UTAH: GEORGE VON ELM
Three questions you might be asking: Who? Why not Johnny Miller? And what about Jay Don Blake? Answers: Blake earns kudos as Utah’s most successful homegrown pro. Born in St. George, he attended Dixie High and played his golf at the Dixie Red Hills Golf Course. He enrolled at Utah State in Logan and won the NCAA Men’s Championship Individual title in 1980. A somewhat disappointing pro career netted him just one PGA Tour win, but he did prevail at the Utah Open in 1988 and won three more times on the Champions Tour. As for Miller, while he did attend Brigham Young University and has long kept a home in Utah, he blossomed as a Bay Area Californian and he’s more closely associated with that state than with Utah. Which brings us to highly underrated George Von Elm. Born in Salt Lake City, Von Elm won the Utah State Amateur in 1917, ’20 and ’21 and attended the University of Utah. On the national amateur stage, he might have been the second best player in the country after Bobby Jones. He relocated to Southern California in the early 1920s and began a great run in challenging Jones for supremacy. He reached the quarters of the U.S. Am in ’23, losing to Francis Ouimet; he reached the final in ’24, when Jones beat him; advanced to the semis at Oakmont in ’25, when again he lost to Jones; and then finally, in 1926, he brought down his chief rival, beating Jones in the final at Baltusrol, in a year where Jones had already claimed the U.S. and British Opens. Eventually, Von Elm turned pro, winning five times, and losing a marathon 72-hole playoff to Billy Burke at the 1931 U.S. Open.