealing with his health issues.

So the Four-Ball win was meaningful, as it “gave the momentum I needed for the end of the season,” Alder said.

Earlier in the season, Alder had advanced from local qualifying for the U.S. Open, before being eliminated at the sectional stage.

Dana Nelson

The ending was nice, but Dana Nelson's story of the 2016 UGA Senior Match Play Championship really begins with the semifinals.

Actually, it starts with the semis in 2015, when he faced eventual champion Craig Wilson, his friend and Holladay neighbor. Nelson and Wilson hoped they wouldn't face one another until the final match in May, but the brackets brought them together again at the same stage.

Nelson will always remember his comeback from 3 down after seven holes against Wilson. Maybe he subconsciously figured the pressure was off at that point. In any case, “I played some very good golf the next seven holes, maybe the best of my life,” he said.

Just like that, he was 2 up and his nervous feelings returned. Nelson responded with a perfect tee shot on a difficult driving hole at Sleepy Ridge Golf Course and went on to win the match. The next day, he defeated Ron Davis 1 up in the finals, making a 5-foot par putt on No. 18 after Davis missed a 10-footer.

Not especially happy with his amateur golf performance prior to turning 50, the former University of Utah golfer has become a senior star. “This win, coupled with a few others, has given me a different outlook,” Nelson said. “I now play with much more confidence. I am much more comfortable than I have ever been on the course. I still hope to get better and accomplish more, but this win is very significant to me.”

Patrick Murphy

Following a 2015 season when he became the co-holder of the senior scoring record in the UGA Winterchamps and reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Senior Amateur, Patrick Murphy was eager to tee it up in the 2016 Winterchamps in March, except for one problem: Sky Mountain and The Ledges were not exactly among the sites of his previous success in senior golf.

He once faded badly in the final round of the Winterchamps at Sky Mountain, and his front nine to begin the event was nothing special, either. But he came alive on the back nine and was “totally surprised to find I was tied for the lead at the end of the day,” he said. “Clearly, others struggled as well.”

Murphy posted 38 points, sharing the first-round lead with Randy Hicken and Mike Davis.

In the final round at The Ledges, Murphy played solidly and conservatively, hitting fairways and greens and staying out of trouble. In the process, he successfully defended the Winterchamps title he had shared with Brett Sampson the previous year. “I was very surprised to come out on top – pleasantly,” Murphy said. “Winterchamps is a great event … and it felt good to defend on my own this year.”

Making three more birdies in the final round, Murphy matched his opening-round score of 38 points. His 76-point total was four points better than Michael Hacker, with Guy Child, Karl Avant and Kurt Jamison tying for third with 70 points.

Jeff Powars

The UGA event once known as the Tournament of Champions got a new name and format in 2016, with a one-day competition in mid-August at Jeremy Ranch Golf and Country Club. In Jeff Powars' case, one element remained the same: He was impressed by the rest of the field in the senior division, making him “feel like there is no chance for me to win,” he said.

Of course, that's exactly what he did. Powars shot a 6-under-par 66, making birdies in the first 12 holes and maintaining his momentum with a sand save at No. 14. That par “gave me a big confidence lift and gave me a sense that the tournament was now mine to win,” he said.

Powars ended up taking a three-stroke win over Patrick Murphy, with Dana Nelson another shot back.

“This kind of victory helps me to understand that when I play my game, I can compete with these great players. It's just plain fun,” said Powars, an assistant principal at Syracuse Junior High School.

And in a common theme of UGA winners' reflections, Powars appreciated his pairing at Jeremy Ranch with Nelson and Rafe Johnston.

“The UGA Invitational is a favorite of mine for the simple reason that you have to play well to be invited in the first place,” Powars said.

Kiselya Plewe

On the way to beginning her Weber State golf career, Kiselya Plewe won the women's division of the UGA Invitational at Jeremy Ranch Golf and Country Club in August.

The victory created a bookend of her UGA season, as the resident of southwestern Colorado teamed with Gracie Richens to win the Women's Spring Open in April.

