Ryan Rhees

Rhees Wins Senior Section Championship

Ryan Rhees, head professional of The Oaks Golf Course in Spanish Fork, Utah, is now three-for-three in qualifying for the PGA Senior Professional Championship, this time he qualified with a win in the 2019 Utah PGA Senior Section Championship at Alpine Country Club August 26-27 in Alpine, Utah.

“Feels great,” Rhees said about the win. “It’s a big tournament for the seniors and we have a lot of good players in our Section, so anytime you get a win it feels great.”

Rhees claimed the lead after round one with a (-6) 66, three strokes in front of Bloomington Country Club’s Scott Brandt and four strokes ahead of Jimmy Blair.

“Particularly the first day I drove it really well, so that set me up with a lot of wedges,” Rhees said. “I was able to reach the par 5s in two and I was able to eagle 17. So mostly the tee shots on the first day set me up and I was able to make a few putts.”

All that was needed for Rhees in the final round to finish off the win was an even-par round. His three-stroke lead remained the same over Brandt, who shot even, and new senior Section member Mark Owen, who shot (-2) 70 to finished tied for second.

“I made some putts this week,” Rhees continued about his good play. “I probably made three or four putts over 15 or 20 feet.”

Rhees, Owen, Brandt and Blair, who shot a second-round 71, will all represent the Utah Section PGA in the 31st PGA Senior Professional Championship October 3-6 at the Fazio Foothills & Coore Crenshaw Courses at the Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa in Austin Texas.

This will be Rhees’s third time playing in the PGA Senior Professional Championship in three years of playing in the Senior division.

“Last year I played good enough to make the cut, but didn’t play good enough to get in the Senior PGA Championship,” he said. “There are a lot of good players so you’ve got to play really good to make it in that top 35.”

Rhees uses this qualifying opportunity as a goal every year, whether it was the PGA Professional championship or the Senior Professional Championship.

“It’s always something you try to shoot for,” Rhees continued. “Luckily I’ve played in seven or eight of the regular ones. It’s something to look forward to the end of the year if you’ve played good enough.” As for the rest of the season, Rhees plans to play in the Davis Park Open, the Section Championship in Wendover and then will head to Austin Texas in hopes to play well enough to earn a spot in the Senior PGA Championship.

Utah Open Trophy Presentation

Saunders, Hirsch Put on a Show, but Pro Beats Amateur in the End

By Mike Sorensen, Deseret News

For Sam Saunders and Kelton Hirsch it wasn’t about the money as they battled in a sudden-death playoff at the conclusion of the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open Sunday afternoon at Riverside Country Club.

Saunders had already wrapped up the $20,000 professional’s first prize, while Hirsch had locked up low amateur honors and wasn’t eligible for any cash. This was purely about competing and trying to get a victory.

The two golfers put on a show for the spirited gallery around the 18th hole with some terrific shots, and in the end it was Saunders, a 27-year-old from New Mexico, who claimed the title with a par on the second hole of the playoff.

“That’s why I play golf, I loved every moment of that,” Saunders said after the victory. “I really don’t play golf for money — it helps to prolong my career playing in these tournaments — I love playing golf and competing. That was really fun.”

Saunders had to withstand one of the most stirring comebacks in Utah Open history, as Hirsch, a 23-year-old junior-to-be at BYU, made up five strokes in five holes to force the sudden-death playoff. It wasn’t just making up the strokes, it was how he did it that was so thrilling.

The two were playing in the final group with Phoenix pro Blake Cannon and with five holes to play, Saunders was 15-under par for the tourney, while Hirsch was 10-under with several golfers bunched between them on the leaderboard.

Hirsch, the 2017 Utah State Amateur champion, had just made three bogeys in five holes to seemingly fall out of contention, when he said to himself, “You can either crumble and keep making bogeys or make a run at this thing. So I just flipped it on and said, let’s be aggressive … and make a run at it.”

He birdied 14 and 15, then hit his wedge at 16 within 3 feet and sank that for a birdie. Now he was only down two, but when he hit his tee shot left into the rough at the par-3 17th, he faced a seemingly impossible shot to a pin tucked on the left side, leaving him with less than 10 feet of green to work with.

