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Utah Golf Association // Past President’s Message

Yea Golf!

By Stewart Walz,

In 2021 the Board of Directors adopted a mission statement for the UGA; “The mission of the Utah Golf Association is to promote and advance golf.  The Utah Golf Association provides its members with golf related benefits, supports golf-related programs, and conduct championships.”  Despite being very simple, that statement contains many concepts worth a little amplification.

Has the UGA furthered its mission in the last year?  I think so, but as the term “advance” connotes, there will always be more to do.  The old saying applies, “If you are not moving forward, you are moving backward.”  So, what have we done over the last year, and what still needs to be done?

The UGA fulfilled its obligation to conduct championships. Last year the pandemic prevented us from putting on a full slate of championships, but our staff, interns and volunteers exceed all expectations in hosting the tournaments we did.    This year we returned to a complete calendar.  We scheduled a Net Championship for early October, but not enough golfers entered to conduct a championship with four divisions.  Hopefully, the UGA can find a date more appealing to a larger number of players next season so this tournament can be held.  I believe that we should maximize the opportunities for players of different skill levels,  genders and ages, to claim the title of  UGA champion.  To that end, the UGA added a Legends Division for golfers over seventy to Winterchamps and the Senior Stroke play.

One other change bears mention.  In the Women’s Sate Amateur we expanded he match play bracket from 16 to 32 players.   This created the thrill of match play for more women players; it seemed to be a well received modification which will continue in the future.   That said, we had fewer than 70 registrants for the Women’s State Am while almost 900 registered for the State Amateur.  I hope that that gap will close in the future.

These  changes helped fulfill our obligation to advance the game in Utah through our championships.  But, you might ask, how does our Association with a full time staff of only five conduct seven men’s and eight women’s championships in a season?  (Don’t forget that the State Amateur has 11 qualifiers, the Senior Amateur 4, and the UGA conducts 9 qualifiers for the United States Golf Association).  It starts with our incredible staff.  Jake Miller, Easton Folster, Lisa Immamura, William Michetti and  Colin Clawson.  These people are dedicated to putting in the hours and effort it takes to organize and run our tournaments.

Two other groups of people are essential to running our tournaments, interns and volunteers.  Jake and Easton are perspicacious recruiters; they have done a fantastic job in hiring superb interns.  These women and men put in hours marking courses, coordinating volunteers, schlepping equipment, manning scoring areas, and doing whatever else their mentors require.   I hope you had an opportunity to read my column in Fairways Magazine because it was about our volunteers.  They work many days and long hours to ensure the players are introduced on the first tee each day, that the competitions are conducted according to the Rules of Golf, and Utah courses are rated properly so the handicap system will work as designed.   These men and women deserve thanks from all Utah golfers.

Does the UGA provide its members benefits?  Yes, and one way is by providing each member with a handicap index.  In fact, for many this is the major benefit the UGA provides its members.   Administering  the index is the exclusive province of the UGA.  Golf is a competitive game.  Bernard Darwin wrote, “It is the undying hope of improvement that makes the game so exquisitely worth the playing.”   That index is the truest measure of improvement, measured either against yourself or your opponents.  All golfers who have an index realize it is the handicap system that allows players of different skill levels to compete in a fair match with others of different skill levels.  Of course, to be effective, the handicap system must be honest, and the UGA helps professionals police the handicap system so that it is honest.

This year the UGA has decided to provide the clubs in the state another significant benefit, continued access to the Golf Genius software.  The USGA decided to cease paying for Golf Genius after 2022. Golf Genius is a  tournament software program the UGA and many courses in the state employ to efficiently run tournaments.  The UGA decided that paying for the basic Golf Genius package for courses in the state is part of its mission, and will do so through 2025.