In the UGA Invitational, Plewe posted a 72 to top Naomi Soifua by two strokes. The winner had an adventurous back nine, with two birdies and an eagle on the par-5 No. 16, allowing her to absorb bogeys on Nos. 15, 17 and 18. “I played consistently on the front, but the back nine was more of a roller coaster,” Plewe said.

In the Women's Spring Open, Plewe-Richens dominated the field. The teenagers posted 64 points at Green Spring and came back with 85 points at Coral Canyon for a 149 total, finishing 25 points ahead of Kareen Alton-Jodi White.

“I played really well and it was just one of those rounds that was just really enjoyable,” Plewe said. “It was the first big tournament of the year for me and winning gave me a lot of confidence and momentum.”

Plewe posted a top-25 finish in the Hobble Creek Fall Classic, her first tournament for Weber State.

Gracie Richens

With girls golf becoming a sanctioned sport in Utah high schools and with the Junior Golf Connection and the Utah Junior Golf Association developing talent, teenagers keep emerging in UGA women's golf, seemingly out of nowhere. The latest example came in April, when Gracie Richens and Kiselya Plewe blitzed the field in the Women's Spring Open.

The winners required an introduction. Richens is from southwestern Utah (St. George); Plewe is from southwestern Colorado and now plays for Weber State. They teamed up for a remarkable performance at Green Spring and Coral Canyon – especially Coral Canyon, where they made 11 birdies, by Plewe's count, and boosted their two-day total to 149 points, winning by 25 points over Kareen Alton-Jodi White.

Richens is a year younger than Plewe, as a Dixie High School senior. She won the Class 3A individual title in the state tournament last May at Soldier Hollow, overcoming Desert Hills' Kyla Smith in the final round after coming close to winning the previous two years.

This past summer, Richens posted several top finishes in UJGA play. She won the No Champs event at Lakeside GC and tied for second in the UJGA Tournament Players Championship at Hill Air Force Base's Hubbard GC.

Kim Nyhus

As a Utah Valley University senior, Kim Nyhus plans to become a physician's assistant, enrolling in school in June. So the UGA Women's Four Ball may have represented the last time for a while that she will be able to join her mother, Sue, in competition.

They've spent a lot of time together in Kim's career as a Utah Valley University golfer, with Sue as the team's coach. And they'll always remember their finish at Mountain Dell, where Kim made a tough, 5-foot birdie putt to give them a one-stroke victory over Xena Motes/Haylee Chugg.

“I struggled that second day a little and my mom was keeping the team in it, and that (birdie) was my contribution,” Kim Nyhus said. “It meant a lot to have been able to win with my mom. We are at a place and time in life where we have time and ability to play at a high level together, and we both know it's a pretty small window of time. We are living it up, though, and are grateful for every opportunity to play.”

The Nyhuses made eight birdies and an eagle at Glendale and overcame a bogey at Mountain Dell with birdies on two of the last four holes.

Naomi Soifua

As the three-time defending champion of the Class 4A state tournament, Provo High School senior Naomi Soifua is accustomed to playing well and winning tournaments. Yet after finishing second to Sue Nyhus in the Mary Lou Baker Open and failing to advance in U.S. Women's sectional qualifying and missing the cut in a major junior golf tournament, she was worried about her game and tired of coming close.

The UGA Women's Stroke Play Championship changed all of that in mid-July.

“Winning the Stroke Play gave me the confidence I had been without for so long,” Soifua said. “It made me realize that I can trust and have faith in my swing and my game, against anyone and in any conditions.”

Soifua shot 67-72 to take a four-stroke victory over defending champion Sirene Blair at Bountiful Ridge Golf Course. She made seven birdies in the first round, while building a four-stroke lead over Kelsey Chugg. Blair mounted a comeback from way behind with a 66 in the final round and put mild pressure on Soifua, who triple-bogeyed the par-4 No. 11. But the champion responded with a steady finish of six straight pars and a birdie on No. 18.

Soifua emerged on the UGA women's golf scene at age 13 when he reached the final match of the 2012 Women's State Amateur at the Logan Golf and Country Club and took Kelsey Chugg to the 16th hole before losing. She will try for a fourth consecutive high school state championship in May.

