FARMINGTON -- Brian Larsen's face could not contain his smile as he talked about his hole-in-one Monday afternoon.
"It curved to the left, and it barely went in," said Larsen, 37. "I just couldn't believe it."
That hole-in-one putt proved to be the difference, as Larsen and his professional golfing teammate, Todd Tanner, won first place the Special Olympics Utah Short-game Challenge. The event was part of the Utah Open, hosted this year by Oakridge Country Club, and had all of the participants smiling no matter who won.
"I look forward to this every year," said Torie Burdett, 33, of Layton. "But it was a little harder this year."
Each Special Olympian is paired up with a teammate who is either a professional or a media celebrity. Those golfers participated in the pro-am held earlier Monday.
The event consisted of nine holes set up on the chipping and putting greens at Oakridge.
"This event not only gives our athletes the opportunity to be with the pros, but it gives us awareness and lets people know more about us," said Amy Hansen, CEO of Special Olympics Utah.
Hansen said there are close to 2,300 Special Olympians in Utah, and several of those will be volunteers this week at the Utah Open. They will help in various ways, such as bringing water to golfers or assisting with the scorecards.
"This is so much fun," said Tanner, of Ogden. "This is really what the tournament is about."
The victorious pair argued about which one of them was the key contributor to the victory, with both golfers giving the other more credit.
"I hit a couple bad chips, but Brian made some good putts," Tanner said.
Brian Larsen disagreed.
"You carried us out of the sand traps," Larsen said. "I was about to say, 'Where are my swim trunks?' but then you got us out."
Jared Barnes, golf pro at Glen Eagle Golf Course in Syracuse, made the event a family affair by pairing up with his brother, Brad.
"I've wanted to get my brother up here for years, and I'm really excited about it," said Barnes, who also is the president of the Utah section of the PGA.
Brad Barnes, 42, of St. George, was even more excited than his brother to be on the course.
"We scored a 26," Brad Barnes said. "We didn't win, but we had fun."
The 26 put the Barnes brothers just out of the three-way playoff for second place, but everyone agreed that who won on Monday was not the most important part of the week. By the time the Utah Open is over, the Utah section of the PGA will have raised money for Utah's Special Olympics that will help the athletes participate in their favorite sports.
"On Sunday, we'll be able to give a huge check to whoever wins the Utah Open," Jared Barnes said. "But we'll be able to give a bigger check to Special Olympics, and that's what it's all about."
Devin Dehlin, operations director for the Utah PGA, agrees.
"This is a big part of the event," Dehlin said. "If this wasn't part of the week, this event wouldn't be the same."