Volume 26 | Issue 3 | June 2017

Cover Feature • June 2017 • By Joe Newman

Red Rock Golf Trail Goes 18

with Hanlin & Gulbis

You know that feeling you get when you’re giving a special gift to someone and you're really hopeful but nervous that they’ll like it? That's the way I felt bringing Jimmy Hanlin and Natalie Gulbis out to St. George to shoot their TV show that airs on Fox Sports.  I mean it’s Jimmy Hanlin, a two-time Emmy winner for his television work, and Natalie Gulbis, LPGA tour pro and winner of the Evian Masters in France.  I was confident in the quality of the golf I was going to show them, but these guys have played and filmed at the top golf destinations all over the world.  How would our courses stack up?  Would St. George golf be impressive to the audience of “18 Holes with Jimmy Hanlin & Natalie Gulbis?”

Standing on the first tee box at Coral Canyon with them, I knew we were already off to a good start when Jimmy and Natalie immediately pulled out their cell phones to snap a few selfies with the beautiful red rock mountain ranges that surround that course.  It was both of their first time playing golf in Utah and Natalie was full of questions, not just for the sake of golf, but you could tell the area was already making an impression, and she was considering a return visit on her own leisure time.

Now I’ve played golf with some really great golfers.  We often bring golf writers to review and write about the 10 courses on the Red Rock Golf Trail, but Natalie and Jimmy were on a whole different skill level.  Natalie asked about the difference in elevation from St. George to Las Vegas.  She lived there for a while and knows exactly how far the ball flies at 2000 ft. above sea level.  The difference of St. George at 2700 feet clearly was an important consideration to her game.  She knew exactly what swing to use with which club, to put the ball right where she wanted it.  Her accuracy was so impressive as I watched her tee off 3 balls, for three camera takes, and they all landed within 5 feet of each other.  No wonder, she has an 89.29% driving accuracy.

Hole after hole at Coral Canyon selfies were par for the course, with comments of just what a beautiful place the St. George area is.   Natalie was especially impressed with the way the course follows the natural terrain of the desert floor.  It’s not just an out and back design, but you’re often shooting across river washes and red rock ravines.  The character of the course as well as the need for pinpoint accuracy seemed to be exciting for Natalie, and she was definitely up for the challenge.

On hole 6, the signature hole, she effortlessly popped 3 balls across the red rock desert to the green on that short par 3, all landing just a few feet from the pin.  Then to try out a different camera angle, they moved to the further back tees, and she put a couple more on the green from there.  Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced the curse of the camera on the golf course, but for me, it seems to be as soon as someone pulls out a camera to capture your magnificent shot in the magnificent scenery, suddenly the shots aren’t so magnificent.  Well Natalie seemed to be immune to the curse of the camera.  On queue, every time she could put the ball basically right where she wanted it.

As if they hadn’t seen enough amazing scenery yet, I couldn’t resist showing them the spectacular views of Snow Canyon from the back 9 of The Ledges.  Visitors are always blown away when they hear that it only takes 15 minutes to drive from one course to another in St. George, and that they don’t have to sit in any traffic.  Obviously they are used to big city golf and overcrowding.  Natalie mentioned how she’s played golf in a lot of amazing places, but rarely where the beauty is visible right from the fairways.  Her comment about The Ledges was that Mother Nature provided the perfect backdrop to the incredible back 9 that Matt Dye, course designer, laid out.  It is almost as though Mother Nature was begging him to build his golf course right there.

Because there are so many great courses in the area, Jimmy & Natalie couldn’t fit them all into one show, so they are actually doing 2 full episodes on the Red Rock Golf Trail.  While I could have impressed them with any of the courses on the trail, I felt like they needed to see what St. George golf living is like, so my mind went right to Sunbrook.  Though it’s a city owned course, these world-traveling golfers often commented that they couldn’t believe it is a “Muni.”  The variety you get with 3 different 9’s, from the tops of mesas, to lava rock lined fairways, and even an elevated tee to an island hole par 3.  All in one course!  And Sunbrook really got it right this year.  They’ve had one of the best overseeds this last fall, which has made that course in prime condition.