In addition,  the UGA’s mission is to support golf related programs.  One way  it does that is through its charitable arm, the Utah Golf Foundation.  The Foundation has two very successful programs, Youth on Course and Vets on Course.  Youth on Course allows junior UGA members to play at over thirty course in the state for maximum of $5 for nine holes.   Vets on Course provides Veterans with afternoons of clinics and nine hole scrambles so veterans can associate with each other.  The UGA has helped raise money to assist these programs and provided administrative assistance  for them this  year and in the past.   (Before Youth on Course, there were approximately 900 junior members of the UGA. Now there are about 4500). Additionally, the UGA helps support the Utah Junior Golf Association and provides money to the PGA earmarked for junior golf.  The staff and board members of the UGA also enjoy a warm relationship with the First Tee of Utah.

The UGA also supports the Golf Alliance of Utah, which provides lobbying efforts and public information that protect and hopefully advance golf within the state.   As Utah grows, the Alliance, and the organizations mentioned in the preceding paragraph, are essential to encourage public entities and the public to support golf.  This is something that clearly is within the mission of the UGA.  It is also something that is within the mission of all members of the UGA.

We golfers know that our game is valuable recreation. We also know our game provides health benefits for its players.  We know our game teaches valuable lessons in honesty, fair play and courtesy toward others.  We know that most can play golf for a lifetime.  Some think that golf is only for the well to do, or is not welcoming to women and certain ethnicities.   To a degree some of that is true.   Golf will never be free.  But there are things we all can do to help golf and help the mission of the UGA.  Donate money to the UGF and The First Tee.  Donate used clubs, balls and other equipment to the First Tee at Golf the Round.  Encourage the junior at the driving range by simply saying nice shot.  Take your daughter, granddaughter or or junior of any gender to the driving range. And extol the achievements of golfers of color, particularly Utah golfers of color.  Apelila Galeai is our Women’s State Amateur Champion, Tess Blair is a former champion, Kerstin Fotu made the cut at the Utah Open, and Tony Finau won on tour and is a two time Ryder Cupper.  The game is growing in all quarters and must continue to do so.

YEA GOLF!

 

Stewart Walz is the immediate past president of the Utah Golf Association who has completed his term on the Utah Golf Association Board of Directors.

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Scott Erling Named Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year

FARMINGTON, Utah – Following his team’s run to claim the 2022 Big Sky Conference Men’s Golf Championship in Scottsdale, Arizona, Weber State’s Scott Erling has been named Men’s Golf Coach of the Year the league office announced today.

The Wildcats won the league title by a single stroke, carding a 286 as a team in the final round of play. They outpaced Northern Colorado down the stretch of an incredibly tight tournament.

WSU also featured the league’s individual champion, as Reese Fisher finished play on top of the leaderboard by shooting a 4-under 206, including a 64 in the second round.

The squad from Ogden will be continuing their 2022 campaign in Stockton, California at NCAA Regional competition with a chance to qualify for the NCAA National Championships.

Erling, who serves as the Director of Golf for Weber State, started coaching with the Wildcats in January of 2012. He was a four-year letterwinner at Utah State University as a collegiate athlete.

This is Erling’s first Big Sky Men’s Golf Coach of the Year honor, and the first for Weber State since the league brought back the sport. WSU’s last men’s golf coach of the year was in 2002 when Dave Kearl earned the title.

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Round two of the Copper Rock Championship

By Kurt Kragthorpe

Kendra Dalton says she’s a better golfer than ever. That statement covers last season, when her third missed cut of the Epson Tour schedule didn’t come until September.

Now that she has failed to play the final round in three of five tournaments in 2022, including the Copper Rock Championship, she recognizes that her degree of self-belief lacks supporting evidence on her scorecards.

The numbers added up to 77 and 78 for the former BYU golfer this week at Copper Rock Golf Course, the second-year host of the event presented by KSLSPORTS.com. Friday’s variable weather pattern in Hurricane produced cold, windy, rainy and, finally, sunny conditions just before sunset. By then, it was too late for Dalton and Haley Sturgeon to rally and earn a place in the final-round field Saturday, when conditions are expected to be much more pleasant.

