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Engle eager to get going with pro career

Some frame the first check they earn in their dream job.

Daniel Engle had other uses for his: groceries, gas and, of course, golf.

"I got a picture of it," the former Phoenix High player said of cashing in his first tournament as a professional golfer. "That's good enough."

Engle, 23, wrapped up a successful college career this past spring at Utah, then abandoned his amateur status when he entered the Saltwater Classic, a pro event not affiliated with a tour. Engle drove 51/2 hours to Riverton, Wyo., Country Club, paid his $400 entry and tied for 13th place in the three-day event.

He accepted a check for $650, and thus began what he hopes will be a career that reaps many rewards.

"I've wanted to do this since I was 10 or 11," said Engle, who won the 2009 Class 4A state championship as a Pirates senior with a record two-day score of 10 under par. "It was weird graduating from school, but it's exciting that it's actually here. I like the idea of each shot being worth a dollar amount. That's exciting to me. It's not all about the money, but that puts importance on each shot."

Engle will ease into his career, continuing to live in Salt Lake City and work in the pro shop at Mountain Dell Golf Club, where he's been for three years. He'll play assorted PGA section events in Utah and whatever else appeals to him.

In the fall, he plans to move to warmer climes — either Florida or California — and look into minitour options.

Whatever the path, the economics graduate is ready to turn his attention to golf. The end of the college season wore him down, he said. It was difficult to give his schoolwork and golf the attention each deserved, and it showed in his play.

Engle's two worst tournaments came as he wrapped them around finals, he said.

"I didn't touch a club much for the last three weeks of the season," he said.

Still, Engle hovered around a 73.5 scoring average most of the season, which was 11/2 shots better than previous years. He finished with a 74.0 mark, good for second on the team.

Engle's best tournament of the spring was in the Wyoming Cowboy Classic. He was leading at 4 under through the first 15 holes before a double bogey on the last hole dropped him back. He played the second round in 1 under, and in the third shot a 2-over 72 despite "a cold putter."

"I was right in it the whole tournament," he said, "but couldn't get it going. It was probably my best tournament, tee to green, all year."

It was one he felt he "let go" and was indicative of a relatively disappointing spring, he said, based on how he played last summer and through the fall, when he tied for 10th at Air Force and tied for 11th in the Utes' own Utah Invitational.

Given that, the showing in his first pro event was encouraging.

Engle played steadily in the first round, dropping back to even for the day when unruly weather rolled in late. He was 3 under on Day 2, then overcame nerves at the start of the third and final round — he opened it with a three-putt bogey — to climb a few spots and earn the paycheck.

He was fortunate to play with an older player and one he held his own against, except in putting. The guy made everything down the stretch, then told Engle the players who succeed are those who make the most 10- to 20-footers.

"I knew that," said Engle, "but it was kind of cool to see what I need to work on."

At Utah, Engle hit the weights and added length to his drives without sacrificing accuracy, and he benefitted from coach Randall McCracken's proficiency with the short game.

The biggest improvement in Engle's game has been with his irons. He had fallen into hitting a trap draw to gain distance and has since developed a higher, straighter ball flight.

He feels as though he's become a more consistent and complete player and it may never have been more evident than Wednesday, when Engle took the Playing Ability Test, one of the requirements to become a PGA professional. He did so primarily to reduce entry fees for section tournaments, not with designs to work toward a Class A license.

"That isn't my focus right now," he said.

His focus is to play for a living, and he didn't do anything to deter those plans in the PAT, shooting eye-opening rounds of 66 and 63 in the 36-hole event. The 15-under score at the par-72 Glendale Golf Course in Salt Lake City was 22 shots under the target score of 151 necessary to pass.

Engle said his ball striking was "unreal," and he really didn't wield a hot putter.

His previous best competitive round was 67, at Los Angeles Country Club as well as twice in the prep state tournament.

Engle is leaning toward going to Florida late in the fall. An assistant at Mountain Dell has taken the head pro position at Shalimar Pointe Golf Club in Shalimar, Fla., and offered him a job in the pro shop.

There are several minitours in the region, including the NGA Tour, formerly known as the Hooters Tour and on par with the All-America Gateway Tour in the Phoenix area.

"I'm trying to get the experience and feeling of a tour, traveling a little bit and playing in three- or four-day tournaments instead of one or two," said Engle. "My coach at Utah played some of the events, and he said it's a great place to go and learn. He's kind of pushing me that way as well."

Before his likely migration to the Southeast, Engle has one week in particular starred on his calendar: The Web.com Tour has an event in nearby Sandy, Utah, the week of July 7. He plans to enter the Monday qualifier, which will be at a course the Utes used regularly.

"That's kind of the main thing I'm excited about," he said.

If all goes well, he'll earn another check, perhaps one worth framing.


THE HEIN SLAM: I wrote about a man, Willy Reed, who made two holes-in-one in a four-day span recently, giving him one on each par 3 at Centennial Golf Club.

Leroy Hein has a similar story, accomplishing the "Grand Slam" at Eagle Point Golf Club, according to information sent in by a friend. Said friend, Larry Schmaltz, classified Hein as an average golfer with a handicap of 14. They play three times a week or so, and Hein had aced all the par 3s except No. 13.

"... It had been more than a year since his last hole-in-one," wrote Schmaltz. "Every time we played 13, just prior to teeing off he would remind us that he needed one here to ace all four par 3s."

Hein accomplished it on May 28, watching the ball roll slowly to the hole, hang briefly on the edge, then drop.

As an aside, the following Saturday, Hein eagled the par-4 seventh from 144 yards. His tee shot nearly went out of bounds left, leaving him a blind shot to a back, left pin. After searching for Hein's ball around the green, the group was surprised to find it in the hole.

Have a local golf story idea? Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email ttrower@mailtribune.com