What would a trip to the Red Rock Golf Trail be without a round at what’s becoming the premiere course, Sand Hollow.  I intentionally saved this course for last because you’ve gotta go out with a bang, and can you think of any better way to do that than with the back 9 of Sand Hollow? I don’t think so.  It’s so fun seeing people turn the corner on 11 and their jaws drop as they contemplate how someone built a golf course on the edge of these red rock cliffs.  Even Natalie Gulbis, who plays professionally on courses all around the world, could hardly believe her eyes.  Both she and Jimmy couldn’t say enough good about the course and the overall quality of golf in the St. George area.

It’s funny how we often don’t appreciate what we have, and we feel like we’ve got to travel long distances to go somewhere special.  Well, after receiving several personal texts from Natalie about her planning a return visit, I’ve concluded that, travel where you want to, but St. George has everything to impress even the most experienced golfers.

I’ve gotta say that I was the one that received the special gift, having Jimmy and Natalie out to St. George.  It was a real treat getting to see how good Jimmy Hanlin is both on and off camera.  And Natalie Gulbis is a real class act, one of the finest people I’ve ever met on or off the course, as well as my new favorite tour pro.


Best of Class

Feature • June 2017 • By Kurt Kragthorpe

The Blair family won a fifth individual championship, but Naomi Soifua fell short in her bid for a fourth title.

Those were the major stories from four days of girls golf competition in the 2017 state tournaments, as maybe the biggest surprise was that play was completed as scheduled amid all kinds of weather issues in mid-May.

The Utah High School Activities Association and the Utah Section PGA teamed to stage girls golf tournaments (plus the Class 1A boys event, also played in the spring) for the 10th year. Here's a recap, with a reminder that girls' scoring uses a Modified Stableford format:



Issac Stout

In stroke play, Issac Stout shot 77-73 at East Bay to claim a seven-stroke victory over teammate Cobe Reck, the 2015-16 medalist, and lead Valley to a third straight team title.

Valley built a huge lead over Rich and held steady in the final round, with a 642 total to Rich's 674. Casey Reck and Chevy Spencer shot counting scores for Valley and Kade Cox and Bryson Barrick also competed. Nick Jarman (78-81) finished third individually and led Rich's runner-up effort.



Sylvie Anderson

The 1A girls staged a one-day event in tough conditions at East Bay Golf Course, where medalist Sylvie Anderson of Manila was the only golfer to break 100 in stroke play, shooting a 97. Her 65-point total topped Altamont's Cambry Richins (62) and Intermountain Christian School's Jessica Emfinger (61).

Bryce Valley fielded a team of five players, and the Mustangs were just good enough to edge Rich 168-167 for the team title. Karleen Roundy, Kayla Atwood, Morgan Syrett and Mckenna Syrett posted Bryce Valley's counting scores and Macy Brinkerhoff also competed for the winning team.



Maddie Kwun

Emery stopped Rowland Hall's reign with a strong team effort at Mountain View Golf Course, but the Winged Lions' Maddie Kwun took medalist honors.

Emery topped Rowland Hall 285-276, with Sydnee Guymon, Taijah Price, Lainee Jensen and Sarah Swasey providing good balance. Sydney Timothy and Erin Oliverson also competed for the winning team.

Kwun led Rowland Hall with 83 points (shooting a stroke-play 79) to beat teammate Zaria Thompson and Beaver's Hayden Willden, who each scored 79 points.



Tori Thomas

Coming from southern Utah, Desert Hills' girls had to deal with much colder weather at Sleepy Ridge Golf Course, but they survived difficult conditions over two days and won an eighth consecutive championship.

Desert Hills posted 612 points to Park City's 588. DH's Tori Thomas was the medalist, making a birdie on the second playoff hole to beat Dixie's Gracie Richens and Snow Canyon's Lexi Hamel after they had stroke-play totals of 155 for two rounds.