Sturgeon, an assistant pro at The Country Club in Salt Lake City, performed better in the second round to extend her trend of last April, when she also received a sponsor exemption into the LPGA Tour-brand stop at Copper Rock. Sturgeon (81-76) bogeyed the last two holes Friday, after a birdie on the par-4 No. 13 (No. 6 for regular play) had tied her with Dalton, an Epson Tour regular.

Emma Broze, a former Oklahoma State golfer from France, has posted 73-68 for a 3-under-par total and a two-stroke lead over three players. The rest of the field is over par for the tournament.

The cut came at 8 over par, four shots higher than last year (before the wind became the story of the final round and scores soared). Dalton missed by three strokes this week, even though she played the back nine in even par for two days.

Defending champion Bailey Tardy (78-75) missed by one shot, thanks to a bogey on the par-4 No. 17 (usually No. 10), where she partially shanked a short-iron approach shot into a bunker that’s seemingly not even in play on the other side of the creek from the green.

Two former amateur stars advanced, though. In her pro debut, 17-year-old Alexa Pano (79-73) made the cut on the number. Gabriela Ruffels, the 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, bounced back from an 81 with a 66 that included an eagle on the par-4 No. 10 (usually No. 3), where she drove the green.

As for Dalton, she bogeyed six of the first 11 holes Friday in a round that seemed doomed from the start, even while a 75 would have been sufficient to keep playing. Heavy rain stopped just in time for Dalton to tee off in the mid-afternoon, but cost her a warmup session. Her tee shot on the par-5 No. 1 went into the desert to the right of the fairway, leading to a bogey. Dalton’s iron game was off all day, although she was more disappointed with a short game that’s “really killing me” and couldn’t overcome those ball-striking issues.

“I feel like I’m better than I’ve ever been,” Dalton said, “but I’m not scoring.”

So she’ll travel to Garden City, Kansas, next week, hoping that the remaining three-fourths of the tour schedule will evoke better results. “Everything’s there,” she said of her game. “You just keep moving forward and learning. I know it sounds crazy, but I know it’s there, and I’m going to do it.”

Sturgeon also left Copper Rock feeling encouraged, while wishing she could have done more with her limited tour exposure for 2022. “I have the game,” she said. “It’s mental, and then it’s just accepting the elements. And, I think, belief in yourself is a big part of it.”

She’ll keep working on her game and on her Class A PGA membership. Sturgeon wants to use that status to become eligible for the Utah Section PGA Player of the Year award. She means overall, not only among female pros, as a three-time Women’s Player of the Year.

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Round One of the Copper Rock Championship

By Kurt Kragthorpe

Smiles have varying styles. Kendra Dalton’s wry grin came with a shake of her head and an expression of exasperation Thursday as she stood on the No. 9 tee of Copper Rock Golf Course, buffeted by the wind in her face.

The second Copper Rock Championship resumed in the same, relentlessly windy conditions as the inaugural tournament ended last April. The scores told the story in the opening round of the 54-hole Epson Tour event presented by KSLSPORTS.com: LPGA Tour veteran Kim Kaufman’s 2-under-par 70 was good for a one-stroke lead and, even more remarkably, only three other golfers shot par or better.

“You can get punished out here,” Dalton said, after absorbing two double bogeys on the front nine. The former BYU golfer rallied by playing the back nine in 1 under par, posting a 77 that “sounds awful,” she acknowledged, although that number looked a lot better as the afternoon progressed.

Dalton is inside this weekend’s projected cut line, which came at 6 over par for 36 holes last year. Copper Rock was much more playable in the first two rounds of 2021, before the sustained winds of 30-plus mph arrived for the finish.

Bailey Tardy, who posted 66-70-70 in winning last April’s title, opened with a 78. Alexa Pano, making her pro debut at age 17 after recently appearing in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, played the last four holes in 1 under just to shoot a 79.