Brett Sampson

Brett Sampson enjoyed becoming the low amateur in the Joey Bonsignore Utah Senior Open, but that validation was not necessary. He just liked the feeling of being competitive again as the tournament played out at Toana Vista Golf Course in August.

Sampson emerged as one of the UGA's top senior golfers in recent years. Yet after undergoing knee surgery in November 2015, he struggled with scoring in the first half of the 2016 season. Then an interesting thing happened. While watching the U.S. Open telecast in June, Sampson realized he needed to change his grip. It worked. He suddenly began hitting the ball much straighter.

He took that improved swing to Wendover and shot 70-70 to claim a three-stroke victory over Steve Poulson in the amateur division, while finishing behind pros Steve Schneiter and Dave DeSantis.

“The way I played in Wendover was very gratifying because of how I had been playing through he first half of the year,” he said. “The win was secondary. It just felt like I was competitive again.”

The rest of the field will attest to that. Sampson made eight birdies in the final round, with five of them coming over the last seven holes. That's how he went from 3 over par for the round to 2 under, and overtook Poulson, who parred the last six holes.

CJ Lee

The double bogey in the middle of his round obviously didn't bother BYU golfer CJ Lee in the UGA Invitational. Waiting to find out if he won the tournament was more of a problem for him.

“I'd have to say my favorite moment was when I was told it was official and I had won,” Lee said. “Being in one of the first few groups, I had finished a couple hours before the final groups came in. There were a lot of good players in the last few groups so I didn't want to let myself get all excited. I knew my score was good, considering the windy conditions, but you just never know. That's why this game is so exciting.”

Lee's eight birdies at Jeremy Ranch Golf and Country Club also helped make the day enjoyable, as he completed a 6-under-par 66 to finish two strokes ahead of Brandon Kida. Lee overcame his double bogey at the par-3 No. 11 with birdies at Nos. 16 and 17, ultimately making the difference.

The victory came just before Lee, a graduate of Timpview High School, launched his senior year in BYU's golf program. In the Cougars' first fall tournament, the USF Olympic Intercollegiate in San Francisco, Lee tied for 19th place and helped the Cougars win the team title as his final-round 72 was BYU's second-best score of the day.

Feature • November 2016 • By Mike Sorensen

Sixty-four schools from four classifications gathered at Soldier Hollow Golf Course in Midway in early October to determine state championships in boys golf. Playing in every kind of weather imaginable from rain to snow to wind and cold, with a bit of sunshine thrown in, three schools continued their dominance and another school won its first-ever state golf title. Park City won its ninth state 3A championship, Lone Peak won its fourth consecutive 5A title, while Grand County won its second straight 2A title. Only in 4A was a newcomer crowned as Salem Hills won the team title.

High School Golf Champions

Crowned at Soldier Hollow


Connor Howe • 5A Medalist


It took just two years for the Lone Peak golf team to break what seemed like an unbreakable Utah prep golf record.

After shooting an amazing two-round total of 23-under par 553 two years earlier at Glen Eagle Golf Course, the Knights eclipsed their record by one shot with a 552 total at the Soldier Hollow Silver Course. In winning, Lone Peak shot a one-round record of 273 in the second round

The Knights ended up winning the title by a whopping 29 shots over Sky View, which came in a shot ahead of Davis at 581, perhaps another record for winning margin. The winning margin also was more than their 22-shot victory two years ago.

The record-setting performance didn’t surprise Knights’ coach Rob Stanger.

“I felt like this year’s team had tremendous depth and it really showed with their performances,” Stanger said. “They were on their game today. We knew exactly what we needed to do and everybody played great.”

Perhaps the only disappointment for the Knights came when senior Elijah Turner was beaten in a sudden-death playoff for the individual title. Defending champion Connor Howe of Weber shot a second-round 66 to tie Turner at 136 after Turner had a pair of 68s.

But Turner was still all smiles afterward, saying, “I couldn’t be more happy – we played incredible and all the guys played great today.”

Howe came up with nine birdies in his second round and said he was happy to cap it off the season with a win,” after a so-so summer of golf.