All six of Desert Hills' players had a counting score in at least one round. Thomas' teammates were Kjahna Plant, Gabby Meyer, Abby Leitze, Jenna Welch and Alesa Ashton.




Provo's Soifua was aiming to match Sirene Blair's four medalist awards, but Alta's Cora Mickelsen played outstanding golf and kept that from happening at Meadow Brook Golf Course. Mickelsen posted 188 points (shooting 68-68) to Soifua's 177.

Corner Canyon was a repeat winner in the team event with 658 points to Alta's 641 and the Chargers will be favored to win a third title in 2018. Corner Canyon's Emma Winfree tied for third individually. The Chargers' Cristi Ciasca and Jamie Connell also placed in the top 10. Kali Barlow and Makenna Kartchner each produced a counting score and Arica Coesens also played for the winning team.

Because Provo was low in the team standings, Soifua started the final round on the back nine. So Mickelsen was unaware of how she stood until informed of her solid lead as she played No. 18. “I was still very stressed throughout the whole round, not knowing how she was doing,” Mickelsen said.

Soifua was a gracious runner-up. “I'm very excited about Cora and her future,” she said. “I think she deserved this.”



Tess Blair

Tess Blair led Bingham to the team title and dominated the individual competition with a two-day total of 185 points to 175 for Westlake's Nina Vannarath. Blair's sister, Sirene, who recently completed her San Diego State golf career, won four titles and Tess is in position to add a couple of more trophies. Her stroke-play scores were 68-69 at Davis Park Golf Course, where hail came down during the final round.

Bingham took a 678-670 victory over Lone Peak, with Davis (610) a distant third. Bingham's Carissa Graft took third individually with 172 points. The Miners' Jenique Jacobs and Amaleya Angilau posted counting scores and Kassidy Wallin and Pio Savageau also competed for the winning team. Abbey Porter and Lauren Taylor led Lone Peak's rally in the final round.

Feature • June 2017 • by Mike Sorensen

Utah State Amateur Preview

When the Utah Men’s State Amateur was played at Ogden Golf & Country Club in 2014, it was exactly two decades after the previous State Am was played at the venerable club in 1994. Now just three years later, the State Amateur is returning to Ogden Golf and Country Club, for the annual tournament, which will be played July 10-15.

“We had a great experience there three years ago,” said Utah Golf Association Executive Director Bill Walker on why the quick return to Ogden. “They have a lot of history there with the Men’s State Amateurs and Women’s State Amateurs.”

Originally the State Amateur was scheduled to be at Oakridge Country Club this summer, but when it was forced to be put back a year, the UGA turned to Ogden, which was happy to host again.

“It’s really an exciting golf course,” Walker said. “A lot of the finishing holes are birdie holes, so for match play, it’s a neat course.”

The Ogden course has undergone few major changes over the years and still has the traditional course feel with tree-lined fairways and smooth greens. It has an unusual finishing hole, a long par-3 over a deep ravine to a green that has a severe dropoff to the right and little room to the left.

Besides Ogden, two of the medal-play qualifying rounds will be played at the Hubbard Golf Course at Hill Air Force Base, 14 miles to the south. That allows the State Amateur field to be 288, which while it’s an administrative challenge for the UGA, it also allows more golfers to achieve their “bucket list” goal of making it to the State Am, says Walker.

When you look at the list of top contenders for 2017, you have to start with defending champion Patrick Fishburn. Not only is Fishburn perhaps the top amateur in the state—including the State Am, he won a half dozen amateur events last year—but he’s playing on his home turf. Fishburn grew up playing Ogden G&CC from the time he could barely walk and knows the course inside and out.

Fishburn will be a senior at BYU this fall and through the first five months of the year was the leader in the UGA Player Performance rankings.

College golfers are always top contenders at the State Am and this year, you have to look at BYU’s Rhett Rasmussen and C.J. Lee, Utah’s Mitchell Schow and Gentry Hicks and Weber State’s Kyler Dearden, who made the semifinals a year ago.

