Zions Bank Player of the Week
This week’s Zions Bank Player of the Week honor goes to former Utah State Amateur Champion & current PGA Tour member, Tony Finau.
Tony’s T5 (-11) performance at the Masters was captivating and made Utah golf fans proud. Need we say anymore?
By Garrett Johnston
Augusta, Ga. – Tony Finau’s magical run in only his second Masters came up a couple shots short to winner Tiger Woods at Augusta National on Sunday afternoon as Woods unleashed one of the most amazing victories of his entire career, winning his fifth green jacket.
Woods walked away from storied Augusta National leaving the fans and his fellow players in amazement after he captured his first major championship since 2008 and fifteenth major overall and exuberantly rejoiced afterwards on the green, with his family, and with fellow players by the scoring area.
It was a moment that sports fans won’t long forget.
So how did the superstar do it?
“I just kept saying, ‘I've been here, it wasn't that long ago’,” Woods said in his presser. “Just go ahead and just keep playing your game, keep plodding along and keep doing all the little things correctly.”
This titan of sports says he struggled processing just what he had done afterwards.
“It hasn't sunk in at all,” Woods said. “This is one of those things, it's going to take a little bit of time.”
Other who’ve known Woods and worked with him in the past like his former swing coach Chris Como had some emphatic observations about this moment.
"It's unbelievable, I’m so happy for him" Como said. "The best comeback in sports history."
As for the Utahn, Finau finished at 11-under par after an even-par 72, good for a tie for fifth.
“It was pretty much everything I expected,” Finau said. “The crowds were going crazy for Tiger and I battled until we had the door open on twelve. That was the change of the tournament. Francesco (Molinari) hit it in the water. I knew I just needed to hit it on land, I needed to put it in the bunker and (I) just barely hit it chunky and it kind of rolls on me.”
Finau’s coach Boyd Summerhays agreed that Finau’s double bogey at twelve was a turning point.
“Number 12 was where the tournament got away,” Summerhays said. “He knew he needed to hit it where Tiger did (on the green) and admittedly just made a poor swing at the wrong time.”
Finau’s caddie Greg Bodine discussed their strategy on the one shot that will likely go down as the most crucial from this final round.
“We saw the guys in front of us go in the water and so we had to keep it left of the flag,” Bodine said. “He hit it right at it and just hoped it covered the green. It was a close, but a tough shot.”
Finau’s chances of catching Woods later on the back nine ended when he missed his short eagle putt on the par 5 15th.
And even though Sunday at Augusta National would prove to be Woods’ day instead of Finau’s, his father Kelepi who walked all four tournament days had a positive takeaway.
“That’s the most pressure you can feel in golf is grouping with Tiger Woods on the weekend on Sunday at Augusta,” Kelepi said. “Now there’s probably no other experience for him to feel pressure at that level, so now he can be able to focus on winning.”
And playing with Woods on Sunday during what will do down as one of the star’s greatest victories gave Finau a unique opportunity.
Woods made his clinching putt and exploded with emotional reactions, and the first person who he shook hands with as a newly minted winner of fifteen majors and five green jackets was the tall Utahn.
“You can't beat the experience,” Finau said of playing with a victorious Woods. “It's something you can't pay for. When you're someone like me in my shoes still trying to come up, still trying to win majors...you can’t beat playing with the best that’s ever done it.”
Garrett Johnston has covered 25 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnstonGarrett
By Mike Stansfield
The shattered water made a misty din.
Great waves looked over others coming in,
And thought of doing something to the shore
That water never did to land before.
The clouds were low and hairy in the skies,
Like locks blown forward in the gleam of eyes.
~ Robert Frost
In Robert Frost’s poem, Once by the Pacific, Frost creates a feeling of the immense nature of the ocean and the power contained within its cycles. For three glorious October days I had the opportunity to walk in Frost’s footsteps and sit on the beach and feel that power. I also had the chance to experience one of the world’s great resorts along with 36-holes of outstanding golf designed by Tom Fazio.
The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach, California, is perched on the hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean, minutes from the Pacific Coast Highway and Crystal Cove Beach. Like their namesake, the golf courses seem to lie over, under and through the beautiful coastal hills that make this part of southern California so special.
Two spectacular courses but each with a character of their own, the South Course is more unique with a resort flare. Water hazards, several holes by the ocean’s edge, along with unique design features, add to the feeling of a resort atmosphere.
