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Gary Scogin, World Champion Handball Player, Loves Golf

World Champion Handball Player Loves Golf

 

By Joe Watts

Gary Scogin is a good athlete and excels in baseball, golf, and handball. At 59 years of age baseball has passed him by and his passions now are golf and handball. He plays golf about two days a week in the summer and carries a four handicap.

A few years back he started playing the game more often and he improved to the point where he thought he had become “an okay golfer”and so to test himself he entered the Salt Lake Senior Am that was being held at Glendale and Rose Park.

“What an eye-opener that was. I couldn’t believe the scores those good players were posting. Siddens shot 60 at Rose Park and others were pushing him,” Scogin said wistfully. “I realized that there is a canyon between a four handicapper and a scratch golfer. I was amazed at those guys, and there are quite a few of them. Senior golf in Utah is very competitive,” he said.

On the links Scogin isn’t in the same league with Siddens, etal, but in handball it’s an entirely different story. There isn’t a senior in Utah who can beat Scogin. In fact, there isn’t a senior anywhere in the world who beat him last year. Scogin recently won the World Handball Championship in the 55 and over division, and to add an exclamation point won the same division at Nationals in Los Angeles.

Scogin won his first national title in 2010 and then teamed with Lloyd Garcia to win the doubles.

When Siddens won the Salt Lake City Senior Am he was unaware that he had routed the Senior World Handball champion, but Scogin was well aware of Siddens and much impressed.

While Scogin is a world beater in handball he is fascinated and intrigued by golf.

“I love golf,” he said, “Your opponent is yourself and the course. Amidst all the distractions and obstacles the essence is that you have to conquer yourself, and that’s a challenge,” he said.

Scogin’s lowest score is a 71 at East Bay. It was on July Fourth 15 years ago and he still has the scorecard.  He plays golf about once a week mostly at Glendale, Bonneville, and Rose Park.

“Golf is a lot more difficult than it appears. You place a ball on a tee and try to hit it where you want it to go and then you have to do it again and again. To people who have faced fast balls and curveballs in baseball, tennis, and handball, swinging at a stationary ball on a tee seems ridiculously easy, but it isn’t. It sometimes will not go where you are trying to hit it. It goes left, it goes right, it goes too high or too low, and it ends up in long grass, thistles, or trees, or worse, sand and water.”

“And then you have to walk to your ball, which takes a couple of minutes, and hit it again. Being able to repeat, repeat, repeat just doesn’t happen very often,” Scogin said.

“And then there’s putting. Again, it looks so simple, but various things cause you to miss,” he said. “Jordan Spieth and those other top golfers can probably make a higher percentage of putts from ten feet than I can make from three feet,” he noted, “and it’s not that I’m bad, it’s just that they are really good.”

Handball and golf are about as different as two sports can be.

Four-wall handball is the same the world over. It is always played inside and there are always four walls, a ceiling and floor identical in size. Golf is outside and you can’t find any two courses the same in the world, and in fact, because of weather the course changes each day and even within the day.

Golf can be played alone while handball requires an opponent. The score of each golfer is usually unaffected by the actions of an opponent. In handball the actions of the opponent can dictate the shot you can or must take.

Golf is 18 holes of about 10 minutes duration for each hole and takes about four hours to play 18 holes. Handball is a game to 21 points that takes less than a minute per point and rarely exceeds 30 minutes per game. Matches are two games to 21 and a tie breaker to 11.

Handball is an action-reaction game that requires quickness, strength, agility, and special knowledge of how the ball reacts as it bounces with spin off the various walls or ceiling at varying speeds and angles. It requires sudden bursts of speed, instant reflexes, balanced and quick foot positioning, and good physical conditioning. Golf is played well by people with a wide variety of physical traits. Good golfers are tall and short, and thin and heavy.

 “Tiger Woods made us aware of how important physical conditioning is for success in golf and nowadays almost everyone on the PGA Tour is in good physical condition,” Scogin observed.

“Perhaps the major difference in the two sports is that in handball you must react, in golf you must act,” he said. “They require different skill sets.”

Scogin grew up in New Mexico and baseball was his sport of choice. He played college baseball in Mesa State in Grand Junction, Colorado, and started playing racquet ball after going to work at a racquet ball facility.

“The owner talked me into trying handball. It’s more difficult than racquetball and not as appealing and when I first tried it I was discouraged. It was painful to the hand and very difficult,” he said.

“I’ve tried most sports and I think handball is the most difficult sport to start and stay with,” he said. “It takes a lot of fortitude to continue, but it is also very rewarding.”

“Handball, like golf, is a lifetime sport. Many national tournaments have 75 and 80 year old divisions,” he noted. “At the Sports Mall we have a group of seniors that play handball three times a week,” he said.

That handball group includes 94-year-old Loren Moench who was a very competitive golfer in his younger days, and Dee Allison, 77, father of Bonneville pro Rick Allison. With handball being inside and golf being outside they find the two sports very complementary.

The climate along the Wasatch Front makes for good golfing about eight months of the year and during those months many golfers switch to the indoor sports such as handball, racquetball, tennis, and basketball.

Scogin works at Ace Disposal, a company owned by father and son Matt and Lon Stalsberg. They are all avid golfers and handball players. Matt has the unique distinction of being the only man to lose to a woman in the Utah State Am. Annie Thurman beat him in the first round of the 2004 Utah State Am at Jeremy. The Stalsbergs are members at Jeremy Country Club and the Sports Mall.

To add to his handball laurels this past week Scogin won the Utah Senior Handball title once again.