Has there ever been a more unlikely State Amateur champion than Darrin Overson? Until last week, the 23-year-old from Provo had never played in a single State Amateur golf match in his life. Actually, he had never played in a golf match, period. For that matter, he had never even qualified for the State Am tournament, which begins with approximately 150 players every year.
Yet at a little after 2 o'clock Sunday afternoon, just behind the 14th green at Riverside Country Club, Overson was the guy wiping away tears as he accepted the large State Amateur golf trophy that has been passed from champion to champion for the past 100 years.Overson's improbable climb to the pinnacle of the Utah amateur golf scene culminated in Sunday's 5 and 4 victory over 47-year-old insurance executive Steve Brinton, who finally ran out of steam after five days of outstanding play.
"It feels great to win," said Overson. "This is the kind of stuff you live for. I wanted to make the best of it here on my home track in front of all my friends."
Overson certainly was a popular champion, playing in his hometown at a course he started working at eight years earlier as a "range rat." The recent graduate of Utah Valley State College received several ovations during the awards ceremony from the Riverside patrons, who had cheered him on all week during his march to the finals. Overson gave particular credit for his golf success to Riverside head pro Robert McArthur, who was allowed to hand out the trophy to his employee.
Brinton was the sentimental favorite of many, because he was trying to become the oldest champion since Joe Bernolfo won in 1961. He also is a popular golfer on the local amateur scene as one of the true gentlemen golfers, and several of his friends from Salt Lake came down to cheer him on.
You couldn't have asked for a more genial finals match than this one as the two players graciously conceded putts and congratulated each other on good shots. And it may have been the fastest-played match in State Am finals history as the two players wasted little time between shots and kept photographers hopping trying to keep up with them. The 32 holes took a little more than five hours to play.
As he had in his four earlier matches, Brinton jumped out to a quick lead in the scheduled 36-hole match by making birdies on three of the first four holes. However, he could never get more than two holes up and went into the lunch break 1 up.
Overson said later he was not feeling well during much of the morning round because of stomach problems. He got some medicine from his wife and took a few minutes by himself to "chill out" prior to the afternoon round.
Brinton said he felt "great" in the morning round and was playing with a lot of confidence. However, his putter suddenly stopped working in the afternoon and the mental grind of the long week began to take its toll on him.
He had a great chance to extend his lead at the first hole of the afternoon but missed a short birdie putt he thought was in the hole. That left the door open for Overson, who got back to even when Brinton 3-putted No. 3 and then went ahead for good with a 20-foot birdie at No. 4.
Brinton lost No. 6 with another 3-putt and No. 7 when his second shot ended up in the lake fronting the green. The slide continued at No. 8 when Brinton's 40-foot putt went 15 feet past and he couldn't make it coming back.
However, Brinton won No. 9 with a par to get back within three holes after Overson hit into the bunker and made bogey. Then Overson pushed the lead back to four at the 11th with a great recovery shot over a bunker.
At No. 12, Brinton had one last chance to get back in the match when he hit his approach within 20 feet, while Overson missed the green. But Brinton's putt came up 4 feet short and when he missed that, the hole was halved. Overson closed out the match two holes later.
"I don't want to take anything away from Darrin, but I was tired mentally," said Brinton. "For some reason, I started getting quite tentative and lost confidence in my putter. Still it was a great week. I did win second place."
Brinton earlier defeated Jeff Burton, Shawn Edwards, Ryan Oldroyd and Dustin Volk to reach the finals for the first time.
After failing in three previous tries to make it to the State Amateur, Overson fired a 147 in two-day medal play and then survived a nine-man playoff for one of the final six spots Thursday evening.
"I felt if I could get into match play, I'd have a chance," said Overson. Earlier in the week at the centennial banquet in Salt Lake, his wife, Andrea, had leaned over and told him "You can win this if you want to."
In the first round, he knocked off heralded BYU freshman Billy Harvey, then beat one of the top University of Utah players, Jon Morgan. In the quarterfinals, his victim was Riverside club champion Steve Watts and in the quarterfinals he knocked off one of the state's top amateurs in Ryan Job.
Overson played two years for the Utah Valley State College and has received a scholarship to play for Colorado State next year. You can bet when he returns for next year's State Amateur at Hill Air Force Base, everyone will know who Darrin Overson is.