The North Course is more of a player’s course with open canyons and elevated plateaus. It plays longer, is more subtle in its definitions and requires some thought and course knowledge if one is to score well. That course knowledge will come much easier if you take advantage of the caddy program available at both courses. The North course reminded me of Spyglass in Pebble Beach with its challenging distances, ocean views, superior conditioning and oak-covered hills.
Both courses finish strong. The 17th and 18th holes are challenging and require well-placed tee shots. The 18th on the South Course requires shots over two ravines up to a well-protected green. The 17th on the North Course is a 558-yard par 5 downhill shot with a second and third shot up to an elevated green framed by the majestic Pacific. The 18th is a downhill par 4 which provides a birdie opportunity if one is willing to go at the flag across a tree-filled valley.
If you get a chance be sure and take a lesson from their Director of Instruction Glenn Deck, a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher or from one of his staff. Glenn has been at Pelican Hill for 25 years and has an uncanny ability to zero in on the one thought or insight which can help you take your game to another level. Patient and perceptive, my one hour with Glenn Deck has given me some serious insights in how to improve my game.
Pelican Hill is more than golf. There is a reason this is a five-star resort. Not your typical hotel rooms, the resort is comprised of two, three and four bedroom villas with ocean views, butler service and a private clubhouse and pool. The remainder of the resort is comprised of expansive bungalow guest rooms and suites.
Enjoy Pelican Hill’s numerous amenities including the spa, restaurants, and swimming pools and as strange as this may sound-talking and conversing with the many amazing people that make up the staff. Great care is used in the hiring of “team members” that work at the resort resulting in outstanding service. The care and consideration paid to the resort’s guests is truly one of the delights in staying at Pelican Hill.
Not to be missed is the Crystal Cove Beach. The Resort runs a shuttle on the hour to one of the most beautiful beaches on the West Coast. The beach is perfect for strolling along the shore and provides an opportunity to explore the many tide pools that dot the shore. But one thing you don’t want to miss is the Crystal Cove Historic District. The district is composed of a unique community of vintage cottages that are being restored to their previous 1950’s and 1960’s glory. Also not to be missed is the museum at Crystal Cove that highlights the simple beach life of a bygone era.
Along with the incredible restaurants, resort guests may want to visit Ruby’s Shake Shack or the Beachcomber and Bootlegger Bar that relive those lazy days of spending time at the beach. Immediately north and south of The Resort at Pelican Hill are a number of other breathtaking beaches available to guests of the resort.
Those who have experienced this remarkable resort always point out certain things which make this such an incredible experience. Frequently mentioned is the accommodating nature of the friendly staff, the amazing views, the luxurious accommodations as well as the sheer size and grandeur of the resort along with the impeccably maintained landscape.
So, once by the Pacific, I watched the rolling waves coming in. Once by the Pacific, I played 36-holes of spectacular golf. Once by the Pacific, I experienced amazing service, accommodations, food and ocean views. So, once by the Pacific, I made memories of a very special place that every golfer should plan to play.
The Resort at Pelican Hill is a special bucket list resort, as are its golf courses, that define a golfer’s dream trip.
Johnny Miller Called the Shots
By Dick Harmon
The microphone given Johnny Miller to engage the masses with his TV golf color and commentary is silent. The Heber Valley homeowner is on to other fairways.
Johnny Miller’s television commentaries were a bold clarion voice in the world of professional golf where plush country club whispers ruled until his arrival. Miller’s unique perspective – often controversial – ended with his last TV broadcast the day before Super Bowl Sunday when the 71-year old former BYU star retired from NBC Sports at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in Scottsdale.
His last broadcast of Saturday’s third-round play was filled with tributes, vignettes, videos of legendary calls, and a storied playing career on the PGA Tour.
Johnny used football jargon to describe golf. He was blunt, direct and honest. Some thought he was mean, but to the regular Joe who plays municipal golf or club guy hanging out with members, he spoke their language. A shank and duck hook? They understood. And that made his TV work a masterpiece, a bastion of “telling it like it is” journalism.
Miller tore up the PGA Tour back in the early 70s; it was a playing career in which he dominated as one of the world's best iron players and stepped out of the shadow of Jack Nicklaus to earn induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
But as his golf career faded, a parade that featured two major victories, 25 Tour wins and a pair of Ryder Cup victories, the former BYU golfer was an instant hit behind the microphone describing with artistic bluntness the foibles of millionaires who golf.