Jon Wright won the tournament in 2014 when Ogden G & CC was marking the 100th anniversary of its opening, defeating Preston Richards in the scheduled 36-hole finale, two years after winning the State Am at the Salt Lake Country Club.

Wright will be back and one of the players to watch, even at age 46. Other top amateurs to keep an eye on are 2008 champion Dan Horner and 1998 champ Darrin Overson. Kurt Owen, David Jennings,  Cameron Crawford, Ryan Brimley, Jeff Jolley. Kenny You and Aaron Smith, the 2016 runnerup.

This will mark the eighth time the Men’s State Am will be played at Ogden.

The first time was 1920 when legendary Utah Hall of Fame member George Von Elm won the tournament and nine years later C.E. Foley took the title at Ogden.

Then it went nearly 30 years before it came back in 1957 when Joe Bernolfo was he winner. Five years later, future PGA Tour player Babe Hiskey won at Ogden and in 1969, BYU golfer Jack Chapman won the event. In 1978 Mitch Hyer captured the first of two consecutive State Am crowns and in 1994, Utah State golfer Jeremie Montgomery defeated Joseph Summerhays for the title.

Walker said approximately 800 golfers signed up for the State Amateur qualifying tournaments, which began in late May and were to be played at Roosevelt, Entrada, Stonebridge, East Bay, Rose Park, The Ranches, Soldier Hollow, Logan River, Davis Park and Glendale golf courses.


Utah State Women's

Amateur Preview

One of the state’s most popular golf courses will play host to the Women’s State Amateur August 1-4 when the 110th annual tournament comes to Davis Park Golf Course in Fruit Heights.

The Women’s Am was last played at Davis in 2010 when Natalie Stone won at the course where her father, Brad, is the head pro.

Brad Stone was more than happy when the Utah Golf Association inquired about hosting the event again this summer.

“We’ve had it before and it’s been good, we accommodate it very well,” Stone said. “The women have always liked this golf course and it’s very flexible in the way we can play it.”

The Davis course was opened in 1963 with the original nine (now the back) being designed by William Hutchinson Neff and Pierre Hualde, the course’s first pro. Two years later, another nine was built by Neff and William Howard Neff.

Davis Park is not overly long, around 6,000 yards from the middle tees and has a variety of holes with several doglegs and varying lengths of the par-3 holes. The secluded par-3 11th hole, which was added in a course redesign in the 1980s, is one of the prettiest on the course. The greens are large and the terrain is fairly hilly with elevation changes throughout. Davis Park has recovered nicely from the winter storm that took out some 500 trees on the course in 2011.

“It’s one of our more popular golf courses whether it’s a men’s or women’s event, but the length is perfect for women,” said UGA Executive Director Bill Walker.

Stone is also expecting a strong field that may include his daughter, Natalie, a two-time winner of the Women’s Am. Stone said his daughter hasn’t played competitively much in recent years, and though he couldn’t speak for her, said she might play at her old home course this year.

Natalie, who now works as a nurse at Primary Children’s Hospital, won the tournament the last time it was played at Davis in 2010, which was also the first year the tournament was played under its current match play format. She also won the previous year at Thanksgiving Point, coming from behind to defeat Sirene Blair by five strokes.

Last year, BYU golfer Kendra Dalton defeated teammate Lea Garner 1 up in the finals at Victory Ranch. Garner has since turned pro, but Dalton, who hails from North Carolina could be back to defend her title.

Kelsey Chugg, who has won three of the past five Women’s Ams, is always one of the favorites. “I’m excited for it to be up there—everybody loves Davis,” said Chugg who works for the UGA as the membership director.

Others to watch include Naomi Soifua, a three-time state high school champion from Provo and collegiate players such as Kimberly Nyhus, Carly Dehlin, Xena Motes, Hayley Chugg, Katie Perkins, Kiselya Plewe and Cobair Collinsworth.

Among the more experienced amateurs are two-time State Am champ Sue Nyhus, former champion Julie McMullin, Sadie Palmer and Annette Gaiotti.

