SALT LAKE CITY — Sports can produce a variety of feelings and emotions. That’s certainly the case in golf. After spending seven straight days covering the Utah State Amateur and Utah Championship as well as seeing some weekend golf on TV, here are a few feelings I experienced this past week.
That’s how it was watching Daniel Summerhays early in the final round of the John Deere Classic Sunday afternoon. For the first time in his PGA Tour career, Summerhays had a legitimate chance to win a tournament in the final round. He was still in the lead when the CBS coverage began at 1 Sunday afternoon, which is when his meltdown began.
The 29-year-old from Farmington, who had made three bogeys all week, suddenly turned into your average Saturday afternoon hacker, making four straight bogeys. There was a 112-yard wedge shot that flew the green, a tee shot on a par 3 way left of the green, followed by a drive into a bunker and another shot over the green into more rough. It was painful to watch, although Summerhays later recovered to get in contention before more agony at No. 18 when he hit in a bunker and bogeyed and lost by one shot.
In his semifinal match Friday, eventual State Amateur champion Cole Ogden hit one of those shots you have to see to believe. He had 300 yards from the tee across a creek with a 1-up lead over Jake Holt. Ogden could have chosen to lay up and no one would have blamed him, but he went for it. His ball landed just short of the green and rolled up, just missing the hole, for a near double-eagle ace and ended up just 2 feet away.
Most golfers on the course act fairly civil, but many don’t. They moan and groan and curse and throw clubs and display little in the way of sportsmanship. I saw just a couple of holes of one match at the State Am, but it was enough to form a negative opinion of a certain 20-something golfer. He was playing an opponent more than twice his age, and he was acting like a baby. He used a certain expletive over and over — loud enough for everyone, including his mother, to hear. Then after losing the match, the young man walked off with a weak handshake and no words of congratulations to his opponent.
That’s how it is watching Summerhays on the golf course. He’s always been positive, but lately he’s made a concerted effort to shrug off bad shots and enjoy himself out on the course. He smiles often, gives high-fives to kids, and actually looks people in the eye as he walks up the fairways. Golfers can’t all do that, but it’s nice to see an athlete look like he's really enjoying himself instead of looking like he's receiving a root canal.
That’s how I felt about not being at the Buy.com Utah Championship Saturday afternoon at Willow Creek Country Club in Sandy when play was delayed for a few hours because of lightning, eventually postponing play for the day. I enjoy covering the PGA Tour event, but I was covering the State Amateur up at Soldier Hollow where the weather was perfect. The worst thing about covering golf is a weather delay, and I avoided that for two days at Willow Creek.
I was standing on the ninth hole on the final day of the Men’s State Amateur waiting for Ogden and Evans to hit into the hole. Evans was in the rough with a blind shot to the hole, which meant he couldn’t see the green and we couldn’t see him. I was talking to someone several feet to the left of the green with people in front of us and some behind.
Suddenly I felt a stinging feeling on my left leg and saw a ball rolling across the cart path and several people running toward me asking, “Are you OK?’’ It took a minute to register, but I realized that I had been hit by Evans’ approach shot. I was fine — got a signed flag out of it from the gracious Evans and was very grateful the ball didn’t land a couple of feet higher.