In his book, “I Call the Shots,” published in 2004, Miller correctly predicted how megastar Tiger Woods would struggle physically and mentally to overtake Nicklaus’ rein of wins in majors. Half a decade later, Woods, as if on cue, had personal and physical issues that derailed his talented and remarkable run as the best on the planet.
In short, Miller’s insight has been a national treasure.
It was both refreshing and fun, even if it rankled some pros when he used the words “choke” and “puke.”
Because Miller had done it as good as anyone, when he explained how a pro messed up, it carried major weight.
“I think he was very confident in all he’s done and to be honest, even if that rubbed some people the wrong way, other people loved it.” said his son Todd Miller, director of golf at BYU.
Todd was only three or four years old when his father quit playing competitive golf. He’s only seen videos of the days his father, a handsome blonde-headed athletic figure knocked approach shots stiff and raised his arms in the air to celebrate or when he shot a record 63 at Oakmont in the 1973 U.S. Open, one of the toughest courses in the world.
That Oakmont 63 is considered the best round of golf in history if you consider equipment, balls and how the game has advanced. He hit every green in regulation and came from six shots back to win, it was the first 63 ever shot in a major.
Todd said his father has always been very good about knowing when to step away. He did so with his playing days, going out when he was playing well and he’s doing it now with TV. “It’s something he’s felt he would do for about four years but NBC kept asking him to put it off until they found the right replacement, Paul Azinger.”
Miller owns homes in Heber Valley and Napa Valley, California where he is co-owner of Silverado Golf Club. He will likely spend most of his time around Silverado where his daughter Kelly and son Andy live nearby.
Todd Miller was asked if he went out and played 18 holes with Johnny Miller today, what would you get? He laughed and said that wouldn’t happen because Johnny wouldn’t play 18 holes of competitive golf for a million bucks. He hurts too much. “If you let him warm up for a while he can still go out and hit it. He hits a pinch-draw and he’s still got it. We used to play with him back in ’86 and he hit it fantastic and even putted well, although some say he had the yips.
“He does some teaching and clinics and you can see he still has that flair and ability to hit a shot even today.”
Miller’s legacy will remain forever because of his game, his TV work and his persona in general.
Wrote Los Angeles Times reporter Tom Hoffarth, “Miller combined gravitas with the personality of someone who didn’t take himself too seriously. He was true to himself, even if the truth crushed others.”
Todd said he is lucky to have a father who actually excelled at so many things.
“There are a lot of people that are great in a certain aspect of their life, but for him to have such an awesome career and do so many things at a high level is something I’ll always remember and be proud of. He could golf at the highest level. He could do commentary and announcing at the highest level. He fishes. Some people are pretty lopsided and they do one thing really good. He could race cars if he wanted and he was a great father and husband. He succeeded in everything he tried and that is something you can’t say about many. I have so many things to look up to him for.”
Miller has been nominated for eight sports Emmys and covered 20 U.S. Opens, 14 Ryder Cups, three British Opens and the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Miller has been a great supporter locally of Utah golf, helping with the Utah Golf Association, Utah Junior Golf Association and a myriad of charities, causes and campaigns over the years. He has been a frequent attendee at Cougar Day and other tournaments where he has been seen along the fairways and greens making observations about local talent.
Peter Kuest, one of the hottest collegiate golfers in the country with four victories since September, (John A. Burns, St. Mary’s, Pacific and Tucker invitationals) praises Miller who took interest in him as a high school player in Fresno.
Miller often visits Kuest and BYU’s new team practice facility at Fox Hollow in American Fork and Kuest gets a kick out of Miller mingling with the squad.
“It’s just awesome to go hang out on the range with Johnny and be able to pick his brain and watch him hit some shots. It’s really cool.”
Kuest likes one tip Miller gave him in particular, to add a low draw upon approach with his scoring clubs, eight-iron through wedges.
Miller showed him how to play it a little back in his stance and hit a tight little draw that he says “almost makes you hit the flag out of the hole.” Said Kuest, “It’s been really effective so far. It really helps when you get under pressure that you have a shot you can go to that you have confidence in.”
Johnny Miller. You could say he came, he talked, and he walked every bit the walk.
Azinger has replaced Miller behind the NBC microphone but he will be hardpressed to duplicate the Miller style. It’s been a great run.
Dick Harmon is a sportswriter for the Deseret News and a frequent contributor to Fairways.
