PROVO — Dean Wilson, a former Utah Open champion and BYU golfer who set the course record at South Mountain and once made headlines by playing alongside Annika Sorenstam in a PGA Tour event, returns to Riverside Country Club this week.
It's a familiar haunt for the native of Hawaii.
Wilson, who now lives in San Diego, had some back issues and lost his PGA Tour card. But his name at Riverside lives on as an urban legend. He's part of a group that could be a huge factor when things kick off Friday in the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open: current and former Cougar players and locals. This is their playground, their course, and they know all the sweet spots and breaks.
A Wilson Riverside story gem?
As the tale goes, around the time Wilson won the Utah Open in 1999 with a record round at South Mountain, he’d often take on three veteran Riverside members, the late Max Eggertson and Bob Peay and Mo Jackman. The game was their best ball against his.
One day, playing from the white tees, Wilson hit his tee shot in the creek trying to drive over the water on the par-5 No. 5 hole. He took a drop, hit it on the green and still made birdie on his way to a 15-under-par 57.
“Dean knows the greens here so well, he laughs about it when he putts,” said assistant Riverside professional Chris Moody. A former Utah State player, Moody himself is the son of a Riverside member and has played the course since he was 8 and is another favorite because of it. He’s a two-time PGA Utah Section Player of the Year and shot a 6-under-par 66 in a Monday pro-am.
“BYU players will definitely be in the mix,” said Moody.
“You have to put them right up there as favorites because they know this course like the back of their hands,” said defending Utah Open champion Nick Johnson.
The Utah Open moved from Oakridge Country Club to Riverside this year after seven years at the private club in Farmington. The last time the Utah Open was contested at Riverside, a BYU All-American and former U.S. Amateur champion, the late Mike Brannan, won in 1974.
This year’s field is loaded with both amateurs and professionals like Wilson with BYU resumes, and they are well-accomplished competitors, including two-time Utah Open and U.S. Public Links national champion Clay Ogden. His brother Cole, the low amateur at the Provo Open and current Cougar and former Utah Amateur champion, is also in the field.
In the past 44 years, nine former BYU players have won the Utah Open, including Buddy Allin at Alpine Country Club in 1970, Brannon (1974, Riverside), Jimmy Blair (1981, Willow Creek), Mike Reid (1982, 1985, Willow Creek), Dick Zokol (1984, Willow Creek), Wilson (1999, South Mountain) and Ogden (2007, 2011, Oakridge).
This group is 1 for 1 at Riverside. Add in Moody and Riverside members, including defending club champion Jesse Clark, and advantages are obvious.
The tournament begins on Friday and concludes on Sunday. Here’s a look at current and former BYU and local Riverside players in the field:
Dean Wilson: 1999 Utah Open Champion; former PGA Tour and Asian Tour player; 2006 winner after a playoff with Tom Lehman; $9 million in earnings; two-time winner of Champion’s Challenge at Thanksgiving Point (teamed with Mike Weir).
Darrin Overson: 1998 State Amateur champion, former employee at Riverside, former Colorado State player who turned professional, regained amateur status and has won numerous UGA events in Utah.
Clay Ogden: Former 2005 USGA Publinks champion, where he eliminated Michelle Wie 5 and 4; two-time Utah Open champion; course record holder at the Ledges and Lakeside.
Chris Moody: Current Riverside assistant professional and USU golfer; lifetime member at Riverside; three-time Utah Section PGA Player of the Year; course-record holder at Hobble Creek and Logan Country Club
Keith Clearwater: BYU All-American, 1987 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year after winning of The Colonial and Centel Classic; member of 1981 NCAA championship team and 2010 Tour School medalist; 10 top 10 PGA Tour finishes in 1992 when he set the course record in his second win at The Colonial with a 61.
Ryan Rhees: Former Cougar from Orem; head professional at Gladstan; course record holder at Ogden Country Club.
Jimmy Blair: 1981 Utah Open Champion; two-time collegiate All-American; 1973 State Amateur champion; has won nearly every golf tournament in the state; holds course records at Copper Club, Dinaland and Wasatch Mountain State Park.
Jordan Rodgers, Current BYU amateur; winner of 2014 Art City Amateur.
Cole Ogden: Current BYU amateur; 2014 Provo Open low amateur; 2010 Utah State Amateur champion.
Joe Summerhays: Head professional at Glen Eagle and former BYU golfer.
Joe Parkinson: 2010 Utah State Amateur champion; multiple UGA tournament winner; played No. 1 on BYU varsity in 2013-14.
Devon Purser: Signed and played at BYU before transferring to Weber State; just finished representing Utah at the 48th Pacific Coast Amateur.
Steve Schneiter: Current Utah Senior Open champion; 12-time PGA Championship participant; 1995 PGA Professional National Championship winner; 1992 Utah State Amateur Champion; and former BYU star.
Jake Ellison: Former BYU player; winner on PGA China tour event.
Nick Killpack: Former BYU player; 2010 and 2011 Provo Open champion at East Bay.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.