The largest and perhaps strongest field ever will tee off Wednesday as the 90th Men's State Amateur golf championship gets under way at Oakridge Country Club.
The 150-man field is believed to be the tournament's largest and a look at the list of players shows a very strong field."I think it's very possibly the best field we've ever had," said Utah Golf Association exeecutive director Mark Passey. "We have more good players and depth than ever before. We may not have one outstanding player, but I don't think we've ever had more contenders than this year."
Passey said all of the exempt players except one accepted invitations to play and the one - 1981 champ Eric Hogg, who lives in Arizona - may not even be an amateur any more.
The field includes seven former champions, most of the top college golfers in the state, and a bevy of top amateurs from around the state.
After the 150 golfers play Wednesday, the field will be cut approximately in half to the low 72 and ties for Thursday's second round. A score of around 77 or 78 or better will be needed to make it to Day 2.
Then to make it to match play, a score of approximately 152 or better will be needed. The low 32 golfers will match up Friday morning and play two rounds until just eight are left for Saturday's quarterfinals and semifinals. A 36-hole finale will determine the winner Sunday.
While the favorites don't usually win the State Am title, there are some trends the winner has followed in recent years. The winner is usually a non-college golfers between the age of 18 and 27. You have to go back to 1977 when 45-year-old Arlen Peacock won to find a golfer out of that age range.
The average age of the State Am champ over the past 10 years is 22.5, although just one 22-year-old, Glen Spencer in 1983, has won the Amateur title in the last decade. Just two of the last 10 winners were active collegiate golfers - Brockbank last year and Hogg in '81.
Early in the decade the State Am went though an 18-year-old phase with three 18-year-old winners in four years, Eric Hogg in 1981, Steve Schneiter in 1982, and Mark Davis in 1984. Since then, golfers in their mid-20s have been winning with Steve Borget (5), Brad Hansen (5) and Bruce Brockbank (3) winning the past three years.
Stamina could have a lot to do with it the lack of older golfers winning the title. The golfers who make Sunday's finals will play close to 144 holes in a five-day span. Although carts can be used early in the week, they are prohibited in the semifinals and finals. Last year, 42-year-old finalist Paul Langager deliberately slowed his pace the final day against Bruce Brockbank to conserve energy.
As Passey points out, "There's no question it's got to be an advantage to have young legs."
Going by age, you have to start with the college-age golfers and move on from there. Brockbank, a three-time finalist who just finished his eligibility at BYU, heads the list. He's also hot right now, having won two tournaments in June, most recently the Art City Amateur where he shot 68-65.
Three of his teammates from this year, Jon Baker, Rafael Ponce and Brad Sutterfield should all be top contenders.
The WAC champion University of Utah team will have several of its members playing this week, including WAC medalist Matt Johnson, Devin Dehlin, Doug Roberts, Eric Nielsen, Chuck O'Brien.
Some of the younger non-college golfers in their 20s to watch out for are former champs Steve Borget and Brad Hansen, defending medalist Rich Rawdin and Chris Jones.
The golfers in their 30s who should have a good shot at winning include two-time champ Mitch Hyer, who won at Oakridge in 1979, Todd Barker, who has won nearly every local amateur event worth winning except the State Am, Ron Hitchcock, who has qualified for match play 15 of the past 17 years but has never won, Larry Buecher, who won the Central Region Qualifying last month, George Rackham, who won the Northern Qualifying, Mike Borich and Kurt Bosen.
Golfers in their 40s who could contend include Langager, Jack Kenally, Jim Jensen and Lynn Summerhays, who is making a comeback of sorts. Summerhays, the younger brother of Wastach pro Bruce Summerhays, was a semifinalist in 1966 when the tourney was played at Oakridge.
Among the senior golfer hopefuls are former champs Arlen Peacock and Jack Ridd, Vaughn Barker, Garth Ford and Pete Randall.