The Sugarhouse 18
One is the oldest golf course in Utah, while the other is the oldest municipal golf course in the state. While neither course is ever likely to receive awards for their fancy layouts or amenities, they are both enjoyable golf courses to play with loyal clienteles.
We’re talking about the Forest Dale and Nibley Park golf courses, which are both located on the southern edge of the Salt Lake City boundaries, less than a mile apart. Regulars have nicknamed them “the Sugarhouse 18.”
Forest Dale and Nibley don’t receive the attention afforded other Salt Lake City courses, such as Bonneville or Mountain Dell, or even Glendale and Rose Park, each of which are 18-hole layouts. Both are 9-hole courses situated on relatively flat ground. Nibley is bounded by 5th East and 7th East, south of 27th South, while Forest Dale is located east of 9th East and south of the 1-80 freeway.
Longtime Salt Lake City professional Steve Elliott oversees both courses as the head professional, following in the footsteps of iconic Salt Lake City professionals Tom McHugh, Alex McCafferty and Tom Sorensen at Nibley and Jerry Henderson and Don Dorton at Forest Dale. Several other longtime Utah golf professionals have spent time at the two courses including Jeff Waters, Mack Christensen and Lynn Landgren.
Elliott splits his time each week between the two courses often opening one course in the morning and working at the other in the afternoon. The fact that they are about a 4-minute drive makes it easy for him to keep his eye on both.
“There’s a lot of history at these two courses,” said Elliott, who remembers watching the City Parks Open at Forest Dale with his parents and playing in the Utah Junior Open at Nibley Park in the early 1960s when it was about the only junior tournament going.
Forest Dale was built in 1906 and is the oldest existing course in the state. The original clubhouse, which was designed by Fredrick Albert Hale, is still standing, although it has been renovated on the inside and currently houses the Salt Lake City golf offices besides the golf shop and restaurant.
In its early days, Forest Dale hosted several prominent people including President William Howard Taft in 1909. Back then it was the Salt Lake Country Club until it was sold to Salt Lake City. It hosted the City Parks Open for a couple of decades beginning in 1943 and by 1956 was touted as “the world’s largest golf tournament” with nearly 750 contestants.
In 1958, the course was sold to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which had plans to turn the course into a junior college campus. However, those plans never materialized and 12 years later the course was sold back to the city.
By the early 1980s, there were plans to turn the property into an 18-hole executive course with a driving range, which the course has never had, but the plan didn’t come about. Instead the course underwent renovations with a new irrigation system, a large lake, new tee areas, numerous berms and mounds and re-opened in July of 1987.
The greens at Forest Dale are small and many are the original greens. The best holes on the course may be the final three. No 7 is a par-5 that doglegs right, around a lake, No. 8 is a short-par three with a lake to the back and sides, while No. 9 is a 449-yard par-4 the doglegs left and runs parallel to 9th East.
Nibley Park opened in the spring of 1922 and like Forest Dale, still has several of the original greens. The layout has changed a few times, most recently in 1982 when the current clubhouse was built, moving from the corner of 27th South and 7th East.
The land where the golf course sits, was originally an open-air amusement park that was built in 1864, just 17 years after the first pioneers came to the Salt Lake Valley. Called Calder’s Park Resort, it attracted folks from all over the valley for swimming, fishing, and boating, bicycling, horse racing and also included a dance hall.
In 1902, the land was sold to the LDS Granite Stake and became Wandamere Park. Then in 1921, railroad magnate Charles W. Nibley bought the property and bequeathed it to Salt Lake City for its first municipal golf course. In the deed, he stipulated that it could never be sold, subdivided or desecrated. Six months later LDS Church President Heber J. Grant dedicated the course, hitting the first ball of No. 1 tee.
Perhaps the most memorable hole for golfers at Nibley is the par-3 9th, which was formerly No. 4. The tee shot is all carry over a lake to a wide green with a bunker in front.
Elliott had taken over for Waters at Nibley in 1992 before moving on to Rose Park and later to Bonneville. He had the opportunity to return to Nibley two years ago when Salt Lake City rotated its golf professionals and enjoys seeing a lot of the same clientele, which includes a lot of couples, seniors and beginners.
He said Forest Dale gets a little more play with just over 40,000 rounds played last year, while Nibley was closer to 30,000. Both courses have men’s and women’s leagues, but Elliott said golfers can usually walk up and get on to either course around the middle of the day during the spring and summer months.
Mike Sorensen is a sportswriter for the Deseret News and a frequent contributor to Fairways.