Twice during the early 1980s Doug Bybee made it to the State Amateur golf finals, only to lose to an 18-year-old. So when he teed it up for his semifinal match Saturday afternoon against 18-year-old Joseph Summerhays, he was concerned, to say the least.
"That was the first thing I thought of," said the 29-year-old Bybee. "These young kids are tough to beat. Look who's won lately. They're all young guys."This time Bybee didn't let the hex of the 18-year-olds bother him as he jumped ahead early and cruised to a 3 and 2 victory over Summerhays, who will play for the BYU golf team next year.
In Sunday's finals Bybee won't have to worry about an 18-year-old, because Spence Ahrend eliminated 18-year-old Jared Barnes in the other semifinal, 4 and 3.
Bybee, who works in Salt Lake City in the food brokerage business, and Ahrend, a 23-year-old who tends bar at a local club, will meet Sunday at 8:30 a.m. in a 36-hole final at the Alpine Country Club.
The two golfers have endured four days and more than 100 holes to make it to the State Am finals and have left 136 other golfers in their wake. Bybee knocked off 51-year-old Ken Cromwell 1-up in Saturday morning's quarterfinals, while Ahrend, working on four hours sleep, defeated Brett Taylor 4 and 2.
Bybee was relieved to win his afternoon match because he was nearly defeated by a technicality of match-play rules. Here's what happened:
After the 14th hole, when Bybee was 3 holes up, a man in the cart carrying the scoreboard for the match grabbed Bybee's bag and pulled it up the steep hill to the 15th tee to give Bybee's girlfriend/caddy a break. But a rules official observed the apparent violation of the one-caddy rule, and a 15-minute discussion ensued as Utah Golf Association officials huddled.
Finally it was determined that Bybee's caddy hadn't given permission to have the golf bag and cart dragged up the hill, so there was no violation. It turns out that if the rules committee had ruled against Bybee, he would have been disqualified and lost the match.
Imagine forfeiting a match because a nice man offers to help your caddy drag a golf bag up a hill for 20 seconds?
Later, Bybee preferred not to talk about the situation. "I'd rather not let it tarnish the match."
Summerhays said, "It would have been tough. I didn't want to win that way."
It's good he didn't. The UGA may have never heard the end of it if Bybee had beendisqualified for such a ticky-tack violation.
Bybee never trailed all day as he started off with a 15-foot birdie on the first hole. Summerhays tied it with a birdie at No. 2,but Bybee won holes 4, 6 and 7, as Summerhays bogeyed with 3-putts at 4 and 7.
Bybee missed a chance to go 4-up at No. 10 when he outdrove his opponent by 40 yards. But he hit his second shot woefully short, and when he 3-putted from the fringe from 50 feet, Summerhays closed it to 2-up.
At the 14th, Summerhays hit a poor drive and a poor second shot into the trees, and when he couldn't get out of the trees in three, Bybee coasted to a par and another win.
Then came the controversy at the 15th tee. After the long wait, Summerhays drove wildly to the right, over the trees onto the 17th fairway, but made a remarkable recovery to halve the hole.
Then the match ended at 16 on another halve as Bybee rolled in a 3-foot par putt.
For Summerhays, who had defeated Kurt Bosen 1-up in the quarterfinals, putting was the difference. "I didn't make a putt all day," he said.
Ironically, Summerhays switched to one of those "old man" putters that have become so popular on the Senior Tour just five weeks ago to help his putting. "In time I think I'll be good with it," he said.
Unlike Bybee, Ahrend had no caddy problems in his match. He's one of the few players this week who's carried his own bag, and he's had to lug it around for six rounds already this week. "Nobody wants to carry it for me," he said with a smile. "But I might find someone to carry it for me tomorrow."
After a well-played match in the morning, when he matched Taylor shot for shot and played 16 holes in 6-under, Ahrend started off the afternoon shakily. He could have easily been 3-down after three holes after hitting in the water on 1 and 3-putting No. 3 for a pair of bogeys.
But Barnes, the unknown from Cedar City who beat Jeff Kinney 1-up in the morning, couldn't capitalize, as he also bogeyed No. 1 with a 3-putt, parred the par-5 2nd hole with another 3-putt, before winning the 3rd hole. "Jared gave me a gift at the start," said Ahrend.
Ahrend's putter then heated up and he rolled in birdie putts from 6, 8, 2 and 8 feet on the next four holes to go ahead by one and he went 2-up when Barnes' drive at No. 8 went out of bounds.
Barnes cut the lead to one with a bird at No. 10, before Ahrend ran off another string of wins at 11, 12 and 13 to go 4-up. An 8-foot par putt at 15 clinched the match.
As a teenager, Ahrend was one of the top junior golfers in the state. He went to Weber State for a year, didn't like it and tried to play for the University of Utah team. When he was only offered a chance to walk on, he declined.
This year his game has rounded into shape, thanks in part to some lessons from golf guru Ben Doyle in California. He won the amateur portion of the Sizzler Open, tied for first at the Publinks qualifying and finished second at the City Amateur.
Bybee turned professional in 1983 and won five tournaments as a pro before deciding to turn amateur again in 1986. "I learned I couldn't make a living playing golf," he said. It took three more years to regain his amateur status and last summer he joined the amateur circuit again.
"Winning the State Amateur would mean everything to me," said Bybee who lost to Eric Hogg in the 1981 finals and to Steve Schneiter in the 1982 finals on the same Alpine course.