However, he hit an outstanding flop shot that settled within inches of the cup, nearly going in.

“It was spectacular, probably the best chip shot I’ve ever seen,” said Saunders.

“Maybe my best of all time,” added Hirsch.

With Saunders making bogey on the hole, the margin was down to one, but it looked like Hirsch was out of it when at 18 he hit over the left bunker on his drive and then left his approach some 30 feet below the hole. However, he rolled the putt in and celebrated with a fist pump, forcing a playoff.

Kelton Hirsch’s fist pump after his birdie on 18 to force a playoff with Sam Saunders.

The two played No. 18 a second time and again Saunders had the edge, hitting within 10 feet, while Hirsch was 25 feet away. But again Hirsch rolled in his putt, forcing Saunders to sink his to stay alive.

“I play for a moment like that to make a putt to win or continue — there’s no feeling like it,” Saunders said. “I hit a great putt and it went in.”

The third time the two played 18, Hirsch’s luck ran out as he missed a 7-footer for par after hitting in the front bunker and Saunders two-putted to finally claim the trophy.

Park City pro Steele DeWald finished third, just one shot back at 203 after shooting the best score of the tournament, an 8-under-par 64, Sunday along with Las Vegas pro Mitch Carlson.

“That was a solid round, one of the better rounds I’ve played,” said the 32-year-old DeWald, who will try PGA Tour Q School this fall.

Saunders often gets mixed up with the other Sam Saunders, who is a regular on the PGA Tour and is the grandson of Arnold Palmer. He said people used to ask him about his grandpa and he one time got charged by the PGA Tour for some travel and had to have the other Saunders reimburse him a thousand dollars.

He won the Colorado Open, which featured a $100,000 first prize, three weeks ago and will defend his New Mexico Open title later next month. He said he’d like to play the PGA Tour someday, but this fall will try to qualify for the European Tour.

Hirsch will return to BYU with increased confidence after his fine week, following up on a second-place finish at the Salt Lake City Open last week. “To be able to bounce back like that really proved to myself and to a lot of people I can play and compete with the best of the pros,” he said. “I had two great finishes.”

Zach Johnson

Zach Johnson to be Inducted in Southern Utah Athletics Hall of Fame

By Bryson Lester, SUU

The Southern Utah Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and the SUU Athletics Hall of Fame Committee have announced the 2019 Hall of Fame class to be inducted on October 25 at the annual Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.

Part of that induction is our very own Zach Johnson, assistant professional at Davis Park Golf Course and multiple-time Omega Player of the Year.

“Honoring those that had a major impact on this university and department is one of the most important things we do each year,” SUU Director of Athletics Debbie Corum said. “I am so honored that we get to welcome these fantastic individuals back to campus and celebrate everything they did during their time in Cedar City. 

A lifelong T-Bird, Zach Johnson competed for the university from 2001-05 and was an extremely solid competitor on the collegiate golf circuit.

To this day, Johnson’s college stroke average ranks 18th in SUU history, putting him among the best to ever tee it up for the Thunderbirds. 

Johnson’s impact on the program has been felt since his graduation, however, as he has continued his career in golf he has continued to do so while promoting SUU every opportunity he gets.

In 2018, Johnson made national news as he qualified for the PGA Championship. He has also played in, and won a number of highly competitive golf tournaments since leaving Cedar City. Some of Johnson’s other career milestones include winning the 2018 TaylorMade National Championship, as well as the 2013 Utah Open. 

“Zach is the epitome of what a great T-Bird is, both in his time here playing with us and since he’s moved on,” SUU head golf coach Richard Church said. “He has stayed very involved with the program, he’s dedicated his time to growing the game of golf in the state of Utah, along with the fact that he has been and forever will be a T-Bird. I’m very proud of Zach and we can’t wait to celebrate him as a member of our Athletics Hall of Fame.” 

Annika Borrelli

Borrelli Etches New Name in Utah Women’s Open Trophy

The third-annual Siegfried & Jensen Utah Women’s Open saw a new venue and new champion this year, being played at Thanksgiving Point Golf Club in Lehi on August 5-6.

