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Former BYU golfer Patrick Fishburn, fresh off win at the Canada Life Championship, among the field at Sand Hollow Open
The Sand Hollow Open welcomes a tough, talented field just as 14 Scotsmen from St. Andrews leave their fun-filled tour of Utah’s southern desert
HURRICANE, Washington County — The Leavitt Group Sand Hollow Open should be a competitive powder keg 54-hole tournament when it kicks off Thursday, but it will be tough to follow the assault of 14 Scotsmen from St. Andrews who’ve been hanging around the state of Utah for a week and took over the course the past three days.
Former BYU star and 2017 Utah Open champion Patrick Fishburn, fresh off a win at the Canada Life Championship, will join defending Sand Hollow champion Taylor Montgomery, current Utah Open champion Sam Saunders and reigning U.S. Junior Amateur champion Preston Summerhays in the red-hot field.
They’ll be hard-pressed to duplicate the fun and laughs provided by an amateur team from St. Andrews, Scotland, who lost a Ryder Cup-type match to Sand Hollow Resort in Monday’s Friendship Cup, a first-ever event that will be repeated in Scotland in June 2020.
I’ve been mingling with the Scots since Friday at the Salt Lake Country Club, and their profound respect for the game, their knowledge and love for golf, which has its ancestral roots in their hometown of St. Andrews, was only outdone by their one-liners and entertaining demeanor.
The week began with Gov. Gary Herbert declaring it Sand Hollow Resort Golf Week by proclamation in welcoming the St. Andrews Golf Club team, the oldest golf club on earth, going on 600 years. It ended with the Scots heading for Las Vegas and flights home.
“It’s like I died and went to heaven,” said Trevor Kay, from Newport-on-Tay and a member of the St. Andrews and Scotscraig golf clubs. “I’ve never seen anything like this southern Utah anywhere in Europe, but a place way out in Turkey comes close.”
“The Leavitt family has been wonderful to us,” said Rod Sturrock, the team captain, nicknamed “The Dream Maker,” because he is the official starter on the Old Course at St. Andrews and nobody gets to tee it up on No. 1 without his approval.
The proud Scots don’t ride in golf carts in Scotland, they walk. And when they walk, they love to visit and talk to their playing mates. Over here they call carts buggies. You don’t hit it in or near the rough, but the rubbish. If you putt and are still away, they don’t say you haven’t lost your turn, they say “Dead Lamb,” which means “It’s Still Ewe.”
The Scots are used to putting when off the green, as far away as 50 to 75 yards because the lies are tight. In Utah, chipping with 60-degree wedges from off the green was a challenge and so was the speed of Utah greens because in St. Andrews if you verticut and rolled the greens to measure 12 on the Stimpmeter, the wind would blow golf balls off the greens. These guys are knockdown artists by necessity and survival; they like to hit low wind-drilling shots into the greens.
These nuances gave the Americans a little edge on the Scots in southern Utah. It allowed me to jump ahead of my nine-hole match with St. Andrews Golf Club vice captain Alan Tulleth, who got caught up in some gnarly grass just off No. 9 at Sand Hollow. When I knocked in a birdie out of the sand on our next hole, the par-4 No. 1, he was two-down with seven to play and he had to give me strokes on No. 7 and 8. When I closed him out on our seventh hole, he quipped, “Thanks for the hyde-’in.” But I felt horrible because he was graciously giving me putts that were not gimme class. It is a gentleman’s game.
Former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, (Utah captain), his brother Mark, (organizer and host) and Dave Wilkey (organizer and host), took the Scots from Temple Square, where the Tabernacle Choir serenaded them, to Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks before staging a practice round at Sand Hollow.
“Their strategy was clear” said Sturrock, “They wore us out with non-golf activities even before the competition began.”
Sturrock said one the highlights of the trip for him was when the Scots stayed at the Leavitt family ranch near Loa, where Mike and Mark’s 90-something mother fed them homemade soup.
The next day, “Crazy Uncle Dave,” showed up in a giant GMC pickup truck with a homemade mortar launcher in the back. He promptly gathered everyone, put a load of black powder down the barrel, put a 10-pound bowling ball on top of it, pushed in a fuse, lit it and ran. The resulting boom was deafening and the bowling ball finger holes created a whistling sound as it rocketed skyward toward a hill.
Someone asked if Crazy Uncle Dave could shoot it over the hill. He then put one, two and then the third load of black powder in, stuffed in the bowling ball, lit the fuse and ran. The ball sailed out and traveled over the hill, a distance estimated to be a mile.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Sturrock. “That was something else.”
Mark Leavitt wonders why nobody ever thought of this Scot-Utah Friendship Cup before.
“It’s far exceeded our expectations,” he said.
Leavitt went to great lengths to host and toast the Scotsmen in Utah, to give them a taste of a place many had never seen before. He even had artists with bagpipes greet them in Salt Lake City and at a gala Tuesday night outside among the red rocks at Sand Hollow Resort with a live band and plenty of finger food and drink. Scots like to drink.
Sturrock has his work cut out for him when the 14 Utahns go to St. Andrews in 2020 for a return match. Sturrock will probably have the Americans swim Loch Ness, hike up deer trails in the Highlands, wear kilts, spike their Diet Cokes and, get this, play golf without the use of buggies.
I bet the Scots clean clocks.