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A stroke of fate made MacKay a pro

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MIDWAY — If it wasn't for Rod Carew, Craig MacKay would probably not be the head professional at one of Utah's most popular golf courses, Wasatch Mountain State Park, and enjoying every minute of it.

Rod Carew?

You see, MacKay was an outstanding all-around athlete at Olympus High and the University of Utah, who went on to play professional baseball in the Minnesota Twins organization. The only problem was, MacKay played second base, and there was this guy named Carew who was entrenched as Minnesota's second baseman on his way to a Hall of Fame career.

After playing in the minor leagues for five years, MacKay could see he was never going to beat out Carew in Minnesota. So he took up a sport he had never played much before and turned it into a satisfying career.

"I fell in love with golf," he said. "Baseball and golf are pretty compatible. Once I got into golf, I became a golf fanatic."

MacKay has been the head professional at Wasatch, the site of this year's Men's State Amateur, for 12 years, where he has seen the likes of Michael Jordan and Mark O'Meara play in recent years.

Having Jordan play his course during the 1997 playoffs was one of MacKay's highlights at Wasatch.

"It was about 4 o'clock in the afternoon, and (Jordan) called from the road and asked if he could get on," recalls MacKay. "He came with a few of his buddies, like Quinn Buckner, and was a real gentleman, not pushy or anything. He paid his money, jumped in a cart and went and played the Mountain course. He loved it. When he came in, he said this was one of the best-kept secrets in America."

The next day, Jordan called again from the road, asking to get on. This time he played the Lake Course, despite a rainstorm. That was the day before the famous Game 5 when he led the Bulls to victory despite being quite ill (probably from playing the day before in the rain).

Earlier this year, O'Meara, who has a home in Park City, played Wasatch and supposedly was going to bring Tiger Woods with him after one of their fishing expeditions in Utah. But Tiger hasn't played the course yet.

MacKay was an all-state athlete at Olympus High School nearly 40 years ago and went on to play basketball for Jack Gardner at the University of Utah. But he was a better baseball player, and he turned to that full-time, playing for Pres Summerhays, Bruce's father, and earning honorable mention all-America honors.

He played most of his Twins career at the Double-A level until "retiring" in 1970. He was an amateur for just six months before turning professional again, this time as a golfer. MacKay worked under two legends of the local golf scene, Don Dorton at Forest Dale and Tom Sorensen at Mountain Dell, and got the head job at Wasatch in 1989, succeeding Bruce Summerhays.

MacKay hasn't played a lot of competitive golf as a professional, although he did win a senior event in St. George soon after he turned 50. In recent years, the 58-year-old hasn't played as much, spending much of his time tending to Wasatch, one of the busiest courses in Utah.

So what does MacKay think about his old team, the Twins, who are having a banner season, leading their division?

Not much.

"I don't follow baseball much any more," he said.

E-mail: sor@desnews.com