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Another Richfield Star Emerges From Under the Radar: Dusty Fielding
(News organizations are welcome to reprint this article in full or in part. Please give credit to the Utah Golf Association)
by Joe Watts
Richfield, the little town that has probably produced more outstanding golfers per capita than any other city in Utah, has produced another one and he is just emerging from under the radar screen.
His name remains unrecognizable to many avid golfers in Utah because it is not a Summerhays, a Branca, a Schneiter, a Blair, or a Finau.
How about the name Dusty Fielding! Do you recognize it? Well, if you do you must have been paying close attention to this summer’s Utah Open because that’s one of the rare times his name has been in print or on the television screen.
He garnered the headlines because he was leading the Utah Open going into the final round and topped all the famous Utah golfers by finishing in second place. Even then his name was so unfamiliar to Utahns that many just assumed he was one of the outstanding out-of-staters playing in the tournament and you had to be a pretty avid reader to find out that he was born and raised in Richfield.
How did a kid from Richfield get good enough to challenge for the Utah Open title without most people ever hearing his name? How does a kid from Richfield who never participated in any Utah Golf Association tournaments except the State Am a couple of times get that good? Making it to match play in the Utah State Am is a benchmark of success that many golfers take notice of, but Fielding never even achieved that benchmark.
Now here’s the big news, which is buried way too deep in this story. At age 29, he is no longer a kid, is suddenly in the spotlight, and no longer unknown. This past month he won a pre-qualifying event to get accepted into the PGA Tour Q-School. He leaped that hurdle and then, not only advanced, but won the first stage of the three-stage Q-School tournaments. He then survived a hair-raising finish at the second stage event and earned a spot in next week’s final stage. This gives him the opportunity to become one of the rare, very rare Utahns to ever earn a PGA Tour Card.
And all this from a kid who polished his game in almost complete obscurity.
His parents, Shay and Judy Fielding, grew up in Moab, moved to California for a few years and settled in Richfield when Dusty was nine years old.
As a youngster baseball was his sport. He was a dominating pitcher in little league and had dreams of being a big-time baseball star, but about that time he played his first round of golf at Cove View Golf Course and was hooked. That was between the seventh and eighth grades.
“I loved the game, but I certainly wasn’t good at it. I began playing as much as I could and I lost interest in the other sports. Golf hooked me and I steadily improved,” he recalls. He played on the Richfield golf team where he finished second at state and the team finished third, but he only played in one junior golf tournament during all those years and was just one of many young players dabbling in the game.
“I got some tips on the basics from Mike Jorgensen and played with him a bit. He was my first influence in the game,” he said. “I always looked up to him, and also Doug Roberts, and also to the pros at Cove View, Kris Abegglen and John Roberts.
I didn’t have the money to travel to Salt Lake and play the amateur circuit up there and so I dabbled in small events in Southern and Central Utah and won quite a few tournaments off the beaten trail,” Fielding said.
Jorgensen, the perennial club champion at Cove View, said of Fielding, “he was an extremely long hitter even as a kid. He was outdriving me by 50 yards. You could tell he had talent and potential, but he needed work on his short game, especially his wedges,” he said.
Fielding has done just that.
“I’ve really worked hard polishing my game, especially my short game, and I’ve throttled back my driver, and now it is starting to pay off,” he said.
“I can hit it 360 and fly it nearly 350, but I’ve settled into carrying it a comfortable 300 yard distance (not including roll) most of the time,” Fielding said. “It’s helped my scoring.”
From time to time he entered various long drive contests and hit it in the 400 yard area. He competed occasionally against former Utah State Amateur champion Jerimie Montgomery who once won the national long drive title.
“In one of our contests I hit it 400 yards and he was measured at 405,” said Fielding.
Fielding graduated from Richfield High School in 2001 and then went on an LDS mission to Texas. When he returned from his mission in 2004 he had no solid plans. He moved to St. George and got a job on the maintenance crew at Sunbrook Golf Course and began playing again.
