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Challenging Conditions at the Senior Stroke Play Championship

The dates look good on the calendar, but the Utah Senior Stroke Play Championship’s early May slot tends to produce some of the toughest playing conditions of the Utah Golf Association season.

Regardless, Utah’s senior major tournaments keep bringing out  the ball-striking best in Brigham Gibbs.

With his win at Fox Hollow GC, Brigham Gibbs is now a two-time champion in the last four playings of the Utah Senior Stroke Play Championship. (Photo: Fairways Media)

Each of those traditional elements was on display at Fox Hollow Golf Club in American Fork, where Gibbs gave himself enough cushion to absorb some early and late lapses in the final round. With a second Stroke Play title to go with his three Senior State Amateur victories, Gibbs further stamped himself as Utah’s best senior men’s player of this century.

Gibbs’ latest performance came in chilly, challenging conditions that Legends division winner Rob Bachman labeled “windy and difficult and frustrating.”

Gibbs will have one more shot at greatness in his 50s before his birthday in August, the day after the Senior State Am concludes at Hill Air Force Base’s Hubbard GC. A three-stroke win over Eric Rustand at Fox Hollow followed his Senior State Am victory at nearby Alpine Country Club last summer. Craig Wilson is the only other player to hold both trophies at once.

Gibbs (72-69-78) acknowledged “just kind of losing focus for most of the round; luckily, so did everybody else,” as he started and finished three shots ahead of the field with a 3-over-par total. Rustand, another reinstated amateur who appeared briefly on the PGA Tour, got within one stroke after the final round’s front nine. Gibbs birdied the par-5 No. 10 and eventually built a five-shot advantage in the wind.

Tougher conditions, I’ve always played well in, so I kind of like it and look forward to it,” Gibbs said.

Senior golf has been “kind to me,” said Gibbs, when asked for a career reflection. “I’ve been fortunate. I wasn’t here for most of my amateur career, and when I moved back (from Florida), I was a senior. So I’ve been fortunate to play well.”

Rustand (78-70-74) jumped into second place, ahead of Darren Kuhn (76-70-77), Matthew Lyons (72-72-81) and Tommy Johnson (75-75-78).


Mark Gardiner is a new name in the UGA, and he’s likely here to stay. Playing from the blue tees in the Super-Senior (60-over) division, Gardiner (74-72-72) was solid throughout the tournament.

Utah Super-Senior Stroke Play champion, Mark Gardiner. (Photo: UGA)

Having retired after 26 years in the U.S. Air Force as a fixture in military golf, amid other duties, Gardiner recently moved into a home near Green Spring GC in Washington, Utah. The three-time Missouri senior champion said, “Golf has allowed me many opportunities. I’m looking forward to Utah golf.”

Gardiner finished three strokes ahead of Randy Hicken (79-72-70), the UGA’s reigning Super-Senior Men’s Player of the Year. Even with mixed results on No. 16, Gardiner played Fox Hollow’s par-5s in 7 under par for the tournament, including an eagle on No. 9 in the first round.

Dan Hatch (73-72-80) placed third after being the 36-hole leader, and was followed by Craig Wilson (78-72-80) and Steven Borget (80-76-76).


Bachman (79-78-79) was the steadiest player in any division and happily accepted the 70-over trophy. But he would have preferred an ending other than having himself and Michael Hacker both bogey No. 18 in regulation and miss short putts on the par-5 No. 10 in a playoff.

Utah Legends Stroke Play champion, Rob Backman. (Photo: Fairways Media)

Even so, Bachman was happy with his back-nine effort, making two birdies to post a 38 after shooting 41 and 42 on that side in the first two rounds. “I guess I just figured with those four or five holes left to play, I needed to get aggressive, and it worked out,” Bachman said.

Playing in the group ahead of Bachman, Hacker (79-80-74) had a shorter par attempt on No. 18 and also bogeyed the playoff hole to conclude an otherwise impressive day. Steven Smith (80-79-76) finished third, one-stroke ahead of two-time defending champion Doug Marriott (83-77-76) and 36-hole leader David Fischer (79-76-81).

Story by Fairways Media senior writer Kurt Kragthorpe.