Author: By Randy Dodson
You can hardly blame defending champion Clay Ogden for feeling a little overlooked this week. He’s not, mind you, but since the announcement that the 2003 Masters champion is in the field this week at the 85th playing of the Siegfried and Jensen Utah Open, most of the attention has been on Mike Weir.
That’s just fine with Ogden. While casually hitting wedges on Oakridge Country Club’s driving range, the two-time Utah Open champion said that he understands the excitement of having Weir in the field and he would like nothing better than to be in the final pairing with him come Sunday.
“I say bring it on. I looked at the pairings last night. I think it’s the strongest Utah Open field I’ve seen. We have a lot of really good players this year, it’s a great field. There are a lot of guys that have been out playing on the National Pro Golf Tour, which has had some really good competition. There are a handful of college players that have had a really good summer and have a chance as well.”
A quick glance at the Utah Section PGA’s Player of the Year race confirms that 19 of the top 20 players are in the Utah Open field as are eight of the top 15 amateurs on the Utah Golf Association’s Player Performance Rankings list. Other noted amateurs in the field include BYU golfers Devon Purser, who recently reached the Round of 16 in the U.S. Amateur and teammate McCoy Willey. Utah Valley University’s standout Mason Casper is also in the 54-hole championship.
Utah Section PGA Executive Director, Scott Whittaker says there are 11 former Utah Open champions competing this year including nine champions of the last 15 years. The Utah Open always marks the return to Utah of the PGA’s National Teacher of the Year and former Utah Open champion, Mike Malaska. Other out-of-state former champions returning include J.B. Sneve, Todd Demsey, Nathen Lashley, Nick Mason and Boyd Summerhays. Summerhays currently lives in Arizona and competes on the Canadian Tour.
Utah’s golf fans have plenty of intriguing pairings to follow during the first two rounds (a 36-hole cut will be made Saturday) of the tournament. Friday’s tee times have Weir teeing off on the #1 hole with Ryan Rhees and Adrian Wadey at 8:50 a.m. followed at 9:00 by three BYU Cougars, Zac Blair, Willey and Purser. Three of Utah’s best junior players CJ Lee, Ryan Lowe and Callaway Junior World Champion Rhett Rasmussen tee off at 8:30 on #10. Tony Finau, who was one of the leading money winners on the recently defunct National Pro Golf Tour, tees off at 8:50 a.m. on #10 with former champions Mason and Sneve.
Ogden, a former U. S. Amateur Public Links champion, tees off in the afternoon at 1:50 with 1981 champion Jimmy Blair and former State Am champ Brett Wayment.
“I hope they play well,” said Ogden. “I hope I play well. This golf course isn’t long but it can play tough if the greens are hard and they hide the flags. The key, I think, is that you need to score well on the par fives. I think each day you need to be at two or three under on the par fives. If you can get it to 15-under or 16-under for the tournament, you are going to be in the mix.”
Utah Open gallery admission is free for golf fans of all ages. The Oakridge Country Club golf course is walk-able and the weather predictions promise sunny afternoons for the weekend.