Over the years, the paths of Bruce Brockbank and Devin Dehlin have crossed several times, whether in college golf, amateur events or even in the State Amateur golf tournament.
Sunday, the two will be spending eight hours or so together at the Oakridge Country Club golf course in pursuit of the State Amateur title, the supreme accomplishment for amateur golfers in Utah.Brockbank and Dehlin will tee off at 8 a.m. in a 36-hole final over the 6,887-yard Oakridge layout.
For Brockbank, a 24-year-old who just completed his collegiate career at BYU, it will be his fourth appearance in the State Am finals, a feat that has been equaled by few in the 90-year history of the tournament. Brockbank won last year's tourney after losing in the 1983 and 1986 finals.
Dehlin, a 21-year-old South Jordan native who plays for the University of Utah, will be making his first finals appearance for what he calls the highlight of his golfing life.
In Friday's action, Brockbank had to go 22 holes to eliminate another University of Utah golfer, Doug Roberts, then came back to defeat BYU teammate Rafael Ponce 4 and 2 in the afternoon semifinals.
Dehlin took care of the oldest remaining golfer, 31-year-old Rick McGarry, 6 and 4 in the morning before coming back to eliminate the youngest, 16-year-old Joseph Summerhays, 2 and 1 in the afternoon.
Both are complimentary of their opponents for Sunday's finale.
"I've played with Devin a few times, and I've got to respect what he's done," said Brockbank. "He shot 10-under up at Wasatch last month, and I shot even-par and thought that was respectable. I'm going to go out and play like I have all week, and hopefully, it will turn out all right."
"I can't go out and play against him," said Dehlin. "He's bigger and stronger, and I can't play his power game. I just need to blank him out. If I make as many birdies as I did today, I'll have a chance. I may not win, but I'll have a chance."
In Saturday's first match, Brockbank and Roberts hooked up in one of the best displays of golf the State Am has ever seen. Both shot 67 and were 6-under par until Roberts lipped out with a 6-foot par putt on the fourth playoff hole.
Roberts, the lanky all-around athlete from Richfield, took a quick 3-up lead after just 4 holes. By the turn, the lead was down to 2 and Brockbank tied it with birds at 10 and 11. Going into 18, Brockbank was 1 up, but Roberts birdied to force extra holes.
"Doug played super - it's too bad somebody had to lose," he said.
In the afternoon, Brockbank never trailed as Ponce bogeyed 2 and 4. A 25-foot putt at 14 gave Brockbank a 3-hole advantage and he closed out the match at 16 when Ponce hit into the water, although Brockbank was just 10 feet away for an eagle.
Ponce, who will be a senior at BYU, had qualified for the semifinals by defeating teammate Brad Sutterfield 1-up in the morning.
Dehlin took a 3 up lead over McGarry after 9 holes and made it 5 with a 25-foot birdie at 10 and a 12-foot eagle at 11. From there he coasted to victory. He faced Summerhays, who had beaten the weary Tod Budge (45 holes on Friday) 4 and 3 in the morning, and quickly fell behind, losing the first hole. But by the turn he had a 2-up advantage and moved it to 3 at 14 when Summerhays' second shot went into a parking lot.
At that point, Dehlin did the same thing he had in two matches the day before - he relaxed. "I let up for just a second," said Dehlin, who lost 15 with a bogey and 16 when Summerhays parred.
"Going up 16 my brother was asking me how many holes we'd play tomorrow when I stopped and said to myself, `Let's get this one over with first"' said Dehlin.
He did at 17 when Summerhays found trouble and bogeyed and Dehlin sank a 4-footer for the win.
For Summerhays, it was a terrific week since he has played in very few amateur events with older players.
"I feel good about it," said Summerhays, who will be a junior at Wasatch High next year. "This will help me a lot for future tournaments."
Dehlin wasn't an outstanding junior golfer and he really didn't burst onto the scene until 1986 when he did it in noticeable fashion. In the spring, though just a freshman at the U., he finished third in the WAC tournament and was named all-WAC. Later in the summer he won several amateur events, including the prestigious Salt Lake City Amateur, and made it to the State Am quarterfinals, where he lost to Brockbank. But he hasn't matched those achievements the last two seasons.
"In college golf, I think I put too much pressure on myself. I was afraid of making mistakes and thought I had to go out and win the world," he said.
This past spring was the worst for Dehlin, who says, "This spring was my biggest struggle in five years. Mentally I was really bad. I got into a rut and got deeper and deeper."
He played well enough to barely make the Ute lineup for the WAC tournament, but he was the non-counter (the high score doesn't count in college golf) two of three days, and then at the NCAAs in California he was the non-counter both days with consecutive 84s.
"I came home from nationals and made up my mind I had to change things," he said.
Mainly Dehlin changed his tempo. Normally a fast player, he found he was taking too much time over the ball.
"Now I just set up, go one, two, three and hit it," he said. "I'm also putting better and chipping well."
Other than the fact that he's just a darn good player, Brockbank has no explanation for his extraordinary State Amateur play over the years.
"I don't know why," he said. "I know I always look forward to this tournament. I like match play, although I like medal play better. I just try to play as hard as I can and forget what the other guy is doing.
Brockbank lost early in his first State Amateur in 1982, but ever since he's always made it to the finals.
He was medalist in 1983 and cruised through match play before losing to Glen Spencer in the finals. After taking two years off for an LDS mission, Brockbank came back in 1986 to tie for medalist honors (he lost in a playoff) and then went all the way to the finals before losing to Brad Hansen. That was the year he defeated Dehlin in the quarterfinals.
Finally last year he broke through with a 2 and 1 victory over Paul Langager in the finals.
His match-play record of 17-3 may be unmatched in State Am history.
"I just hope my record keeps getting better," he said.