After Lea Garner won the first two events at East Bay Golf Course, no one knew what to expect this year with a larger field and different course, but Annika Borrelli, sophomore at the University of San Francisco came in, took the first-round lead with a (-5) 67 and never looked back with a final-round (-4) 68.

Borrelli had a one-stroke lead over Utah Women’s State Amateur champion and multiple-time winner on The Cactus Tour Sirene Blair and Utah PGA Junior Series alumnus Christiana Ciasca, who were both tied for second at (-4) 68.

And with two-time champion Garner only three-strokes back, Borrelli needed a solid final round to take home the trophy.

“I’ve been a first-round leader before,” Borrelli explained, “and it unfortunately usually gets to my head. This was the first time where I was just trying to play my game, go hole-by-hole, shot-by-shot.”

The game plan worked as she made the turn tied with Blair but then proceeded to fire off five back-nine birdies, including the last-two holes.

“Definitely my putting,” she said about what was working well. “I made some good putts and good saves. My dad and I had a great strategy going reading the lines and also the pace, I give a lot of credit to that.”

Before the Utah Women’s Open, Borelli had only played in one other Utah-based event, a college tournament down south in St. George. She enjoyed the experience and made sure to make a return visit during her summer schedule. And as for next year, she plans on defending her title in the 2020 Siegfried & Jensen Utah Women’s Open.

“Yeah, I’ll be back,” she said with a smile, holding the champion trophy.

As for the growing professional division, Blair took home the low-pro honors and check after close calls the last-two years.

“It feels really good,” Blair said about her low-pro honors. “I’ve had kind of a rough year so it’s kind of nice to have something that can boost my confidence.

“I definitely made a lot of putts today, I was grinding really hard on the greens and they have the greens rolling so nice. Nice and fast. Just pick a good line and put a good stroke on it and it’ll go in.”

Blair made the turn at one-under for the day, tied with Borrelli, although she finished the back nine in 36, it was good enough for the $2,500 low-pro payout.

“I don’t know what it is about this event,” she said about her performance in the first-three events. “It’s just run really smoothly. The girls are great, a lot of them I played junior golf with so it’s good to see familiar faces. Everyone plays well typically, everyone goes low and the courses are set up to score so it’s always fun to see and fun to play.”

The Brigham Young University Women’s Golf Team took the third-place spot in the event with Assistant Coach Juli Erekson and incoming-freshman Kerstin Fotu, coming off her Utah Women’s State Am win, finished with a tournament-total four-under par.

In only its third year, the Utah Women’s Open continues to grow and become a crucial stop in the women’s schedule for Utah golf and for several traveling professionals. We owe a big thank you to the title sponsor Siegfried & Jensen for supporting it each year and for our presenting sponsor Fairways Media for supporting women’s golf in Utah.

Another thank you to Thanksgiving Point Head Professional Tele Wightman and Superintendent Jason Robert and their staff for hosting us this year. The course was in excellent shape and provided a true test for the Utah Women’s Open.

Mark Owen

Owen Wins Utah Senior Open

If you know Mark Owen, Mountain View Golf Course head professional, you know he’s a competitor. He played just about every sport growing up and he’s seen a lot of success locally as a golf professional in city opens and Utah Section events.

He’s got a new avenue for competition now that he’s reached the young age of 50 years old, which he rightfully claimed “the new 30.” Owen took advantage of the opportunity to compete in his first-ever Utah Senior Open at Toana Vista Golf Course in Wendover July 31st-August 1st and left as the champion.

The Utah Senior Open, which annually honors a Utah golf legend, this year being Riverside Country Club member Doug Marriott, is not an easy event to win. Some of the best golfers in Utah find themselves in this senior category, which makes for an extremely-competitive event.

Owen started hot with a bogey-free round of (-6) 66, providing a one-stroke lead over Steve Schneiter, a four-time Utah Senior Open champion, and Kirk Siddens (a), two overly-accomplished Utah golfers.

