Dick Harmon: Riverside picked to replace Oakridge as host of the 2014 Utah Open

Published: Monday, April 22 2013 7:15 p.m. MDT

Gallery members walk the course as golfers compete Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012 in the second round of the 2012 Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open at Oakridge Country Club.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

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PROVO — Oakridge Country Club has made the Utah Open a top-notch, high-caliber golf event, but the August 2013 competition will be the last Utah Open that Oakridge hosts for a while. The stage switches to Riverside Country Club in 2014.

The Utah Section of the PGA announced the change of venue Monday at the organization’s spring meeting in Provo.

This signals a wake-up call for Riverside, host to the Cougar Classic this weekend and a former stop on the Ben Hogan Nike Tour. Riverside has undergone a complete face-lift with a new clubhouse, facilities and management team. Pumpkin Ridge (Portland, Ore.) designer John Fought recently tidied up the entire course by moving, adding and eliminating traps, tee boxes and some trees that line the fairways.

But a few of Riverside’s greens have been hammered with issues the past three years. The No. 4 par-4, the No. 1 handicap hole, has most of the front of its green under repair this spring and a few temporary greens have been used in past seasons while work was underway.

The club will manage and it will be ready, predicted Riverside Head Professional Robert McArthur.

“We have actually come out of winter in great shape,” said McArthur. “This course will be ready to host the open when the time comes.”

“Oakridge helped build the Utah Open,” said Scott Whitaker, executive director of the Utah PGA. “Some say the Utah Open is the best regional open we have around this part of the country and it might be the best state open in the United States.”

Whitaker said the Utah Section has gone back to its original plan to move the Utah Open around to some of the key courses in the state. The Utah Open has most recently been played at Alpine Country Club and Talons Cove before nesting at Oakridge near Layton for more than half a decade.

The tournament has a reputation for putting on a giant weeklong event that includes pro-am competition twice a day before the 54-hole championship. It draws competitors from all over the country, including Utah’s top amateurs, professionals and collegiate talent.

“We want to show what great golf we have in this state,” said Whitaker, “and moving the event from Oakridge to Riverside for 2014-15 is part of that plan.”

Whitaker said Oakridge has set a high standard for the event and he has every expectation that Riverside will follow that track record.

“We’ve loved it at Oakridge but the new facilities at Riverside are beckoning to us. They’ve made some tremendous improvements here and we are looking forward to taking the event here and taking advantage of these facilities.”

McArthur said Riverside hosted the Nike Tour for seven years before losing its sponsors.

“It’s nice to move it around and have it in different counties throughout the state,” he said. “It will be good for Utah and it will be good for Provo and the golf community to see this event here and rotate it around.”

Riverside will host 10 college teams this Friday and Saturday for the annual Cougar Classic.

“Our greens are the old greens, the push-up greens, and our new superintendent is getting a better feel for them, so I think they’ll be OK. They are doing everything they can to get them in tip-top shape.”

Riverside has hosted some great players, both professionally and collegiately. Tiger Woods played Riverside while at Stanford. During the Ben Hogan Tour days, John Daly worked the fairways of the course that lines the Provo River. The course was home to a legion of BYU All-Americans, including Johnny Miller, Ray Leach, Mike Reid, Chip Garriss, Lance Suzuki, Jimmy Blair, Mike Brannan, Jim Nelford, John Fought, Pat McGowan, Bobby Clampett, Dave DeSantis, Keith Clearwater, Rick Fehr, Steve Schneiter and former Master’s champion Mike Weir — to name a few.

Current Champions Tour veteran Jay Don Blake set Riverside’s course record of 62 when he played for Utah State. Riverside is the home course of another senior, veteran Dan Forsman. Both Forsman and Don Blake are scheduled to play in this week’s Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends Tournament in Savannah, Ga.

Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at dharmon@desnews.com.

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