A billionaire computer wizard from southern California is in part responsible for a former BYU volleyball player's cherished lifestyle.
Not to mention all the perks that come with the sunshine and beach, a fake one of which will send Casey Patterson home next month. The AVP will play a pro volleyball tournament in Salt Lake City for the first time ever.
"What makes it so special is the lifestyle we live," said Patterson, a 33-year-old who has developed into one of the best two-on-two beach players in the world, and happens to have a teammate who shares Utah roots. "But we can't wait to return home, for sure."
The match made in sand was created when highly successful Jake Gibb lost his partner. Patterson for years had floated between the indoor and outdoor game overseas, but had a chance to pair with a former Olympic medalist. Who says a Cougar and a Ute can't be the best of business partners and friends?
"It sounds corny, I know, but it's almost like when you meet the person you know is going to be your wife," Patterson said of teaming up with successful Olympian Gibb, who hails from Bountiful and attended Utah. "There really hasn't been much adversity."
Relative old age of the pair (Gibb is 37), Patterson says, has been countered by what he considers to be the most dedicated training ethic on the AVP Tour.
The three-hour public beach sessions in the Los Angeles area have paid off – and paid up for the Utahns. The AVP has been in consistent financial trouble over the years, and was purchased by a Newport Beach, Calif., resident who operated a billion-dollar technology company started by his father.
Donald Sun grew up loving the AVP Tour, and has committed some of his fortune to salvaging it.
The beach volleyball fan apparently felt that Salt Lake City was a good place to pump up the product, which needs it after even being out of commission in 2011. The AVP reguarly is in southern California, and is popular in places like Cincinnati, Ohio. It has Rocky Mountain roots, having been held annually in Boulder, Colo., for a number of years.
But it's picked a fine time to visit Utah next month for the Salt Lake City Open.
AVP officials say the state's support of more traditional volleyball — in high school, and at BYU and Utah — made it a wise decision.
The event will feature some of the biggest names in the sport, recognizable from Summer Olympics appearances.
Kerri Walsh Jennings is arguably the most famous participant outside of the Utahns. The three-time gold medalist and 109-time tournament champion, however, will not be joined by longtime teammate Misty May-Treanor. She's not playing these days.
Familiarity still exists, however, and Patterson said he intends on showing off an excitement that "comes naturally" to him on the court.
Patterson went to what was then Utah Valley State College (now UVU) for a semester before getting a chance to play at BYU. He finished his college career in 2005.
Now a husband and father of two young children, he doesn't get their on-site support all of the time because some of the locales are a little too far away — even overseas.
Patterson said he grew up hardly wanting to play volleyball, until his mother convinced him. And he didn't really play in the sand until he started playing in a local circuit in Provo.
In general, Patterson said, conditioning and versatility are at bigger premiums on the beach compared to typical indoor volleyball.
"That, and you've got to deal with the elements — heat, wind and sand," Patterson said.
Playing at altitude will present some situations that even he'll have to get used to. The ball floats at a different temperament than seaside. Intent on winning — not just seeing family and serving as ambassadors — Patterson said the duo will travel from Germany to Utah on Monday.
The pair will have to be something to everyone. They'll offer restaurant recommendations to AVP staffers, and even try to help other opponents feel comfortable in their digs (aside from match time).
And they can pitch the sport to longtime AVP fans and novices.
"I think we try to put on a really good show," Patterson said, pointing out that there are times between points he'll pull out some breakdancing moves.