Four Lone Peak players ended up in the top six as junior Max Brenchley shot a second-round 66  to tie with Sky View’s Kohner Knowles at 138 and senior Tyler Jones and sophomore Josh Rooker tied for fifth at 139. Cole Ponich of Davis and Ethan Fowlks of Bingham tied for seventh at 140.

Amazingly all six Lone Peak golfers broke par in the second round and the Knights had to throw out a 68 and a 71 in the best four-of-six scoring format. Zach Jones finished at 143 and Jaxon Long came in at 146.


Blake Tomlinson • 4A Medalist


It was perhaps the closest state tournament ever contested as four schools battled down to the final holes at Soldier Hollow’s Gold Course.

No one knew who had emerged as the champion until everyone was gathered around the scoreboard and it was revealed that Salem Hills had edged Bonneville and Box Elder by just two strokes and defending state champion Timpview was another stroke back.

That’s when the Skyhawks team started celebrating with high fives and hugs.

“We’re so excited, it’s been a long road to get this far,” said Salem Hills coach Brad Fillmore.  “I couldn’t be happier. I knew we were right up there with the best teams in the state, but you don’t expect you’re going to win it until you see it posted up there on the scoreboard.”

The key to the Skyhawks’ victory was its balance as six golfers had a score count in the best four-of-six scoring format during the two-day tournament. Brock Nielson led the way with a 147 total for 36 holes, while Steve Barton and Jaden Parkinson both came in at 152 and Kaleb DeGraffenreid finished at 158. The four seniors had played all four years together for Salem Hills, a school that has only been open since 2008.

“Those four players played all four years so we knew this would be a special year,” said Fillmore. “Brock Nielson has been our rock all year. I don’t think he ever shot higher than 75.”

Jacob Waterman rebounded from a 91 in the first round to a 74 in the second round, while Jason Cheney who had scores of 80 and 79, was the other scorer for Salem Hills.

Skyline’s Blake Tomlinson won individual honors, adding a 71 to his opening-round 66 for a 137 total and a two-shot win over Timpview’s Spencer Lillywhite. For Tomlinson, who will play for the University of Utah next year, it was a fitting cap to a year that saw him win several events, including the Salt Lake City Open in August.


Michael Walters • 3A Medalist


 By now, perhaps they should just retire the 3A boys golf trophy in Park City.

Despite losing their top two players from last year, including three-time champion Mitchell Schow, the Miners lapped the field at the Soldier Hollow Silver Course, beating second-place Logan by 42 shots and Pine View by 43.

“They came in and took care of business,” said coach George Murphy, who praised his team for “attacking, being aggressive, being confident and not being tentative.”

Members of the winning Park City team included Zane Schemmer, Cole Lee, Josh Lansky, Eli Kimche, Jack Hanskat and Dean Tsandes. All but Lee and Lansky will be back for next year when Park City will chase its 10th straight title.

While the team race was a runaway, the excitement came in the individual race, where Juan Diego’s Michael Walters beat Park City’s Zane Schemmer and Pine View’s Noah Schone in a sudden-death playoff.

Walters’ who had bogeyed the 18th hole in regulation, decided to gamble and he cleared the creek with his drive in the playoff and that gave him the edge as he was able to birdie the hole, while the other two parred.

“I got to 18 for the playoff and everyone was laying up and I thought, ‘why not go at it?’” Walters said. “It paid off in the end.”


Michael Walters • 2A Medalist


While Grand was winning its second straight 2A title with a two-round total of 624, Waterford sophomore Jack Nilson won individual honors at the Soldier Hollow Gold Course.

“Going back-to-back is a great feeling,” said Grand coach Aaron Woodard. “The program is working for the kids and the kids are putting the effort in and it shows. You come in and get back-to-back state titles and you know the kids are really pushing and really working for that goal.”

Alec Williams led the way for Grand, taking third place overall with a two-day total of 148, followed by Masen Ward, who came in at 151. Other contributors for the winning squad included Brendon Woodard, Jaxen Saunders, Luke Williams and Kane Scherer.

Behind Nilson, who had rounds of 73 and 68, Waterford took second-place honors 13 strokes behind Grand, while Beaver was another nine strokes back.


