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Utah Golf Rings Out 2011 With Fond Reflections

Before ringing in the New Year it’s appropriate to pay respects for the Outgoing Year. Reflection of the past is always helpful for the future. Seeing what has been accomplished helps us visualize what can yet be achieved.
One of the biggest stories of the year came in the first week when the UGA Board announced the selection of Bill Walker as Executive Director of the Utah Golf Association. He filled the vacancy left when Thomas Pagel chose to climb taller mountains at the USGA. Walker was unknown to Utah golfers, coming to us from the Houston Junior Golf Association, but he ran things smoothly the first time around and is well prepared for his second go round this season.
Another big story came near the end of the season when Utah’s Jay Don Blake blossomed on the PGA Champions Tour and won two big tournaments. His first win in more than 20 years on tour came at the Korean Open in a playoff and six weeks later he won the Champions Tour final event, the Charles Schwab Championship. It was the biggest year of his career.
His glorious season actually started in early April when he, along with Dan Forsman and Todd Barker, were inducted into the Utah Golf Hall of Fame. That ceremony, with a full house in attendance at Hidden Valley Country Club, was highlighted by the induction speech given by LaVell Edwards. Mike Weir, former Masters Champion, was one of several Hall of Famers who came to honor the new inductees. The ceremony brought into focus the significant history of golf in Utah. For a small state we have an illustrious golf history.
In between those book end stories there were many achievements with Zac Blair dominating most of the golf headlines. He was named UGA Player of the Year after having one of the best national performances of any Utah amateur golfer since Jay Don Blake’s career at Utah State.
Nationally he won the Pacific Northwest Amateur, lost in a playoff in the prestigious Sunnehanna Amateur, finished second in the equally prestigious Sahalee Invitational, was fifth place in the even more prestigious Pacific Coast Amateur. When not playing nationally he won seven local tournaments, almost every one he entered.
Clay Ogden topped the local news on the professional side when he won the Utah Open for the second time. Spectacular pressure-packed shots on the final holes highlighted both of his victories.
Other significant stories surrounded Utah’s two major amateur events, the Utah State Amateur and the Utah State Women’s Amateur. Jeff Evans won the men’s side over Stratton Shulz and Julie McMullin capped her best season with a dramatic win over Lachell Poffenberger for the women’s title.
On the team side of things Utah won the Shootout over Arizona at Victory Ranch 43 ½ to 28 ½ and once again grabbed the lead in the see-saw series. Utah now leads the series, 11-10. Utah also won the Southwest Matches in Las Vegas.
On the senior side of golf Steve Poulson was named Player of the Year. He won three titles at the UGA Tournament of Champions and became the first amateur to win the Utah Senior Open.
For Daniel Summerhays the season started on a high note and finished on a high note, but he was off key during the middle of the year.  He started his first season on the PGA Tour with a third place finish and over $200,000 quickly, but a major slump ensued and he didn’t finish high enough to retain his tour card. That forced him into the Q-School torture chamber to try to earn his card back. He finished in the top ten and he is now looking forward to his second year on the tour.
Vernal’s Kent McCurdy was presented with the annual UGA Gold Club Award and Ron Branca, head pro at The Country Club, was named PGA Professional of the Year.
The golf course situation didn’t change much in Utah in 2011. No new courses came on line and the end of the season saw West Ridge Golf Course temporarily closed due to a major highway being built. The course is being re-designed by Gene Bates and will open in 2013.
There were some ownership changes with Vanguard Golf buying Coral Canyon and new owners at The Ledges. Alpine Country Club finished a major renovation that improved the quality of the course and Riverside Country Club built a fancy new clubhouse.
Reid Goodliffe announced his retirement as head pro at Toana Vista for the past 20 years and was honored as the title honoree of the Utah Senior Open. Steve Budge, long time superintendent at Riverside Country Club, also retired.
The deaths of Tony Bermingham, Bud Paul, and Mary Peacock, the wife of Arlen Peacock, and Ravena Finau, the mother of Tony and Gipper Finau, saddened the golf community.
After nine years of dedicated service Allen Simkins and Reed McGregor are leaving the UGA Board of Directors and Kurt Bernhisel and Denise Vilven will begin their sojourn as UGA Directors. Bill Probst has been President of the UGA this past year and Judy Allem has taken the reins for 2012.
And so out goes 2011 and in comes 2012 with similar tales to be told with different players starring in the ever repeating roles of golf in Utah.