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150 golfers competing for State Amateur title

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One of the more intriguing State Amateur golf tournaments ever will take place this week when 150 golfers descend on Oakridge Country Club for the 102nd consecutive version of the annual tournament.

The talent level should be better than ever, with several college golfers joined by many veteran amateurs who have found success in the tourney, along with a bunch of newcomers who will make their mark this week.

The tourney opens Wednesday with all 150 golfers competing in medal play for 36 holes. After Thursday's round, the field will be reduced to just 32, who will start playing matches Friday morning and continue until just two players are left for Sunday's 36-hole final.

BYU golfer Billy Harvey is the defending champion and must be called the favorite until someone knocks him off. He gets a free pass to the match play portion of the tourney, where he'll be the No. 1 seed.

Three of Harvey's college teammates will be among the players to beat this week. Manuel Merizalde, a junior-to-be from Colombia, played ahead of Harvey most of last season at BYU, while Jose Garrido, another Colombian, who just graduated, was a regular for four years at BYU. Brigham City's Kyle Wight wasn't a regular on the BYU team, but he has played well this summer, winning the Sunbrook Open and placing high in several other events.

Another college golfer to watch is Scott Hailes, who was the No. 2 man on the nationally ranked New Mexico team this year. Hailes, a native of West Bountiful, is a former winner of the U.S. Junior Amateur.

Two Colorado State regulars, 1998 State Am champ Darrin Overson and Salt Lake's Tommy Sharp are also playing this week along with several players from the Utah, Utah State and Weber State teams.

Boyd Summerhays, one of the most celebrated amateurs ever to come out of Utah, will be playing in his first State Am since 1997 after recently returning from an LDS mission. Summerhays, who plays for Oklahoma State, may have an advantage since Oakridge is his home course. His younger brother, 16-year-old Daniel, who recently won the Wolf Creek Amateur, is one of several teenage golfers who have a chance to do well this week.

Others include Pete Stone, a former State Am quarterfinalist who is going to Oklahoma State next year, Luke Swilor, a state champion at Alta High, who won the HAFB Amateur last month and Danny Lopez, a 17-year-old who shot 63-68 last week to win the U.S. Junior qualifying in Park City. One of the youngest players in tournament history is 13-year-old Jordan Fowles of Delta, who will join his 16-year-old brother, Casey.

Among the "veterans" to keep an eye on, three-time champion Doug Bybee leads the list along with 1997 champ Todd Barker. Bybee needs to play in just one more match to break the all-time record for most State Am matches played, and he beat everyone at the Rose Park Open this spring. Barker won the Valley View Amateur in May.

Other top amateurs include 1995 champion Jason Wight, Steve Poulson, who won the Salt Lake City Amateur, 1985 State Am champ Steve Borget, who recently won the Brigham City Open, Scott Fairbanks, who won the Spanish Oaks Open and Dustin Volk, who won the Davis County Amateur, Ryan Job, Steve Watts, Chris Moody and last year's runner-up, Kirk Siddens.

The oldest player in the field is 68-year-old two-time champion Arlen Peacock. He'll be joined by other senior golfers such as Jim Jensen, John Esterbrook, Patrick O'Keefe, Doug Horne and Dick Peacock.

According to head pro Rick Mears, the players who hit it straight will have the best chance of winning this week.

"The keys will be the guys who can keep their drives in play and can play the par-3s well," he said. "On paper it looks like this course can be torn apart, but it ends up being hard. It's not necessarily long, but you've got to hit it between the trees. Overall it will be a very fair test."

Since the last time the State Am was played at Oakridge in 1988, several new bunkers have been place in fairways and around greens and some tee boxes have been moved.

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