The scene at the Coca-Cola City Parks Open golf tournament Sunday was reminiscent of the 1969 City Parks tournament. Two players, one an amateur and the other a professional, were going head to head in a two-man duel at Bonneville Golf Course. Like the tournament 19 years ago, one of the competitors was Reid Goodliffe. And like the '69 tourney, the amateur came out on top by one again.
This time, however, Goodliffe wasn't the amateur nor the victor like he was when he defeated Lanny Nielsen 1-up back when the City Parks was a match-play event. This time Goodliffe lost in a sudden-death playoff to 24-year-old Matt Johnson, who rolled in a 4-foot putt on the second extra hole to earn the large silver City Parks trophy.Johnson, a senior-to-be at the University of Utah, who captured the WAC individual championship last May, became the first amateur to win the City Parks crown since Mack Christensen won in 1982.
Goodliffe, a 41-year-old head pro at Brigham City Golf Course, still picked up the $1,500 first-prize check, although he wanted more than the money.
"I wanted to win the championship," he said. "When we teed off for the playoff, the pressure was off for beating the pros, but we're all so competitive - I still wanted to win."
The two golfers who had played in the same foursome all day, never being more than two strokes apart, started their playoff on No. 10 after both finished at 10-under-par 134. Johnson missed a 12-foot uphill putt for birdie and Goodliffe missed a birdie from 8 feet.
At No. 11 Goodliffe appeared to have a big edge at the par-4 360-yard hole where he boomed his drive within 20 yards of the green. Johnson, a long hitter himself, was 80 yards away.
Johnson hit a sand wedge that very nearly went in the cup before coming to a rest 4 feet past the hole. Then Goodliffe's wedge shot went a little lower than planned and ran 20 feet past the hole to the fringe. When Goodliffe missed his putt, Johnson ended the playoff with a putt that hit the left edge and circled the hole before dropping.
"I'm really happy to win a playoff," said Johnson, who had had bad luck in previous playoffs. He lost on the 9th extra hole of a playoff with Tod Budge in the first round of this year's State Amateur and on the 6th hole of a playoff with Steve Brinton two years ago in the State Am. "After awhile it gets to be a psychological thing."
As far as beating the state's top professionals, Johnson said, "It's a big boost to your confidence and it lets you know you're improving. After I knew I'd beaten the amateurs, obviously I wanted to win the whole thing."
Tom Costello had gone into Sunday's action with a 1-shot edge over Johnson and a 3-shot lead over Goodliffe, Mack Christensen and Ron Branca after his 65 at Mountain Dell. But Costello had problems with his driver and quickly lost his lead.
By the first hole, Johnson had caught him with a birdie. By the second hole, Goodliffe had caught him by starting eagle-birdie. In fact, Goodliffe eagled the 3rd hole with a 12-footer and led everybody.
"Things couldn't have been any better," said Goodliffe.
But he came back to reality with bogeys at 5 and 6 and after Johnson birdied 7 and 8, he had a 2-shot lead on Goodliffe. Costello fell out of contention for good with bogeys at 4, 5 and 9.
Birdies by Goodliffe at 10 and 12 along with a bogey by Johnson at 11, gave Goodliffe the lead by one. At 14, Johnson jumped into a tie again with a birdie putt from 4 feet and the two matched each other stroke for stroke the rest of the way.
Johnson had birdie putts of 10 feet or less on the four finishing holes, but couldn't connect. Goodliffe missed a makeable birdie at 16, but otherwise had to sink testy par putts on the other three holes to stay alive.
At 18 Goodliffe left his 35-footer from the bottom level about 7 feet short. Johnson was hole-high just 8 feet away and looked ready to win it right there. But his putt slid 4 feet past. When Goodliffe sank his par putt, Johnson had to sink his to force the playoff. He did.
While Sunday's win was the biggest non-college win of his life, Johnson said the WAC title he won was "definitely bigger." It was sort of ironic that Johnson's college coach, Ron Branca, was playing in the same foursome Sunday.
Since winning WAC medalist honors, Johnson's play has been spotty. He didn't play well at the NCAAs or at the City Amateur on the same Bonneville Course (he shot 71-78). But he won the Mick Riley Memorial in mid-June and has had several top-10 finishes.
"I've been hitting the ball real well lately," he said. "My last 10 rounds I've been hitting the ball as well as I ever have in my life. It may sound funny, but it's because I've been keeping my head more still when I hit."
Another amateur, former Utah State player Chris Jones, made a run at the title as he got to 9-under-par, within one of the leaders with one hole to play. But a bogey at the last hole left him with a 136 total, two shots back.
Kim Thompson was one of several pros with a final-round 67 and that put him second among the pros, fourth overall, at 137. Costello, John Evans, Mike Malaska and Joey Bonsignore all tied at 139.