Dick Harmon: Locals, players with BYU ties have advantage in Utah Open

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 20 2014 8:35 p.m. MDT

AVONDALE, LA - MARCH 28: Dean Wilson tees off on the 14th hole during the Second Round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans on March 28, 2008 at TPC Louisiana in Avondale, Louisiana. Wilson finished the day with a 73, for a total of 5 under par. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Chris Graythen, Getty Images

PROVO — Dean Wilson, a former Utah Open champion and BYU golfer who set the course record at South Mountain and once made headlines by playing alongside Annika Sorenstam in a PGA Tour event, returns to Riverside Country Club this week.

It's a familiar haunt for the native of Hawaii.

Wilson, who now lives in San Diego, had some back issues and lost his PGA Tour card. But his name at Riverside lives on as an urban legend. He's part of a group that could be a huge factor when things kick off Friday in the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open: current and former Cougar players and locals. This is their playground, their course, and they know all the sweet spots and breaks.

A Wilson Riverside story gem?

As the tale goes, around the time Wilson won the Utah Open in 1999 with a record round at South Mountain, he’d often take on three veteran Riverside members, the late Max Eggertson and Bob Peay and Mo Jackman. The game was their best ball against his.

One day, playing from the white tees, Wilson hit his tee shot in the creek trying to drive over the water on the par-5 No. 5 hole. He took a drop, hit it on the green and still made birdie on his way to a 15-under-par 57.

“Dean knows the greens here so well, he laughs about it when he putts,” said assistant Riverside professional Chris Moody. A former Utah State player, Moody himself is the son of a Riverside member and has played the course since he was 8 and is another favorite because of it. He’s a two-time PGA Utah Section Player of the Year and shot a 6-under-par 66 in a Monday pro-am.

“BYU players will definitely be in the mix,” said Moody.

“You have to put them right up there as favorites because they know this course like the back of their hands,” said defending Utah Open champion Nick Johnson.

The Utah Open moved from Oakridge Country Club to Riverside this year after seven years at the private club in Farmington. The last time the Utah Open was contested at Riverside, a BYU All-American and former U.S. Amateur champion, the late Mike Brannan, won in 1974.

This year’s field is loaded with both amateurs and professionals like Wilson with BYU resumes, and they are well-accomplished competitors, including two-time Utah Open and U.S. Public Links national champion Clay Ogden. His brother Cole, the low amateur at the Provo Open and current Cougar and former Utah Amateur champion, is also in the field.

In the past 44 years, nine former BYU players have won the Utah Open, including Buddy Allin at Alpine Country Club in 1970, Brannon (1974, Riverside), Jimmy Blair (1981, Willow Creek), Mike Reid (1982, 1985, Willow Creek), Dick Zokol (1984, Willow Creek), Wilson (1999, South Mountain) and Ogden (2007, 2011, Oakridge).

This group is 1 for 1 at Riverside. Add in Moody and Riverside members, including defending club champion Jesse Clark, and advantages are obvious.

The tournament begins on Friday and concludes on Sunday. Here’s a look at current and former BYU and local Riverside players in the field:

Dean Wilson: 1999 Utah Open Champion; former PGA Tour and Asian Tour player; 2006 winner after a playoff with Tom Lehman; $9 million in earnings; two-time winner of Champion’s Challenge at Thanksgiving Point (teamed with Mike Weir).

Darrin Overson: 1998 State Amateur champion, former employee at Riverside, former Colorado State player who turned professional, regained amateur status and has won numerous UGA events in Utah.

Clay Ogden: Former 2005 USGA Publinks champion, where he eliminated Michelle Wie 5 and 4; two-time Utah Open champion; course record holder at the Ledges and Lakeside.

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