By Bill Bowman
Utah golfer Denny Job summed it up perfectly: “We had our share of chances but we just didn’t capitalize.”
Job was talking about the Utah Golf Association’s No. 3 team’s chase for the crown in the 2017 Southwest Team Challenge. His team of four came up short as Arizona No. 3 posted a 69-63 victory in the 14-team event.
The tournament, held at Cascata in Las Vegas, featured squads from Utah (5 teams), Arizona (4 teams), Mississippi (2 teams), Arkansas, Wyoming and Texas.
The three-day event, first held in 2004, is played with a Modified Stableford scoring system. Teams receive 8 points for a double eagle down to -3 points for a double bogey.
Cascata, an 18-hole golf masterpiece designed by Rees Jones, is located about 30 minutes southeast of Las Vegas. It is a par-72 layout that features 18 dynamic, picture-postcard holes. The course covers some 450 acres and players have to manage some 600 feet of elevation changes. The course opened in 2000.
Arizona’s No. 3 team consisted of Brad Wayment, Don Reycroft, Jeff Zieky and Kevin Trent won the title and held off Utah’s No. 3 team of Job, Dave Jennings, Pat Murphy and Rafe Johnston for the six-shot win.
“Our putting just gave us a lot of chances and we capitalized on them,” Arizona’s Wayment said. “The putter definitely worked very well for us.”
The Utah squad said the final round proved costly in trying to chase down the Arizona squad.
“We just couldn’t get anything going early to put pressure on them,” Job said. “We weren’t doing the things that got us in position after the first two days.”
Arizona opened up a five-shot lead after Day 1, 25-20, over Utah.
It was Wayment and Reycroft leading the way for Arizona, earning 18 of the team’s 25 points.
“Our game plan was to keep the ball in front of us and just give ourselves as many looks as possible,” Wayment said. “We had lots of opportunities and did take advantage of quite a few of them.”
The second day saw the tables turn as Utah closed the gap down to just three strokes, trailing 53-50 after a 30-28 edge. This day’s Utah charge was a team effort as Job and Jennings put up 16 points while Murphy and Johnston added 14.
“They (Job and Jennings) really had control of their game in the practice round and in the first two rounds,” said Utah’s Murphy. “They really had it going and it paid off. Today, we (Murphy and Johnston) played better (14 points compared to just 3 points in the opening round) and really helped out. We were right there.”
That set the stage for the tense final round. Both teams struggled with Arizona outscoring Utah 16-13 to secure the title.
“We just played our game all three days,” Arizona’s Zieky said. “We ham and egged it pretty well as a team all week and it paid off.”
And for Utah, the chase for a crown came up short.
“It’s fun to try and chase down a team, but today we just didn’t have it,” Utah’s Jennings said. “We were still in it until the very end but they made a late birdie that really helped them.”
Utah’s Murphy added the outcome certainly could have been different.
“Monday and Tuesday we had it going pretty well,” he said. “Today (the final round on Wednesday) we missed out on a lot of opportunities. We just couldn’t catch them in the end.”
Finishing third was Arizona No. 1 with 55 points while Utah No. 1 was fourth with 53 points.
Texas, the defending champions, wound up 13th with just 8 points.
Photo Credit: Bill Bowman for Fairways Media
Photo Caption: Arizona Golf Association’s Team 3, (Left to Right) Brad Wayment, Don Reycroft, Jeff Zieky, Kevin Trent.
Bill Bowman is a Las Vegas-based sportswriter who has more than 40 years experience in the sports writing business including the last 18-plus years covering the golf scene in Las Vegas and a contributing writer to Fairways magazine.