“There’s been such a growth with women in golf with the high school players,” said Brad Stone. “We like to do anything we can do to help promote women’s golf.”


Feature • March 2017 • by Kurt Kragthorpe

Golden Anniversaries

for two of Utah’s Favorites

Wasatch Mountain and Hobble Creek make nearly every list of favorite public golf courses in Utah. They are carved out of mountain settings, are wonderfully conditioned and offer spectacular views, especially in the fall.

And those attributes are not all that the courses have in common. Each is turning 50 in 2017.

That information may make a lot of Utah golfers feel old, but these 50th anniversaries are certainly worth celebrating. Wasatch Mountain and Hobble Creek qualify as destination courses that are very attractive to golfers from the Salt Lake Valley and beyond, and they make out-of-state visitors marvel about their quality and affordability.

They stand as tributes to a municipality and a state parks board that captured a vision of golf's potential in the 1960s, probably without realizing exactly what kind of jewels they were creating. In 1963, when municipal golf was just taking hold, a Springville City committee scraped together $1,000 to get architect William Bell to draw a preliminary design. Just look at these venues now.

Wasatch Mountain pro Chris Stover speaks reverently of a course that has been “beloved by so many people for so long” and Hobble Creek's Craig Norman marvels how he gets to “look out that window every day.”

They're the current caretakers of a legacy of golf professionals that goes back to Wasatch Mountain's Lanny Nielsen and Hobble Creek's Sonny Braun, while dedicated superintendents have maintained some of Utah's best fairways and greens.

“We're very fortunate, having so many great public golf courses,” Nielsen said.

Braun is proud of the promotional work he did to help establish Hobble Creek's presence in Springville, where he initially taught lessons at North Park to build a golfing clientele. The course caught on fast. With nine holes initially available (the current back nine), Hobble Creek once produced 340 rounds in a day.

Wasatch Mountain, built in Midway on the Wasatch Mountain State Park property, formerly was the site of a successful open tournament for Utah Section PGA pros. Its place in Utah competitive golf history was secured in 2001 when Daniel Summerhays won his second consecutive State Amateur title and in 2013 when Kelsey Chugg added her second Women's State Am championship. Wasatch Mountain is also the course where Michael Jordan played during the 1997 NBA Finals.

Hobble Creek was the site of Doug Bybee's third State Am win in 1996 and the Art City Amateur (now named in honor of Sonny Braun) long ago became one of Utah's most prestigious events.

Those tournaments help distinguish both courses, but their real impact is on Utah's rank-and-file golfers, who simply love playing them. Every course in the state faces more competition now than it did in the '70s and '80s; Norman recently remarked how Hobble Creek “never had to advertise” in the old days. Yet even with 36 holes, Wasatch Mountain tee times remain precious in the prime golfing months.

What's now known as the Lake Course was basically the original 18-hole layout, as designed by William H. Neff, with some routing modifications to come. Bill Neff (not related) was the architect of a another nine in 1973, then nine more holes were built in 1998 to complete the Mountain Course.

Having two full courses enables Stover to run a busy schedule of corporate and charity events, while keeping 18 holes open for regular play. Stover formerly worked at Palisade State Park. As he said on the Utah Golf Daily podcast, “I've always applauded the State of Utah for staying in the golf business.”

Nielsen appreciated the state's foresight in the '60s, building a campground that gave Wasatch Mountain a market of potential golfers already on the property every morning. And, like Hobble Creek, Wasatch Mountain quickly became nationally known and locally appreciated.

Wasatch Mountain's success has resulted in 54 more golf holes being built in the Heber Valley, including 36 at Solider Hollow, at the other end of the Wasatch Mountain State Park property. Hobble Creek has maintained its niche as the oldest public facility in Utah County, even as several other courses have been built around it.

Amid the course's loyal following of Utahns, Norman enjoys hearing the reactions of visitors. Some are surprised just to discover a course in Hobble Creek Canyon, where the iconic white fence runs from the No. 9 tee to the No. 18 tee at the other end of the property. Others are impressed by the scenery and the price, calculating how much one might have to pay to play a similar venue in California, for example.

