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Utah State Am Tees Off Wednesday at Soldier Hollow With 288 Seeking Coveted Title
The 113th Utah State Amateur, the oldest continuous tournament in the world, begins Wednesday at Soldier Hollow Golf Course on both the Gold and Silver courses with a field of 288 players. A 36-hole stroke play qualifying will cut the field to 32 for the match play portion beginning on Friday and concluding on Sunday with a 36-hole finale.
There is no defending champion this year as last year’s winner Joe Parkinson is serving a mission for his church. The defending champion is always exempt into match play, and so his absence will open up an extra spot in match play.
There are eight former champions in the field. They are Steve Borget, 1985; Doug Bybee, 1990, 1991, 1996; Jason Wight, 1995; Todd Barker, 1997; Darrin Overson, 1998; Gregg Oliphant, 2002; Tommy Sharp, 2003; and Dan Horner, 2008, who won it when it was last held at Soldier Hollow.
Doug Bybee, a three-time champion and two-time runnerup, has played in more matches than any other player in the history of the tournament. He lacks only three more wins to tie Bill Korns for the most wins in the history of the tournament and at the age of 50 and living in Atlanta his quest for those three wins is almost quixotic. He continues the quest because of his love and respect for the tournament. Reaching match play at the age of 50, especially with the legion of great young players in the field, would be a huge achievement. However, there is talk that the match play portion could be enlarged to 64 in the near future, and that would increase his odds.
If the odds makers were to pick a favorite it would have to be Dan Horner who is in essence the defending champion of the last State Am at Soldier Hollow. He won it in 2008 in a sensational overtime match against Devin Daniels who has since turned pro. He has also made it to match play for the last six years in a row, and that’s the first order of business, making it to match play. Horner is playing well now, having won about seven tournaments this year. He feels good about his chances.
Another veteran, Kirk Siddens, is still hungering for the title and very capable. He was runnerup in 1999 at Hill Air Force Base. Siddens is 48, but is playing very well right now and aging hasn’t hurt his game.
Other serious contenders will be Carl Jensen, Brady Stanger, Tommy Sharp, Stu Gold, John Owen, Eric Rustand, Jeff Evans, Clay Bingham, Devon Purser, Brandon Kida, Cole Ogden, Scott Clark, Mason Casper, Darrin Overson, and Patrick Fishburn. And who knows who else? Of the last ten Utah State Am champions six of them weren’t considered favorites when the tourney teed off. This is a tournament that discovers champions.
Zac Blair, the 2009 champion, has not been mentioned among the favorites because he isn’t. You have to play to be a favorite. He has chosen to gain national experience and will instead be playing at the prestigious Sahalee Amateur. He will be missed here and we wish him well there.