2019 Special Olympics Short Game Challenge

Denny Taylor (right) and Jared Lloyd line up a putt during the 2019 Special Olympics Short Game Challenge at Riverside Country Club in Provo on Aug. 12, 2019.

It might be cliché to say, “A bad day on the golf course is better than a good day in the office” — but that doesn’t make it any less true.

I freely admit that I’m not an elite-level golfer, so for me being on the links is about playing with people who are mostly just there to enjoy the game.

That’s exactly how Denny Taylor, 45, of West Valley City, and I played on Monday during the annual Special Olympics Short Game Challenge as part of the 2019 Utah Open at Riverside Country Club in Provo.

We had a lot in common as we chipped and putted our way around the course.

We both hit shots long. We both came up short. We both had makeable putts trickle by the lip of the cup.

In general, I was the set-up man in the two-man, alternate-ball competition while Taylor was the finisher who put the ball in the hole. Our score was OK but not at the top of the leaderboard.

The reality, though, is that Taylor and I had a lot more in common than just our putting strokes:

1. We both learned to enjoy golf under the tutelage of our grandfathers

Taylor’s grandfather died four years ago while mine has been gone for more than 20 years, but golf is a way we treasure those memories.

“It was pretty fun,” Taylor said. “We golfed for about seven years together. We started golfing at Mick Riley in Murray. I remember how he liked playing. He taught me a lot of things.”

2. We both are sports junkies who have a healthy appreciation for BYU athletics.

“I’ve been a BYU fan all my life,” Taylor said. “My teacher at Kearns was a former BYU player. Robert Parker was a defensive back at BYU and played in the 1980s, including on the 1984 team that won the national championship.”

He leans toward BYU football and basketball — both of which are sports I cover extensively — but when I asked Taylor he said he isn’t sure how the Cougars will do on the gridiron this fall.

“It’s going to be difficult,” Taylor said. “The first game is the Holy War. These conferences are screwy right now.”

He said he loves everything about BYU football and thinks the Cougars can beat the Utes — but added that he also follows the in-state football programs: Utah State, Weber State and Southern Utah as well as BYU and Utah.

3. We both love to compete in a variety of sports.

Taylor talked about how he does every sport but how he focuses on golf, bocce and bowling. He recently did a bowling invitational and had a great time.

I think Taylor would kill me in bowling, since that isn’t my strongest sport, but I think I could hold my own in basketball.

Taylor and I are even close in age and it was a treat to be able to celebrate his birthday with him while playing a little golf on Monday.

Are we identical? No.

He is one of many Special Olympian athletes who deals with his disabilities in his own way.

“Our athletes are fun, interesting people,” said D’Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, president and CEO of the Special Olympics of Utah. “They want to be in the game. Special Olympics has taught them that they can be in the game for life.”

She loves seeing the camaraderie that develops with the athletes and the guest at the Short Game Challenge, where everyone can go out and have a good time together.

But Pignanelli also wants everyone to know that the Special Olympians push themselves through athletics, and so in that sense this is a more low-key event for them as well.

Whether winning or just competing, Taylor smiled as he talked about what he would say if someone asked if they should try Special Olympics.

“I would tell them to go for it,” Taylor said. “I’ve been in Special Olympics for 32 years. Basically I’m a veteran. My favorite part of doing it is just to have fun. That’s the only thing you have to think about. If you have a bad day, just grit your teeth and bear it. That’s the best way I can put it.”

Good advice, my friend ... very good advice.

Daily Herald sports reporter Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or jlloyd@heraldextra.com. Twitter: @JaredrLloyd. Instagram: @JaredrLloyd.