MIDWAY Dan Horner and Devin Daniels don't know a thing about each other.
In fact, when they meet today on the first tee of the Silver Course at Soldier Hollow State Park to decide the 2008 champion of the Utah Men's State Amateur golf tournament, it will be the first time the two will look each other in the eye or exchange words.
But what the rest of those who watched the first four days of the State Amateur know is that both reached this point in similar fashion. Even though the two have different backgrounds, both play the same style of golf. Each hits it long, each plays aggressively and both are considered bulldogs in competition all key ingredients for success in match play.
"I'm hitting the ball good, putting good and everything is going good right now, so I'm excited to play," Daniels said.
Because of their unfamiliarity with each other, it's unlikely that the two will try to get into a battle of intimidation. More likely, we're going to see each continue their assault on Soldier Hollow and try to win holes with birdies and not hope that pars will be good enough.
"I'm just going in there and trying to focus on the golf course and not worry too much about the guy I'm playing," Daniels said.
Horner, a 30-year-old building supply salesman who once played for Rutgers University, is in the finals after making it to the quarterfinals three of the past four years. He also advanced to the match-play portion of the U.S. Mid-Amateur championship last year.
"I feel real comfortable," Horner said. "It's not that I'm going to be nervous. I just need to go out and execute."
Daniels, a 23-year-old senior at Utah State University, doesn't have near the match-play history but is probably playing the best golf of his life. He also has the loudest and biggest fan base at the tournament by far.
"I'm going to have to rally some troops," Horner said. "I do have some fans. I just need to get them to show up to try to even things out a little."
Daniels is in the finals after taking care of BYU's Robbie Fillmore 3 and 2 Saturday morning and then slipping past 1998 champion Darrin Overson 1-up in the semifinals. In his first match Saturday, Daniels made birdie on five of his first six holes.
His match with Overson was a bit tighter, even though Daniels was in charge most of the way. When he sank a 4-foot par putt on the par-3 13th and then trickled in a 12-foot birdie on 14, while Overson missed similar putts on each hole, Daniels quickly took a 3-up lead and forced Overson into catch up.
"I had my moments, but most of the day I was searching for my golf swing," Overson said.
With an up-and-down par on No. 15 and a two-putt par on No. 17, however, Overson closed to within a hole heading to the par-5 18th. But he never got the chance to force extra holes when Daniels drained a 20-footer from the fringe for birdie on the final hole.
Horner, actually, dodged a few bullets in reaching the final. In his morning match Saturday he was all-square heading into the par-5 18th, where Carl Jensen had a 15-foot birdie putt to win the match. But the putt power-lipped out and then Carl Jensen missed the 6-footer coming back giving Horner the win.
In his semifinal match, Horner and Christian Jensen were all square before Horner slipped in a delicate downhill 12-footer for birdie on No. 16. His opponent then missed a shorter putt for birdie, three-putted No. 17 and No. 18.
"For me, it just came down to a couple of missed putts," Christian Jensen said.
Horner, who missed a short putt on No. 18 to win the match, still got the job done when he tapped in a 4-foot birdie on the first extra hole.In Saturday morning's other quarterfinal matches, Christian Jensen ousted 51-year-old Steve Poulson 4 and 3. Overson sent former Delta High star Casey Fowles packing with a 2 and 1 victory.