“I had a really easy round, didn’t even have a chance to make a bogey,” Owen said of the first round. “I made 6 birdies, no bogies.

“Today was a lot different,” Owen continued. “The wind was different, little harder, different pins, harder pins. I didn’t hit is as good, scraped it around for one over.”

A final-round one over was all he needed to claim the 2019 Doug Marriott Utah Senior Open. He slimmed by with a one-stroke overall victory over amateur Steve Poulson at (-4) 72-68. Schneiter finished second in the Professional Championship flight and tied for third overall at two-under.

“Winning always feels great,” Owen said. “I don’t feel like a senior yet, 50 years old is not what it used to be. I guess it’s the new 30.

“I knew my birthday fell a couple weeks before this event and I did pinpoint this as one of the events I would play in,” Owen continued. “All the guys I’ve looked up to for years have played in it. A couple honorees have played in it that are some of my really good friends and it’s just something I’m happy and excited to have my name attached to for now on, it’s cool.”

Owen has played in two events as a senior so far: the Brigham City Open and the Utah Senior Open. He’s two-for-two with wins.

Bruce Summerhays, a Utah Senior Open regular, not only won the Legends flight, reserved for golfers over 70, but also claimed the Super Senior flight with his ever-consistent play of (-3) 69-72.

With four birdies and an eagle in his first round, Summerhays held a one-stroke lead over past-champion and Bloomington Country Club Head Professional Scot Brandt. Summerhays would go on to seal his win with an even-par final round and leave Wendover with the Super Senior trophy. The Utah Senior Open is special event we look forward to every year, whether it’s celebrating the tournament honoree, spending time with Section members and Utah golfers throughout the state or joining forces with the Utah Golf Association. Thank you to all who support the event and a special thank you to our Wendover friends and to Toana Vista Golf Course and Staff.

Kyla Hoster & Cole Carlson

Promontory Major Sends Juniors to State Opens

The 2019 Utah PGA Junior Series Major season has come to a close with an exciting finish at the Promontory PGA Junior Major Championship as Braxton Watts, Nathan Giles, Kyla Hoster and McKenzie Schow have earned exemptions into the 2019 Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open and Utah Women’s Open.

Two exemption spots were up for grabs in the Boys 15-18 and Girls 15-18 divisions; one for the winner of the Promontory PGA Junior Major Championship and one for the winner of the season-long Majors Points race.

In Kyla Hoster’s case, she claimed the top spots in both categories. Hoster played in three of the four Majors and won the Davis/Valley View Major and the Promontory Championship. She won at the Pete Dye Promontory Course on July 29th with a (+7) 79, one-stroke over Ellie Hair’s 80, which gave left her in first place in points as well.

Hoster and McKenzie Schow were tied in the points race leading into the Promontory Championship, however, with Hoster finishing in first in both spots, the points exemption fell to the second-place spot. Schow’s points cushion was just enough to get that second spot into the 2019 Utah Women’s Open at Thanksgiving Point on August 5-6th with a third-place finish at Promontory.

“It’s a really proud moment for me,” Hoster said of qualifying for the third-ever Utah Women’s Open. “I know it’s a big tournament. I think it’s a big achievement.”

Braxton Watts of the Boys 17-18 Division must feel right at home at the Promontory PGA Junior Championship as he successfully defends his 2018 title this year with a tournament-low (-4) 68 on the Dye Course. Watts won the 2018 Promontory Championship played on the Nicklaus Course.

Not only did he defend his Promontory title, he also went back-to-back Major wins, winning the Gladstan/The Oaks Major to qualify for the season-ending major.

Accrediting his driver and “striping it” in almost every fairway, Watts qualified for the 2019 Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open at Riverside Country Club August 16-18th with an eight-stroke win.

“It means a lot,” Watts said of the Utah Open. “I’m really pumped to get out there and play Riverside. I didn’t get to play last year due to family, so I get to go play now, I’m excited.”

Claiming the second exemption spot into the Utah Open for the boys was Provo-resident Nathan Giles, who won the Boys Majors Points race by the skin of his teeth.