Destination Golf • November 2016 • By Garrett Johnston

Trump Turnberry then

North to Highlands Golf

For most golfers, the idea of playing golf in Scotland elicits images of St. Andrews and triumphantly crossing the Swilcan Bridge. But you’ll soon find the home of golf offers an abundance of hidden gems along its many dramatic landscapes and coastlines.

If you head north you’ll experience a group of gorgeous links courses in the Highlands region. Many enjoyable and stout championship courses await you there including classics new and old like Castle Stuart Golf Links and Royal Dornoch Golf Club.

Now as you fly into Scotland, odds are you’ll enter through either Edinburgh or Glasgow in southern Scotland. Why not begin this adventure at Trump Turnberry in Scotland’s southwest corner in Ayrshire County? The Trump Turnberry Resort is about an hour’s drive from Glasgow and two hours from Edinburgh.


Trump Turnberry

This instantly recognizable seaside jewel re-opened in June 2016 after some redesign work from renowned English golf architect Martin Ebert under Donald Trump’s watchful eye. You’ll likely give Ebert’s efforts two thumbs up as he both redesigned five new holes and modernized many others by changing both tee box and green locations. Ebert’s work essentially toughened up this site of the 1977 British Open or “Duel in the Sun” between Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson. Watson also nearly won here again in 2009 at 59. But this course has since been re-born and “now can be more enjoyable for the vast majority of golfers,” says Ebert.

Take the time to walk around the two levels in this beautiful clubhouse and appreciate the history it celebrates on its walls as you enjoy a meal or drink.

Enjoy the many expansive hitting areas in the Academy and practice with the flat-stick on the many large practice greens. There are also two other courses available for play. The mini-18 in front of the massive resort hotel atop a scenic hill includes partial pot bunkers and slick greens, a fun distraction for visitors.

The Alisa course is just inspiring, with views that you’ll remember for years. Take in the majestic view behind the par 5 fifth green as you look back down the hill to see the hotel in the distance along with the 80-foot tall Scottish flag waving as proudly as Donald Trump would have it over the clubhouse.

The par 3 6th offers a stern challenge with pot bunkers surrounding its green.

Holes 9-11 highlight the Alisa and are three of the most breathtaking you will ever play. Each sits perched like a painting along the ocean.

The sensational par 3 ninth shoots over the water and frame a dramatic view to a green that sits just short of the iconic lighthouse.

Once you finish the ninth, the course ranger will greet you and guide you to Trump Turnberry’s lighthouse where you can grab refreshments and chill for a few minutes. Drink in the stunning sights and sounds as you stand on its mighty terrace and take in the majestic ocean views and Alisa Craig island.

Begin your back nine nicely as you sojourn down the magnificent par 5 tenth with incredible ocean views left and center. Get to the green and look back for a lighthouse view you’ll be sure to snap with your smartphone many times, and likely blow up and frame in your office. 11 is a daunting par 3 that demands your best long iron or hybrid.

Overall, Trump Turnberry’s Alisa course is well worth your time and why not couple it with a stay at the famous and recently redone hotel? The rooms are pristine and cozy, and the views back down the hill toward the course and coast will leave you speechless.


Royal Dornoch

The championship course here is one of the great classic links courses in the game. Golf Digest ranked it the #1 golf course in Scotland for 2016. Purists rave about the Old Tom Morris-designed Dornoch located toward the northern coast of Scotland. In fact, two courses comprise Dornoch including the much easier Struie course. It looks far on the map, but it’s not as far as it seems much like the drive south from Salt Lake City to St. George.

Dornoch’s championship course is an absolute treat from the starter on the first tee with his traditional kilt to the perplexing, elevated greens you’ll face throughout the day.

The course is laid out on a couple of elevation levels along dunes abutting to the Dornoch Firth (Bay) with parallel fairways and impeccable pot bunkers surrounded by 10-20 foot tall yellow gorse. Stay away from it at all costs, no one wants to play the rest of their round with itchy hands.

The greens are expansive, elevated, and sit like inverted saucers. Do your best to find the middle on approach and chip shots or you’ll be spending your day in the famed pot bunkers.

