By mid-afternoon Wednesday, the practice putting green below the all-wood clubhouse at Soldier Hollow was a pretty lonely spot.
With half of the golfers in the Men's State Amateur field already finished and the rest already out playing, three guys had the place pretty much to themselves. And as they put the finishing touches on their practice sessions, ironing out the kinks in their putting strokes, winning the state's most prestigious tournament was a thought far from their minds. Realistically, they just wanted to make a good showing and avoid embarrassment.
With the 2:25 p.m. tee time the last of the day Nick Parmley, Paul McKinney and Daniel Johnson were officially the tournament's three biggest longshots.
"I have no illusions here," McKinney said. "They've got us in the last tee time for a reason. They don't want us slowing up the course."
In the 300-player field, Johnson, a BYU student and waiter at a Provo restaurant, began play as the tournament's worst official player with a handicap index of 8.0. Next was McKinney, a South Jordan real-estate agent with an index of 7.7. Rounding out the group was Parmley, a pro-shop worker at Sleepy Ridge in Orem with an index of 7.6.
Considering the fact that one-third of the players at this year's event are scratch golfers or better, and less than one-third of those players will advance to match play, this threesome went out Wednesday knowing their chances of winning were worse than astronomical.
"It ain't going to happen," McKinney said.
So why are these guys, and about 50 others in the same boat, even trying? Because part of the great history of the State Am is how it means something different to every single player. There are many who have the talent and confidence to win it all. There are others who have been in the shoes of Johnson, McKinney and Parmley who now feel they can realistically make it to match play. For many, however, just being part of the experience and wearing that I-made-it-this-far label is rewarding enough.
"I've always wanted this kind of tournament experience, and I've always wanted to be part of this tournament," said Johnson, who reached the final event for the first time in four tries. "Now, I just want to have some fun and hit some good shots."
Players like these three just want to know how they rate against the state's best. They don't need to win to be rewarded.
"With the prestige that this tournament has, I've just always wanted to be a part of it," Parmley said. "And when I step up on the first tee, there won't be anyone with a bigger smile on their face, and there's nothing that can happen that will take that smile away."
For those who think these guys should do something else with their time, or need to set higher goals, you're probably just jealous.
"I was the only guy in my group in qualifying at Fox Hollow who made it this far, and I bet you those other guys wish they were up here with no chance to win," McKinney said.
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