Haley Sturgeon missed the cut by one stroke last year. In Thursday’s case, she got to experience everything she missed in that final round as the wind took its toll on the 120-player field.

Playing on another sponsor exemption, the assistant pro from The Country Club in Salt Lake City shot an 81, slightly worse than the 79 she opened with last year before responding with a 70.

Sturgeon hopes to make a similar comeback, the biggest question being when she’ll get to play. Thunderstorms are in the forecast for Friday afternoon, when Dalton and Sturgeon are scheduled to tee off among the last few threesomes. If there’s any delay at all, the second round will spill over into Saturday.

Thursday’s average round lasted nearly 6 hours, with the wind requiring an agonizing process on every shot, even (or especially) short putts.

Dalton, in her fourth year on the newly renamed Epson Tour, missed the cut in the first two tournaments of 2022 before advancing in the last two events and ranking 64th on the money list. Her adventurous front nine Thursday included two swings from a greenside bunker on the par-5 No. 1 (No. 12 for regular play), followed by two good par saves and two missed birdie chances. The most exposed parts of the course then caused her trouble.

Her tee shot on the par-3 No. 6 hit “a wall” of wind, she said, leading to a penalty stroke and a double bogey. On the par-4 No. 9 (usually No. 2), her well-struck approach shot went through the green, then she chipped poorly and three-putted from 15 feet for another double bogey. At that point, she was 6 over and “a little frustrated,” she said, ducking her head on the green of the same hole where she had tried to laugh off the rough conditions just moments earlier.

But she regrouped. Dalton played solidly on the back nine, birdieing the par-5 No. 12 after a great shot out of a fairway bunker, hitting seven greens in regulation and saving pars when necessary.

“A lot of it’s your attitude,” she said of salvaging a round. “You can get pretty mad and keep that angry energy, but that’s something I’m really trying to do, is not react in my mind. I think that just comes with experience.”

Sturgeon knew what she was getting into this week, as a club pro temporarily experiencing life in an LPGA Tour-brand event. Yet the wind and the environment still worked against her.

“You’re just trying to get mentally ready for (the wind),” she said. “Unfortunately, I just couldn’t settle into it and accept it. I feel like I was fighting it a lot. I knew it was coming, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.”

Same with performing in a tour setting. Sturgeon labeled herself as “a little bit more prepared” than last year, but she “still had a lot of nerves going.”

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The 7th U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship Tees Off

Utah’s Kelsey Chugg, a former U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion and a four-time winner of the Utah State Women’s Amateur, heads to the Grand Reserve Resort in Puerto Rico.

 

By Kurt Kragthorpe

 

 

The story of how a baby boy altered Kelsey Chugg’s golf schedule requires some explanation.

 

And while there’s nothing wrong with playing in a Dallas suburb, little Auggie Bobb gets the credit for sending his mother to Puerto Rico this week to compete alongside Chugg again in the seventh U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship.

 

Here’s what happened: In October 2020, Chugg, the four-time Utah Women’s State Amateur champion, and her friend Julia Potter-Bobb qualified in Illinois for the following year’s Four-Ball, staged last April in Carrollton, Texas.

 

A few weeks later, Potter-Bobb announced she was pregnant. Her initial plan was to compete in Texas, barely more than two months prior to her due date (August David Bobb was born July 2). She checked with the United States Golf Association, though, and learned that a maternity exemption was an option, deferring their participation. The 2022 venue of Grand Reserve Golf Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico made that decision even easier.

 

Rain is in the daily forecast this week, but that’s better than last week’s snow that closed Forest Dale Golf Course, where Chugg occupies a clubhouse office as the associate director of Salt Lake City Golf.

 

“I’m just looking forward to playing, getting down there and being able to focus on my game for a few days,” Chugg said.