Ron Ellison, the coach at Dixie Junior College, accepted him as a walk-on. He became the number one player on the team and earned Junior College All American honors although he didn’t win any tournaments and was still just one of the crowd.
A search of the UGA archives reveals that Dusty won the Dixie Amateur back in 2006 with an eye-popping score of 60-65-125, but that was on the short Dixie Red Hills course and didn’t attract the attention that it deserved. He won it by six shots. In 2008, after his college years, he won the Dixie Qualifying of the Utah State Am with a two under par 70 at Green Spring, but didn’t impress at the State Am.
He turned pro in 2008 to play in the Utah Open and missed the cut in the qualifying, and then missed the cut in the Nevada Open, a not too auspicious beginning.
He began practicing at Coral Canyon and one of the big moments of his life came when Jay Don Blake invited him to join him in a practice round.
“We started on the back nine and although I was very nervous I shot a 29 on the back and finished with a 63,” he recalled, “and after that we began playing quite a bit together. I learned a lot from Jay Don, and that increased my confidence and motivated me to improve.”
While Jay Don’s wife caddied for him much of the time Fielding became a backup caddy and had the opportunity to caddy for Jay Don about 12 times, including some very big moments. He caddied for him when he won the tournament in South Korea last year and prior to that he caddied for him in the Senior PGA Championship when Jay Don played in the final foursome the final day.
“Those experiences have been big for me, not only in watching and learning from Jay Don and the other great players out there, but for motivating me to become better,” Fielding said.
Fielding’s personality is similar to Jay Don’s. They are both very quiet and not very revealing of themselves, and certainly not braggadocio. They don’t seem too impressed when they win, and they don’t seem depressed when they lose.
This past summer Fielding’s name started appearing on the UGA web page quite regularly as he was one of a half dozen Utahns playing on the obscure National Pro Golf Tour (NPGT). He was playing on the tour along with well known Utahns Clay Ogden, Tony and Gipper Finau, Nick Killpack, Dustin Pimm, and Stu Gold. The Fielding name was just a tag-along in the midst of those big names, and yet he did very well and the group developed a close friendship. Tony was the big money winner, but Fielding was next among the group.
While that tour experience was invaluable in refining his tournament game it also left him broke. The NPG Tour declared bankruptcy before the season ended and never paid him his earnings. It is now reinventing itself and the new owners are in the process of paying those debts.
A $3000 loan from Jay Don Blake got him into the PGA Tour Qualifying School and the $14,000 check from the Utah Open was a big financial boost.
This is his first experience at the PGA Q-School, and is also the last year that the Q-School will provide direct access to the PGA Tour. In the future the qualifying school will only be to qualify for the Web.com Tour and the top finishers on the Web.Com Tour will advance to the big tour.
He is hoping the nerve racking experience he had in the second stage of this year’s Q-School will settle his nerves for the ‘white knuckle’ final stage next week.
The second stage event was held at Bear Creek in Muirfield, California and he opened with rounds of 73-68-69 and going onto the 15th hole of the final round he was comfortably ahead of the estimated qualifying score by four shots. One bad sand shot on the 15th led to a triple bogey and suddenly his comfort zone turned into crisis mode. The 16th brought on another bogey and that left him needing two straight pars to advance, i.e. he was going to have to perform under extreme pressure.
He made a clutch par putt on 17 and then faced another do or die par on 18. The greens were lightning fast, stimping at 13, “the fastest greens I had ever played on,” he said. He reached the green in regulation, but his lag putt scooted four or five feet past the hole, leaving him a knee-knocking putt to qualify.
When he took his stance and looked down at the ball his knees were literally shaking. He stepped back, calmed himself, reminded himself to keep his head still, stroke it in the hole, and block out everything else. He was up to the task, sank the putt, and advanced to the final stage.
Now he has to do it again, and that’s what those guys are doing for a living, again and again—playing to perfection under pressure.
There are 160 players in the Q-School finals and that has already earned each of them conditional status on the Web.com Tour. The top 25 and ties will earn unrestricted PGA Tour Cards and the next 50 will earn full status on the Web.com Tour.
The six day event is being televised on the Golf Channel.