Anyone who showed up just in time to see Doug Bybee accept his trophy for winning the Salt Lake City Amateur golf tournament Sunday evening had no idea of the drama that unfolded a half-hour earlier.
The breaks finally fell for Bybee, who had finished in the City Am top 10 for five years running without a victory, finishing second twice, third, sixth and 10th. Since 1992, Bybee never finished more than four shots behind the leader and never finished over par before finally capturing his second City Am title at Bonneville Golf Course."I played very well this week," said Bybee, a two-time State Am champ, who won the City Am in 1982. "This is a big tournament to win. In terms of status (among amateurs) this is No. 2 (behind the State Am), without a doubt."
The tourney had appeared to be in the hands of David Booth, who was a shot ahead of Bybee as he stood on the 17th green with a 10-foot birdie putt.
Bybee was already relaxing near the scoreboard, in at 7-under-par 137, lamenting a key bogey he made at No. 17 when he missed an 8-foot par putt. He heard that Booth was 8-under-par for the tournament at the 17th green and Bybee was just "hoping for a playoff."
The 26-year-old Booth, who had already won the Winterchamps and Bountiful Amateur tournaments this year, had just birdied No. 16 from 10 feet and faced a similar-length putt for another birdie at 17.
Booth's putt was downhill and more slippery than he realized, and it slid four feet below the hole. When he couldn't make the comebacker, Booth suddenly found himself in a tie for the lead instead of two shots ahead. "I definitely got a little too aggressive with the putt," Booth said of his birdie try.
He still had a chance to tie with a par or win with a birdie at the par-3 18th hole. Booth figured a 6-iron was the right club and as his ball was in the air, one of his playing partners yelled "Go in the hole" because it looked like such a good shot.
However, Booth's ball took one bounce on the green and bounded up the hill behind the green. Although he was just 25 feet away from the pin, Booth was in what golfers call "jail." He had a downhill chip out of rough to a slick green that sloped away from him. Even Tiger Woods would have had a tough time getting down in two from there.
Booth tried an 8-iron but moved the ball just five feet, staying in the rough. Now he needed to sink from 20 feet and tried his putter. Again his ball moved about five feet, barely making the green. His next try went six feet past, and he had to sink that for a double bogey and to avoid a four-way tie at 140.
"That was embarrassing," said the diminutive Booth, who is the assistant superintendent at Glen-moor Golf Course.
Booth had played the first seven holes in five under with birdies at 1, 3, 6 and an eagle at 7. But he got stuck at 5-under for the round and made bogey at the par-5 14th, the main birdie hole on the back nine. He came back with the birdie at 16, before faltering at the final two holes.
The 37-year-old Bybee is playing some of the best golf of his life right now. Just a week earlier he shot a 64 at Bonneville, perhaps his favorite golf course in Utah. He credits his fine play to new Titleist irons he started using earlier in the month and to the fact that he plays smarter the older he gets.
Steve Campbell, the 1996 champ, tied for third at 140 with Shaun Jepsen, Steve Poulson and Kevin Haslam, while former champ Ryan Job tied with Justin Bateman and Ed Ingram at 141. First-day co-leaders Brock Padilla and Shawn Edwards, both faded with scores of 75 and 76 respectively Sunday morning to finish at 142 and 143.
Tim Merrill won the A Flight with a 131 net total while Tom Ames captured the B Flight at 134.