It may have taken a couple of tries to get the hang of it, but by now Bruce Brockbank has this State Amateur thing down pat.
Brockbank won his second straight State Am title Sunday with a convincing 6 and 5 victory over Devin Dehlin at Oakridge Country Club.It marked the first time since Mitch Hyer did it in 1978-79 that someone has won back-to-back titles and only the fifth time since World War II. It was also the most decisive finals victory since Hyer defeated Jack Noble 10 and 9 in 1978.
In his two previous State Amateur appearances in 1983 and 1986, Brockbank had made it all the way to the finals only to lose. Last year he defeated Paul Langager 2 and 1 at Jeremy Ranch.
"I couldn't be happier - this feels just as good if not better than last year," said Brockbank. "I had a problem in those first two finals and I had to fight against myself. But I worked hard to come back and win it. To win it twice . . . it doesn't happen very often."
Other golfers to win back-to-back titles in modern history, besides Brockbank and Hyer were Don Branca (1974-75) Jack Ridd (1963-64) and Lou North (1958-59).
But Brockbank's back-to-back accomplishment might be the most impressive of all considering the increased competition and the fact that he made the finals in four straight appearances (he didn't play in 1984-85 because of an LDS mission).
After winning his initial title a year ago, Brockbank immediately set out to make it two in a row. He had a good senior season at BYU as he won the Sun Devil Classic and represented BYU in the NCAA tournament. This summer he has already won three tournaments.
He started off the week by winning medalist honors (okay, so he wasn't the "official" medalist, but in our book he still was) with rounds of 69 and 69 and 67 - five shots better than anyone else.
He won his first two matches both by 4 and 2 margins over Spence Ahrend and Jack Kennally.
Then he came back Saturday to face one of the state's up-and-coming amateurs - Doug Roberts of the University of Utah.
Roberts gave him all he could handle, taking Brockbank to the 22nd hole before faltering. In the semifinals, Brockbank had an easier time of it against his BYU teammate Rafael Ponce, winning 3 and 2.
Dehlin had made it to the finals by beating Jeff Hansen and Mike Borich on Friday and Rick McGarry and young Joseph Summerhays on Saturday.
In Sunday's finals, Dehlin knew he couldn't let the experienced Brockbank get an early lead, but that's exactly what happened as Brockbank won the first two holes with birdies.
Dehlin came back to win three holes on the front nine to make the turn just one down and he evened the match at 10 and again at 14. But Brockbank went ahead to stay with birdies at 16 and 17 and headed for the lunch break with a 2 up lead.
"The first 18 I really struggled," said Brockbank. "It was the highest I'd shot all week and I was curious to see what was going to happen in the afternoon."
It didn't take him long to find out. He matched Dehlin's birdie at No. 1, then birdied No. 2 to extend his lead, only to see Dehlin birdie No. 3. A key hole was the par-5 No. 6 hole, where Brockbank put his 5-iron within 5 feet and sank the eagle putt.
The lead went to 4 at No. 8 when Dehlin's second shot caught the bunker and he bogeyed.
At the par-5 11th, Dehlin appeared to be ready to mount a comeback as he put his second shot just in front of the green, while Brockbank got in trouble in the trees on the right with his drive and left his approach shot in thick rough 60 feet short of the hole.
"I figured he was going to birdie so I just wanted to knock it up there close," said Brockbank.
He did better as his "flop shot" wedge, bounced about 8 feet in front of the hole and rolled in the cup for an eagle.
"I knew it was perfect and I thought it would be up there within a foot and and half. I couldn't believe it when it went in."
Neither could Dehlin who felt like he had the wind knocked right out of him. "That wasn't the turning point, that was the bomb," he said.
Instead of being just 3 down, Dehlin was suddenly 5 down with just 7 to play. The two players halved the 12th hole, before Brockbank ended the match at 13 with a 10-foot birdie putt that circled the hole before dropping. Brockbank exclaimed "Yes" as he punched the air with his fist and then gave his caddy, 17-year-old brother Scott, a big hug.
Although Dehlin had nothing to be ashamed of - he was 2 under par for the 31 holes he played, he was just beaten by some remarkable golf by Brockbank. For the final 13 holes, Brockbank was 7 under par.
"I just played super in the afternoon," said Brockbank. "I can't really explain it."
Brockbank isn't 100 percent sure of his future plans right now, but says this will more than likely be his last State Amateur tournament. He plans to turn pro early next year and try for the PGA Tour qualifying school in the Fall of 1989.
"This is my last State Am and I wanted to finish with a win and walk away," he said.
The 21-year-old Dehlin, who will finish at the University of Utah this year, said, "I'm disappointed, but any time you get to the finals it can't be all bad. I'll be back."