Uncharted territory: Todd Miller, Clark Rustand look back on unusual no-Sunday 2004 State Am finish

Published: Sunday, July 6 2014 6:45 p.m. MDT

Rustand was making his first appearance in the State Am in ’04 and wasn’t given a second look as one of the players to beat. He was the No. 28 seed going into match play, and defeated medal runner-up Zach Johnson, now a successful pro on the Intermountain circuit, in the first round; former professional John Owen in the second round; and teenager Steele DeWald in the quarterfinals. Then he went up against defending champion Tommy Sharp. In perhaps the best-played match of the tournament, he won 2 and 1 on Saturday afternoon.

Miller had finished just one stroke out of medalist honors and beat Craig Woodward, Pete Stone and Ben Smuin to reach the semifinals against his college teammate, Clay Bingham. He breezed through that match 6 and 5 and was waiting to talk to Rustand when his match against Sharp concluded.

“He walked right up to me and let me know his intentions,’’ Rustand recalls. “I was looking forward to playing him in the finals and it caught me off-guard. I was very surprised. On the range prior to the final match, we had joked about playing in the finals against each other. I was excited. It was going to be a fun battle, but also sort of casual because we knew each other and were friends.’’

Miller said at the time and reiterated last week as he was driving to California with his family that he planned all along not to play on Sunday and would forfeit to his semifinal opponent if he made it that far. It was a decision he had made while on an LDS Church mission to Chile. However, going against his college teammate Bingham threw a wrench in the works.

“I’d always planned on giving the match to whoever I played in the semifinals,’’ Miller said. “But the fact that I was playing Clay, who was one of my teammates, made it an awkward situation. I was planning on giving the semifinal match to whoever I was playing. That he was my teammate changed that, but I still wish I would have given him that match.’’

Joe Watts was the Utah Golf Association executive director at the time and was caught off-guard by the whole thing.

“I didn’t have any inkling it was going to happen,’’ Watts says. “It was pretty much out of the clear blue.’’

Watts, Rustand and Miller retreated to a small room in the Jeremy clubhouse along with UGA president Paul Hatch to discuss the situation. Although Rustand recalls Miller throwing out several options such as playing late Saturday afternoon and evening, or declaring the two co-champions, Watts remembers just one.

“He made the request to play it on Monday,’’ he said. “We decided it was not proper to call all of our volunteers back and reschedule. I said, ‘Clark are you going to be here tomorrow on the tee for the match?’ and he said, ‘Yes, I’ll be here.’ I turned to Todd and said, ‘Are you going to be here tomorrow morning for the match?’ and he said, ‘No I won’t be.’ So I said, ‘There’s no reason for us to play it. Let’s just announce it now.’’’

Watts said the decision was nothing against Miller’s religious beliefs, pointing out that six or seven of the nine UGA board members were active members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as was Rustand.

A few minutes after Watts announced the decision on that Saturday afternoon, Rustand was awarded the large State Amateur trophy and for the first time in decades, no State Amateur final was played on Sunday.

“It was hard, but Todd was fine about it,’’ says Watts now. “I respect Todd. He’s really a wonderful young man.’’

Still friends

All these years later, Miller can look back and acknowledge that he didn’t handle the situation in 2004 as well as he could have.

He still doesn’t play golf on Sundays, even though he’s a professional and most professional events have Sunday play. He says he only plays in a tournament every November with friends and at his U.S. Open qualifying event in the spring.

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