Royal Dornoch celebrated 400 years of golf this year, so you know you’re on hallowed ground as you tee it up.


Castle Stuart Golf Links

Designed by Mark Parsinen and Gil Hanse, this is one of Scotland’s youngest courses (2009) and has hosted the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open four times. Castle Stuart displays a classic and weathered look, essentially sitting on an embankment with parallel fairways along the cliff side. You’ll be in awe of its many vistas overlooking the Moray Firth, Inverness and Kessock Bridge. There’s a steepness to the course that reminds one of Wasatch Mountain Golf Course. The modern, art-deco clubhouse offers spectacular views toward the water as you grab lunch or a well-earned beverage.

Castle Stuart’s dramatic overlooks offers the perception from the fairway that almost every green sits by the water. In reality, standing on some greens you can look down to see more holes below. It’s a nice piece of visual deception nonetheless.

Overall the course is playable to the amateur golfer with wider than usual fairways, but beware of the slippery sloped aprons around these large greens, they demand a delicate and precise short game. The bunkers vary in depth and type, looking amazing in contrast to the course’s lush green fairways.

You’ll find Castle Stuart itself just beyond the par 3 fourth’s green. Castle Stuart Golf Links is open from March to November.


Nairn Golf Club

This course dates back to 1887 and offers some exquisite seascapes and a wonderful blend of playable, yet challenging holes. It’s a traditional Scottish links in that the front nine takes you out, with the halfway house (Bothy) located between 9 and 10 at the furthest point from the clubhouse, and the back nine takes you back “home” to the clubhouse.

The links are right on the water during the outward nine and just inland with some fun holes in the woods and flowering gorse coming in. When we see gorse during a British Open broadcast it usually looks no more than waist high from the camera angles. But you’ll find that the gorse bushes at Nairn and Royal Dornoch are tall enough to swallow even William Wallace much less your wee golf ball. So be advised to keep it in play.

As with all links golf, be ready for some wicked winds that will make the outward nine play much longer than its distance. Have you mastered the punch shot? You’ll need it here. Overall, Nairn is just a real “cracker” as the Scots say-from start to finish.


Brora Golf Club

Brora is a hidden beauty that’s both quirky and quintessential Highlands Golf.

It’s a seaside links unlike anything you’ll find in Utah or the states in general. For starters, you have sheep and cattle on the course to contend with. They actually enhance the primitive experience. But don’t worry about a stray sheep throwing off your putting stroke, each green is surrounded by very thin electric wire and elevated just low enough for you to step over and high enough for you to chip underneath.

The holes that will stand out are the ninth, a lovely par 3 heading right toward the water, and the magnificent finishing par 3 18th. It boasts an elevated green and a slope in front that seems steeper than Bryce Canyon.


Fortrose and Rosemarkie

This is a fun one and a nice introduction to links golf. Fortrose and Rosemarkie is the 15th oldest recorded golf club in the world (1793). Short par 4s and meaty par 3s comprise this beauty just a couple miles north of Inverness.

Seven of its first eight holes stretch alongside the water. The design is simple, showcasing a beautiful 4th and 5th that offer stunning ocean views. The course sits on a point/peninsula and boasts an old lighthouse near its fifth tee.

Enjoy the relaxing experience as you’ll see plenty of locals walking their dogs along the path left of six, seven and eight. A road dissects the course as well, so be advised that many tourists drive through to the end of the point to view the frolicking dolphins. You can actually see Castle Stuart to the South across the Moray Firth on six, seven and eight.

Golf along Scotland’s coastal courses continues year round as courses are sand-based and drain well. They also escape much of the major weather because of their coastal locations. Sunlight in Highland Golf generally allows for play until 11pm in the summer and 4:30 pm in the winter. So plan accordingly.


Dan Dent

Feature • November 2016 • By Mike Sorensen

Making a Dent in

Salt Lake City Golf

Last year when Salt Lake City was threatening to close two of its golf courses and did, indeed close Wingpointe GC, Dan Dent decided he wanted to get involved. As a golfer who had grown up playing city courses, he was concerned about the future of golf in the city, even though he lived in Sandy at the time.