Giles trailed Landon Herndon in the points race by a slim margin going into Promontory but would leave with the lead by a mere five points with a score of 75, including birdies on three of his last four holes.

“It feels awesome, it’s actually my biggest goal this year to qualify for the Utah Open,” said Giles. “I’m super excited to play in it, and it’s my home course so it’s going to be fun.”

In the Boys 15-16 Division, Spencer Clayton went low with a (-2) 70 to take home the trophy. Clayton’s five birdies helped secure the win over second-place finisher Giles.

Kihei Akina, who won the Gladstan/The Oaks Major, shot an even-par 72 on the challenging Promontory Club course to win by three over Emmitt Harris.

To round out the Girl’s Divisions, The Romney sisters took control of the two younger flights. Savannah Romney won the Girls 15-16 Division with an 82 and Victoria Romney claimed the Girl’s 13-14 Division with a 79.

The two sisters will be playing for the same Corner Canyon High School Girls Golf Team as the summer season winds down. The 2019 Utah PGA Junior Series Major Season was our best season yet thanks to our Utah Section PGA Professionals hosting our membership at their great courses and for our ever-supportive and growing membership. We owe a big thank you to Promontory Director of Golf Ryan Kartchner and Head Professional Cole Carlson for hosting us at the Promontory Dye Course. What a great opportunity for our juniors!

Claire Whisenant, Girl's 15-16 champion

Champions Crowned at Utah PGA Junior Series Davis/Valley View Major

Six major champions were crowned at the Utah PGA Junior Series Davis/Valley View Major on July 10-11th at Davis Park Golf Course and Valley View Golf Course. With exemption spots into the season-ending Promontory Major Championship, scores were low, competition was tight and playoffs were needed in the second major of the season.

The lowest score of the tournament came from the youngest boy’s division. Emmitt Harris of the Boys 13-14 division held the lead after round one at Davis Park with a (-1) 70 and secured that lead the rest of the way by firing a (-4) 68 at Valley View in the final round.

With six birdies and only two bogies, Harris proved to be too good to catch and is now a Utah PGA Junior Series Major Champion.

If a 5-under two-day total score from a 14-year old wasn’t exciting enough for the Davis/Valley View Major, a playoff was needed to determine the winner of the Girl’s 17-18 division between Kyla Hoster and Mckienzie Schow.

Hoster grabbed the lead early by shooting a 69 at Davis Park, but steady play from Schow on day two led to a tie at (+4) 147 at the end of the final round at Valley View. After they tied the first playoff hole, the par-4 10th at Valley View, they continued to the par-5 11th.

Hoster drained a 10-foot birdie putt to seal the deal as Schow’s birdie just barely slipped by.

“Yesterday it was putting and today was getting my approach shots close,” Hoster said about what was working well to get the win.

“It feels really good,” she said about the win and qualifying for Promontory. “It’s a relief, there was a lot of pressure. I feel very confident right now.”

The win put Hoster in first place on the Girls Major Points list, 20 points ahead of Schow going into next week’s Utah County Rumble Major at The Oaks and Gladstan Golf Courses.

Two exemption spots into the 2019 Utah Women’s Open are on the line for the winner at the Promontory Major Championship and the top spot on the season-long Girls Major Points list.

More low scores were made in the Boys 17-18 division as Porter Brackett started the event hot at Davis Park with a (-4) 67, providing a three-stroke lead going into the final round at Valley View over Landon Herndon.

Brackett would hold onto his lead on day two with a (+1) 73, finishing three-under for the major while Herndon maintained his second-place spot with rounds of 70-79.

“My putting is what saved me,” Bracket said.

The putter certainly made the difference as he drained four birdies and an eagle on day one to provide the cushion needed going into the final round.

With his win, Brackett will now compete for the exemption spot into the 2019 Utah Open by playing in the Promontory Major Championship. The winner at Promontory will earn his ticket to Riverside Country Club in Provo and the overall Major Point list winner will also earn an exemption.

