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Brandon Kida leads Utah alumni to win in first University Cup at Sand Hollow

Golf week begins at Southern Utah’s Sand Hollow Resort with University Cup finale

Brandon Kida, wearing a grey hat and a red polo, tees off
Former University of Utah golfer Brandon Kida tees off at the University Cup at Sand Hollow Golf Course in Hurricane, Utah on Sept. 7, 2021.
Fairways Media/Randy Dodson

Former Utah star Brandon Kida fired an 8-under 64 to win medalist honors in the first annual University Cup at Sand Hollow resort on Tuesday. Kida had 10 birdies and two bogies on his round in a field of former college stars representing their universities.

Kida had a string of four birdies on the front nine after making bogey on No. 1. His Utah alumni team finished in first place (26-under 334) ahead of a BYU team (18-under 342) comprised of former stars Peter Kuest and Rhett Rasmussen. Weber State finished third (13-under), followed Dixie State, Utah State, Utah Valley and Southern Utah.

The Ute team pocketed $35,000 for the Utah golf program, $16,000 back from their entry fee plus $19,000 added money from Zions Bank. BYU was awarded $4,000 for second place.

Organizers hope the competition will fire up former players to participate and make the event into a significant fundraiser for all programs.

Behind Kida, Tyler Herzog from Weber State finished second at 7-under par 65. Kuest tied for third with an 5-under 67 with Matt Snyder (Utah) and Chris Korte (Utah). The winning Utah team did enlist the help of mini-tour players like Korte, a 2020 Latin America PGA Tour player from the University of Denver.

Former Weber State Golfer Tyler Herzog competes at the University Cup at Sand Hollow Golf Course in Hurricane, Utah on Sept. 7, 2021.
Fairways Media/Randy Dodson

Golf week continues on Wednesday with Utah Jazz and Oakland Raider alumni and boosters squaring off in a Ryder Cup-type 27-hole competition at Sand Hollow Resort.

Rhett Long, a retired newspaper publisher and former Southern Utah golfer, created the University Cup as part of Golf Week established by Gov. Gary Herbert. It is in conjunction with the Sand Hollow Open and the Charity Cup to benefit prostate cancer. Long’s dream was to bring the state’s golf programs together with alumni competing against each other to raise money for their programs.

Utah, Utah State, Weber State and SUU brought $16,000 each to the event, which they took back to their respective programs from donors. The winning alumni team earned a $19,000 check for their team in added money from Zions Bank.

“Three years ago we were trying to decide the best way for us to be able to help college golf because we had seen a lot of the schools back East raising money for tennis and golf and we worried what would happen with university golf,” said Long. The inaugural event raised $102,000 for college golf this week.

This first event drew eight former Utah State amateur champions and four Utah Open champions, including Jay Don Blake (Utah State) and Clay Ogden (BYU).

Mark Leavitt has poured eight years of sponsorship money into the Sand Hollow Open, which begins on Thursday. Affable and jovial, he’s an artist at small talk chatter and breaking barriers.

In an exhibition round at Sand Hollow with the official overseas historian at Carnoustie Golf Club in Scotland, David Mackesey, Mark’s skills were in full bloom. Racing ahead in a five-some, he quickly found errant balls in the desert, tossed them back in the fairway, chased down bunker shots and forgivingly put them back on grass. He was hopping around like a jack rabbit, making the golf round as easy and pleasant as he could, sans some rules and giving 5-foot putts.

Former BYU golfer Peter Kues competes at the University Cup at Sand Hollow Golf Course in Hurricane, Utah on Sept. 7, 2021.
Fairways Media/Randy Dodson

“He has an easy smile and when he shakes your hand, he looks your right in the eye,” said Mackesey. “He’s sincere with his words.”

“Friendly, always smiling, he’s the perfect host,” said ABC4 sportscaster Wesley Ruff.

“He’s one of a kind,” according to Adam Jasperson, Sand Hollow general manager of resort operations.

A native of Cedar City, Leavitt is the perfect point man to represent the Leavitt Insurance Group. The younger brother of former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, Mark is a 4-handicap golfer and is Utah’s ambassador to golfers in Scotland, personally engaging with the captains of St. Andrews, Carnoustie and other famed Scottish golf clubs who’ve sent players to Utah on a what is a friendship tour from both venues, interrupted in 2020 by COVID-19.

“It’s a great week of golf,” said Mark. “We’ve sponsored this for eight years and loved it. We are trying to decide what to do with the Sand Hollow Open and its date, it falls at a time that we conflict with several other events, even if we’ve tried to sync things up with the Utah Section calendar. We haven’t always filled the field down here.”

David Mackesey owns the original and previously lost Wanamaker Trophy, a 27-pound piece of historical golf symbolism that began in 1916 for the winner of the PGA Championship whose first prominent star was Walter Hagan in the 1920s.

The story of the trophy, how Mackesey came to own it and how it left the hands of the PGA is chronicled in this piece written by Mackesey for PGA.com, the official site of professional golfers.

Mackesey was at Sand Hollow this past week representing Carnoustie, and he brought the trophy with him. “The names on this trophy included all the legends of the game, historical super stars of the game,” said Mackesey, who has had the help of PGA designers to update its appearance.