“I thought I could make a difference,” he said. “I grew up on these golf courses and I was really disheartened that people didn’t see the value in these golf courses, because golf literally changed my life. When I looked at that, I thought I could help and made a commitment to get more involved from a volunteer standpoint.”

Dent did more than that. He was hired as Salt Lake City’s Director of Golf and now has the responsibility of sustaining the city’s six golf courses and making them cost effective.

The 50-year-old Dent has a business background, having worked for Questar Gas for 23 years in a variety of positions, most recently in marketing and he spent the past seven years as a management consultant in the energy business.

But when he got tired of spending much of his life on planes and by himself in hotel rooms, he took a friend's advice and applied for the open golf position.

“I had the business knowledge and I had a passion about these golf courses,” he said. “I needed to figure out a way to get involved. It wasn’t planned, but circumstances got me here.”

Dent grew up in Salt Lake Valley and taught himself to play when he was a teenager, using his mother’s old Wright-Ditson clubs with persimmon woods and by reading articles in Golf Digest.

Within two years he became the top golfer on his high school team and a 3 handicap, which he has maintained through most of his life. He’s played in most amateur events in the state and was a regular in the men’s league at Wingpointe.

He became a member at Alpine Country Club, where he was elected to the Board of Directors and eventually was elected president of the club in 2014. That was his first foray into golf management.

“The perspective I bring to this job is business and marketing, especially on the financial side,” he said. “We are supposed to be self-sustaining and pay our own way so a big part of this job is operating like a business and figuring how you get the reinvestment on the courses to stay relevant and competitive.”

Dent said he is focused on four priorities in his job – generating revenue, controlling costs, optimizing operations and improving customer satisfaction.

He has to worry about the fine line of keeping green fees affordable, knowing that high prices will drive golfers to other nearby courses and that prices that are too low won’t help cover the budget.

Another big challenge is the cost of water, which is a big issue in Salt Lake where all of the courses are paying full culinary rates like the average citizen. The city tried using secondary water at Rose Park Golf Course this past summer, but it didn’t work well in the 50-year old system. If courses can switch to secondary water, it will help keep costs down.

“Salt Lake City golf courses are some of the best in the world,” said Dent, showing his bias for the courses he supervises. He can gloat about how Glendale has the best greens around, how Mountain Dell’s setting in the mountains can’t be beat, how Bonneville is comparable to some of the top private courses around and how Forest Dale, Nibley and Rose Park all fill niches for certain groups of golfers in their communities.

“All of our courses are within 12 minutes of downtown. Where else can you find that?,” Dent said. “And the cost of $40 to $50 with a cart is almost unheard of.”

As for Wingpointe, Dent says it has a “small possibility” of reopening, either through a private management company or through Salt Lake City, but he won’t know until the end of the year whether it will survive.

The greens and tees are being maintained with some financial help from the city and he’s hoping a new deal can be made with the FAA over the land the city leases at the airport. However even if the course gets a reprieve, it will take some time and money to get it up and running again.

As for Glendale, which was on the chopping block under mayor Ralph Becker, before he was defeated last year by Jackie Biskupski, Dent is confident the future is bright.

“I have not heard any discussion within the city in my four months that would indicate that anybody has any interest in closing Glendale,” he said. “From my perspective, Glendale is at worst, a break-even golf course if not a profitable golf course. Glendale matched Bonneville this year in its number of rounds.”

So will the greens fees be going up next year?

“If I can help it, no,” said Dent, who actually lowered prices this fall to test price sensitivity. “It may take us a year or two to find that optimal level. We do have competition but the fact of the matter is people have options with a lot of good golf courses in our community. We have to be somewhere in the same price point as those courses. Unless I’m ordered to, we’re not going to raise our prices. If anything we’re going to lower prices.”

All in all, Dent is excited about the future of golf in Salt Lake City.

“We’re hoping with our priorities that we can improve (golfers’) experience and figure out ways to optimize our operations and cut our costs so that we can keep our prices down and still generate a positive cash flow to continue to pay for improvements at our golf courses,” he said. “We’re trying to keep these golf courses as the great public amenities that they were built for and make them as accessible to as many people as possible.”


Glendale Golf Course


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