Bracket currently sits in second on the points list behind Caysen Wright, who won the Boys 15-16 division at the Davis/Valley View Major with rounds of (-4) 68-71. Wright had a three-stroke leading going into the final round and held off a charging Jackson Rhees, who shot 69 at Valley View and Nathan Giles, who maintained his second-place spot with rounds of 71-73 after it was all said and done.

Wright, one of the few who shot under par at Valley View, matched all his bogies with birdies in the final round and was able to get one more to provide an extra cushion in his five-stroke win.

Claire Whisenant was able to mount a comeback-win with steady rounds of 75-77 to win the Girl’s 15-16 Division and punch her ticket to Promontory while Madalyn Hadley expanded on her 7-stroke first-round lead by shooting 82-83 to win the Girls 13-14 Division.

We’re lucky and fortunate to play on such championship-caliber courses like Davis Park and Valley View. A big thank you to Head Professionals Brad Stone and Dustin Volk and their staffs for being gracious hosts and for running the Davis/Valley View Major. Our third major of the season will be the Utah County Rumble Major at The Oaks and Gladstan Golf Courses. This will be the last opportunity to earn exemption into Promontory.

Pimm, Volk, Gresh

Pimm and Gresh Cruise to Utah Section Four-Ball Championship Victory

By Jesse Dodson

Dustin Pimm and Chris Gresh, assistant professionals at Mountain View Golf Course and Mick Riley Golf Course, respectively, have been playing golf together since the age of 10 and have now become 2019 Utah Section PGA Four-Ball Champions by defeating Matt Baird and Tele Wightman 5&4 Wednesday, July 10th at Valley View Golf Course.

The weather-delayed Four-Ball Championship finally came to be this week as matches started Monday and concluded Wednesday.

Pimm and Gresh came into match play as the 4th seed. They established a little trend throughout the event as to the fashion they won each match. After a first-round bye, Pimm and Gresh defeated Team Maurer/Padilla 1 up, then faced Team Meyer/Roberts and won 5&4. They would go on to face Team Edwards/Johnson, 2018 runner-ups, and slipped by with a 1 up victory and finished it off with another 5&4 victory in the final match.

“You know, Monday we get here and we actually hit it really good we just couldn’t make enough putts, luckily we made it by Neil and Brock,” Pimm said. “Yesterday we finally got the putters going, which was good to see the ball go in the hole. Today it just all came together.”

Pimm and Gresh got off to a quick start by winning the first hole with a birdie and they never let go of that lead. They extended their lead to 3 up by the turn and quickly jumped to 4 up with a 35-foot birdie by Pimm on the par-four 10th. They sealed the deal with a birdie on the 14th hole to win.

“In a couple matches this week we got down early so we were fighting back and today we got up and kept making birdies,” said Pimm.

“It was good to get off to a good start for us,” Gresh added. “It was the first time we birdied number one this week, so to get that out of the way was good.”

“I think we fed off each other,” Gresh continued. “He had great-hole stretches, I had great-hole stretches. I mean, just to be able to watch each other hit good shots and know that it’s out there. We kept telling ourselves to hit good shots and they’ll eventually fall and they did today.”

The two were “due,” as Pimm explained. They played junior golf together and even played for the same University of Utah team.

“It’s awesome, especially for both of us,” Gresh said. “We haven’t played as much as we used to, we’ve both had surgeries. To come out and play against a great field and win this, it’s awesome.”

Pimm is nine-months removed from back surgery, where he thought there was a chance he’d never play golf again. Today, alongside Gresh’s stellar approach shots and consistency off the tee, you’d never expect either had recently recovered from surgeries as they combined for seven birdies in 14 holes and won in convincing fashion.

A big thank you to Utah Section PGA President Dustin Volk and his Valley View staff for hosting us and for Charley Carlson and our sponsors for making this event possible.

Tournament bracket HERE

Zach Johnson to be Inducted in Southern Utah Athletics Hall of Fame

The Southern Utah Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and the SUU Athletics Hall of Fame Committee have announced the 2019 Hall of Fame class to be inducted on October 25 at the annual Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
Part of that induction is our very own Zach Johnson, assistant professional at Davis Park Golf Course and multiple-time Omega Player of the Year.