Utahns know what they have in Wasatch Mountain and Hobble Creek. They have treasured these courses for a half-century and are sure to keep loving them.


Feature • March 2017 • by Mike Sorsensen and Tim Smith

Hoopes Vision, Helping

to make a difference in Utah Golf

Phillip Hoopes, Jr., MD is a board-certified ophthalmologist and fellowship-trained corneal specialist at Hoopes Vision in Draper. His love affair with golf began when he took up the sport as a teenager. It really ramped up when he was a freshman at BYU and spent an inordinate amount of time playing golf at Hobble Creek and East Bay golf courses.

“I fell in love with the game as a teenager and it was a way to get out with friends,” Dr. Hoopes said. “For me, it’s been a lifelong journey of loving golf and enjoying the game and I really love Utah golf. On a professional level with the corrective eye surgery we do, we’ve been very fortunate to get to know some of Utah’s best golfers and have been able to help them with their vision needs.”

After wearing thick glasses his whole career, Mike Reid was one of the first golfers to come to Hoopes Vision for vision correction surgery. It was just before he joined the Champions Tour and Reid had immediate success after turning 50. He won the Senior PGA Championship in his initial full year on the Champions Tour when he pocketed close to $1 million.

Since then, several other local professional golfers have come to Hoopes Vision for vision correction including Bruce Summerhays, Boyd Summerhays, Daniel Summerhays, and Mike Weir.

“We’ve been real fortunate to get in with the golf community and get to know these Utah golfers on a personal level and follow their careers,” Dr. Hoopes said.

After being involved with sponsorships at the Champions Challenge and the Utah Open, Hoopes Vision recently became a major sponsor for Utah Golf Foundation and its programs, Veterans on Course and Youth on Course.

“I really like the programs for a number of reasons,” said Dr. Hoopes. “We’re able to bring golf to a broader audience, the veterans who served our country. It’s a way for them to take up a hobby and perhaps get their minds off things that trouble them. There’s an avenue where they can get free golf equipment that’s donated and, more importantly, get out and play in events around the valley and build camaraderie.”

The Youth on Course program is similar in that it provides clubs for kids who may not be able to afford them or have access to them. The junior members complete an online course where they learn the rules of golf, proper etiquette as well as life skills. They also can play golf at participating golf courses for $5 or less.

Utah Golf Association executive director Bill Walker is grateful to sponsors such as Hoopes Vision.

“Their sponsorship really enables us to really expand our programs,” Walker said. “Without their support and resources, which have helped double both programs, we wouldn’t be able to do that.”

Walker said the Veterans on Course program is expected to triple this year from 150 golfers to 500, while the Youth on Course will go from 6,000 rounds to approximately 10,000 rounds.

As for his own game, Dr. Hoopes calls himself a “weekend hacker,” but as a member at Alpine Country Club, he is good enough that he qualified for the Utah Men’s State Amateur last year. However, he won’t be playing this year because of back surgery last fall after he suffered a herniated disc.

The Hoopes Vision team consists of 14 eye doctors, including four surgeons. Dr. Hoopes says they distinguish their business from others by using the most up-to-date laser technology as they replace their machines every two to three years rather than 10 years as other businesses do. He said they also make a point to make prospective patients feel as comfortable as possible.

“We really go out of our way to make it the best patient experience in the state from the first person they talk to on the telephone to the one who greets them when they check in,” he said. “We want patients to have the most complete and relaxed experience possible when making the decision to have eye surgery. So hopefully we’re known for that to put people at ease and give them an incredible experience to go along with great results from their eye surgery.”

As for golf, Dr. Hoopes plans to stay involved and help grow the game in the state of Utah.

“It’s been a good marriage for us – Utah golf and corrective eye surgery,” says Dr. Hoopes. “We’ve been pretty lucky to do a lot of neat things with Utah golf. We enjoy being involved with these programs and will be for several years.”



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