 

Read the complete Fairways Media Photo Journal story here: https://tinyurl.com/2p9srsn5

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Utah’s PGA TOUR Canada Qualifiers from USA West 2

Former Southern Utah University golfer Jake Vincent is fully exempt with a win at the USA West 2 Qualifier. Former Utah State Amateur champ Mitchell Schow will join him. 

By Randy Dodson, Laury Livsey

Jake Vincent was 20 strokes worse over his final 36 holes compared to his opening two rounds. What resulted, however, at PGA TOUR Canada’s Qualifying USA West 2 Tournament at Soboba Springs Golf Course was a victory, by a stroke over Perry Cohen and David Kim. How he did it, while not always pretty with 72 holes that were something of an adventure, still got the job done. With the victory, Vincent will be eligible to play in every 2022 event.

With a final round (-8) 64 former University of Utah golfer Mitchell Schow earned half-season status with a guarantee of six starts before the mid-season reschuffle. Schow was the 2020 Utah State Amateur champion at Jeremy Ranch Golf and Country Club.

CLICK HERE to read the complete Fairways Photo Journal feature: https://tinyurl.com/3a63rr4m

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Rasmussen’s Redemption

Former BYU Men’s golfer Rhett Rasmussen advances to PGA TOUR Canada half-season status, another step in his quest to play the big leagues of professional golf.

By Randy Dodson

Amidst a global pandemic in the spring of 2020, BYU golfer Rhett Rasmussen saw what was promising to be an exciting senior season of golf disappear. The Cougars had just come off a fall season that produced two wins and three second place team finishes in eight tournaments.

The team was looking forward to the 2020 Spring season schedule that included prestigious events like The Goodwin, the Western Intercollegiate, their own PING Cougar Classic, the West Coast Conference Championship and a possible NCAA Championship spot.

It was all taken away by the pandemic.

Rasmussen made a decision. He turned professional and started the long slow grind to his ultimate goal of PGA TOUR status.

CLICK HERE to read the Fairways Photo Journal story: https://tinyurl.com/459uk4e5

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Utah Golf Association Awards // Gold Club

By Kurt Kragthorpe

 

UGA Gold Club : Wesley Ruff

 

The Utah Golf Association turned a $600 investment into a lifetime of valuable returns.

That’s one way to describe the career arc of sportscaster Wesley Ruff, tracing his contributions to golf in Utah. As the recipient of the 2021 Gold Club Award, Ruff again is being credited for his enthusiastic promotion of the game.

The UGA’s recognition adds to his three Golf Citizen of the Year honors from the Utah Section PGA, which recently renamed the award for him and made him an honorary member of the PGA.

As a sportscaster for the ABC4 Utah television station in Salt Lake City for 36 years, Ruff has used his on-air platform to elevate golf coverage in the state. Beyond that, he volunteers his time and effort in UGA media productions and in UGA and Utah Section PGA celebrations.

It all stems from the UGA scholarship Ruff received as a 1976 graduate of Springville High School, initially enabling him to attend Southern Utah University. Let’s just say he has repaid that $600 grant many times over.

“I decided then that if I could help out the UGA or the game of golf in any way, I would do my best to do that, and help pay them back for the help they gave me,” Ruff said. “I’ve tried to remember that it was because of the UGA that I was able to go to college and get into this business in the first place.”

In nominating him for the Gold Club Award, 2010 award winner Sherm Hatfield wrote, “After giving this much thought, I have settled on one name: Wesley Ruff. He has been extremely supportive of the UGA and of the PGA.”

That statement applies to Ruff both personally and professionally. In any golf setting, his approach personifies the intent of the annual Gold Club Award. It is presented to “an individual who through significant achievement or unselfish service has contributed to the history and tradition of the game of golf in Utah, and whose personal integrity, sportsmanship, common courtesy, loyalty and friendship earn him the love and respect of fellow golfers.”

