HILL AIR FORCE BASE — When the Utah Women's State Amateur golf tournament was last held at Hubbard Golf Course here 39 years ago, it was the start of a monumental stretch in Utah golf history.

Marcia Thayne, then a 20-year-old, won her first of six-straight Women's State Amateur titles on the sloping and testing layout. Thayne is probably the most-decorated women's golfer in Utah.

With the 54-hole, medal-play tournament returning to Hubbard this week for the second time in its 102-year history, it wouldn't surprise anyone if another similar streak begins or one that began last year continues. It also wouldn't be a shocker if the crown again went to a youngster.

With play scheduled to begin this morning in eight flights, the favorite to win the championship-flight trophy for the second-straight year is BYU junior Daphne Vines, who was victorious by six strokes last year at Park City Golf Course. Based on handicap alone, she is the best player in the field with a plus-1.

Right behind her, however, is younger sister Kelsey Vines — a senior-to-be at Dixie High, who has a 1 handicap. In total, there are 14 players with a handicap of 4 or less, and each is capable of putting together three solid rounds good enough to take home the trophy.

Even though the championship flight has only 13 participants, there are seven defending champions in the field. The most-recent winner, other than Daphne Vines, is Nicole Chandler — who won in 2004. The player with the most crowns is Lachell Poffenberger, with wins in 1989, 1991 and 1998. Other past champions include Sue Nyhus (1985 and 1999), Stephanie Belnap (1994-95), Patty Brimley (1990) and 2000 winner Tenille Slack. Four-time champion Terry Hansen is not competing this year.

The tightest battle might come in the first flight, where 24 women will battle it out. Overall, 129 women will tee it up today. The championship group goes off between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. today, and 10:40 a.m. and 11:10 a.m. on Tuesday. The top players will tee off for their final 18 holes on Wednesday beginning at 12:30 p.m.

Because of base security, only spectators who have registered with the base will be allowed access to the golf course.

E-mail: jimr@desnews.com