Bruce Brockbank was far and away the best golfer in the medal portion of the Men's State Amateur golf tournament at Oakridge Country Club the past two days.
He fired a sparkling 5-under-par 67 Thursday, which coupled with his 69 the day before gave him a 136 total - five shots better than anybody else.Yet because he is the defending State Am champ Brockbank isn't the "official" medalist for this year's tourney. That honor went to his BYU teammate of the past three years, Jon Baker, whose 68 Thursday gave him a 141 total.
It's kind of a complicated, technical matter, but it goes basically like this: As defending champion, Brockbank gets an automatic exemption into match play as the No. 1 seed, which means he is basically playing for practice while 31 other golfers earn their way into the match play part of the tourney.
Utah Golf Association executive director Mark Passey explains further.
"(The defending champion) has the option before the tournament starts of forfeiting the No. 1 seed or competing for the medalist. This has never been a problem before because as far as I know, the defending champion hasn't won medalist honors the next year."
Passey gives Brockbank credit as unofficial medalist, saying "The medalist is the guy with the lowest score - but in this case he won't get the medalist prize."
The medalist prize happens to be a $400 watch, but Brockbank didn't seem too upset about not getting the prize. And if anyone else had to win it, he was happy for his college teammate.
"I understand all that, but I still went out there and wanted to shoot low scores, pressure or no pressure," he said. "Whether you win it (medalist) or not, you want to go out and do well. I just played really well."
Brockbank put eight birdies on the board in an up-and-down round that included three bogeys and seven pars.
After almost chipping in for eagle at No. 1, Brockbank also birdied No. 4 with a 3-footer, bogeyed No. 5 and came back with an 8-foot birdie at No. 6.
Birdies at 11 and 12 put him 4-under for the day, but Brockbank found trouble at the par-3 13th where he plugged his ball in the right side sand trap and blasted across the green into another trap. From there he chipped within 6 feet and made a tough putt for bogey.
He came back with a nice birdie at 14 but found sand again at 15 for another bogey. However, he biridied 16 and 17, giving him seven straight holes without a par.
Now Brockbank, who won medalist honors in 1983 and lost in a playoff in 1986, will try to make it to the
finals for the fourth time. He lost in '83 and '86 before winning last year.
"I'm going to tackle the course same way I did the last two days," he said. "If you go out and play well and somebody beats you, you can still go home happy. But if I go out there and play like I want to, maybe I'll finish on top."
One of his top contenders will be Baker, who just completed his career at BYU, where he often played ahead of Brockbank. His 68 was similar to Brockbank's round in that it included three bogeys. Baker made birdies at 3, 11, 12, 16 and 17 and the highlight of his day was an eagle at No. 7.
A stroke behind Baker at 142 were University of Utah golfer Matt Johnson, ex-Utah State golfer Chris Jones and BYU's Brad Sutterfield. Five golfers, Kurt Bosen, Todd Barker, Brett Taylor and U. of U. golfers Doug Roberts and Devin Dehlin came in at 143. Sixteen-year-old Joseph Summerhays, the youngest player in the tournament was among a group of three golfers at even-par 144.
Along with determining a medalist, the first two days determined the 32 golfers who went into match play Friday morning.
Six players tied at 148 and had to play off for the final four spots in the 32-man draw. Three players - Tod Budge, Rafael Ponce and Kury Reynolds - birdied the first hole to earn their spots. The other three kept playing and Spence Ahrend gained the final spot after Ron Hitchcock was eliminated on the third hole and Edward Baker on the fifth hole.
For Hitchcock, it breaks a 9-year streak of match-play appearances and marks only the third time in 18 years, he hasn't made it into match play.
Among the top matches on tap for Friday's first round were Taylor against ex-professional Mike Borich, Sutterfield against former State Am champ Steve Borget and a matchup between the two oldest remaining golfers 64-year-old Vaughn Barker and 48-year-old Jack Kennally.
The rest of the matches were Brockbank vs. Ahrend, Baker vs. Reynolds, Johnson vs. Budge, Jones vs. Ponce, Bosen vs. Shayne Henry, Dehlin vs. Jeff Hansen, Barker vs. Kurt Nielson, Roberts vs. Mitch Hyer, Summerhays vs. John McArthur, Chris Dahlberg vs. Rod McLean, Jerry Rose vs. Tom Bashford, Rob Despain vs. Bruce Barnard and Rick McGarry vs. David Cassidy.
The winners were to play 18-hole matches Friday afternoon, leaving just eight golfers by day's end. Quarterfinals and semifinals will be played Saturday with a 36-hole finale set for Sunday.