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Utah State Parks names new PGA Professional at Soldier Hollow Golf Course

Chris Richards, a Utah Section PGA member, becomes the head professional at Soldier Hollow Golf Course, a 36-hole championship facility located at Wasatch Mountain State Park in Midway, Utah.

MIDWAY, UT. (March 28, 2022) – Utah State Parks selected Chris Richards of Coalville, Utah as the new head golf professional at its Soldier Hollow Golf Course 36-hole facility in Midway, Utah. Richards is just the second PGA professional to hold the position since its opening in 2004.

 

A native to Utah and graduate of the University of Utah, Richards has been working in Utah’s golf industry for over 15 years, becoming a member of the PGA in 2019. Previous experience includes being an assistant professional at the Salt Lake City-owned Bonneville Golf Course and most recently as head professional at the Homestead Resort in Midway, Utah.

 

While at Bonneville, Richards excelled in running one of Utah’s largest golf leagues and assisted with tournament operations of the historic Salt Lake City Amateur and Salt Lake City Open championships. In 2022, Richards conducted the Homestead Open, the first-ever Open tournament in its 30-plus year history.

 

Throughout his career Richards, a second-generation Utah PGA member, has been a firm believer in player development, creating new and inclusive programs and leagues to gain and retain golfers. He will bring his passion for growing the game of golf to the Utah State Parks family and is excited to work with and for the many loyal Soldier Hollow customers.

 

The 36-holes at Soldier Hollow, designed by Gene Bates, has hosted many Utah golf championships including the 124-year old Utah State Amateur and the 116-year old Utah Women’s State Amateur. Soldier Hollow hosted the 2012 United State Golf Association’s U.S. Public Links Amateur Championship and remains the only facility in Utah to host a USGA championship.

 

The Utah State Amateur, the world’s oldest continually held championship, returns to Soldier Hollow this year, July 11-16.

 

“It is a great honor to be the head golf professional at Soldier Hollow Golf Course, host of the 124th Utah State Amateur,” Richards said. “Soldier Hollow is an excellent venue for this championship. Many notable players have won the State Am at Soldier Hollow and I look forward to seeing this year’s players battle the course as it hosts its 7th Utah State Amateur.”

 

ABOUT SOLDIER HOLLOW GOLF COURSE:

 

Soldier Hollow Golf Course offers a championship, 36-hole complex built on the mountainside above Midway, Utah. A part of gorgeous Wasatch Mountain State Park, Soldier Hollow was a major venue during the 2002 Winter Olympics. Two 18-hole courses, the Gold and Silver courses, offer challenging play and amazing views of the Heber Valley.

 

The Gold Course is a mountain course with significant elevation change throughout the course, surrounded by native area vegetation, scrub oaks and mountain valley grasses. The Silver Course is the tamer of the two layouts. It is an open, parkland-style design with slightly shorter and wider fairways. While flatter in elevation the Silver offers stunning views of Mount Timpanogos to the southwest. Website: stateparks.utah.gov/golf/soldier-hollow

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UGA Winterchamps

The Utah Golf Association’s first championship of the season crowns champs in Men’s, Women’s and Senior’s Divisions.

 

 

By Kurt Kragthorpe

Noah Schone’s background as a former Pine View High School golf star made him a hometown winner of the Utah Golf Association’s Winterchamps tournament. His updated biography made him an unlikely champion.

 

Two pairs of brothers finished in the top eight of the men’s division Sunday. The surprise was that Noah and Lucas Schone did more than merely keep up with the Joneses, Zach and Cooper. Noah Schone out-dueled UGA veteran Dan Horner over the last three holes at SunRiver Golf Course, finishing the 36-hole event with 92 points to Horner’s 87 in the Modified Stableford format.

 

BYU golfers Zach Jones and Keanu Akina tied for third with 86 points, followed by Lucas Schone with 85.

 

 

Read more about all Winterchamps Divisions from Kurt Kragthorpe in Fairways Photo Journal herehttps://bit.ly/Winterchamps22