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Evans on State Am: It Was A Lot of Work and Very Rewarding

State amateur — SUU’s Jeff Evans earns coveted golf honor

By Mike Sorensen
The Deseret News

MIDWAY — Jeff Evans has been around golf his whole life, growing up at the Cedar Ridge Golf Course as the son of longtime Cedar City professional John Evans.
He’s the youngest of six children, but according to his dad, he’s the hardest worker and that paid off with a victory at the Men’s State Amateur Sunday at Soldier Hollow Gold Course.
“I’ve worked so hard, it’s nice to see it finally pay off today,” the 21-year-old Evans said, minutes after hoisting the large silver State Am trophy.
Evans, who will be a senior at Southern Utah University in the fall, won the 113th annual State Am by defeating 19-year-old Stratton Schulz of Vernal 8 & 7. It was the most lopsided margin of victory in a State Am final since Doug Bybee won his third title in 1996 with a 10 & 9 win over Robert Shunn at Hobble Creek.
Schulz was obviously worthy of making the finals, having won each of his four previous matches by comfortable margins, while Evans had to come from behind in three of four matches and gone three extra holes in each of his Saturday matches.
But on this day, Evans was clearly the better golfer.
“He played better than me today. He hit better shots and he made more putts,” said Schulz. “He’s just a better player. There wasn’t a whole lot I could do.”
Even though it might have looked easy, Evans said that wasn’t the case.
“It wasn’t easy at all,” he said. “Even though he wasn’t hitting great shots, I still had to worry about myself and just focus on what I can do.”
Just as he had in his previous three matches, Evans had to come from behind to win. However this time, he came back much earlier, making it less stressful as the match progressed.
“I’ve played a lot of golf the last two days,” he said, referring to his two 21-hole matches the day before. “It wore me out. I’m ready to go home now and sleep.”
Evans took a 2-up lead after the morning 18, overcoming an early 2-up lead by Schulz. A par at the 9th hole brought Evans back to even and he won the next two holes and No. 13 to go 3 up, only to see Schulz win the next two holes.
However Evans won the 17th and 18th holes with birdies to take a 3 up lead at the break. A long birdie putt at 18 gave Evans his fifth birdie in five tries during the week at No. 18 and was a momentum boost going into the lunch break.
“I was 5-under on 18 this week,” Evans said. “That was a big hole for me all week.”
Birdies at 2 and 3 in the afternoon round increased Evans’ lead to 5 up. At the par-4 No. 6, the 24th hole of the match, it looked like Schulz might win his first hole since the 15th when he hit next to the green and Evans found the bunker in front.
Evans ended up bogeying, but after chipping onto the green Schulz needed three putts to get in the hole for a double bogey and lost a hole it looked like he should win.
“One bad putt doesn’t determine 36 holes,” Stratton said when asked if that was a turning point.
Evans acknowledged later he thought he might lose the hole and said, “Sometimes you get lucky.”
From there, Evans won the next two holes, as Schulz lost a ball in the tall weeds at No. 7 and then missed the par-3 No. 8 green left and bogeyed.
With an 8-up lead, Evans just needed to make pars and he halved the next three holes to close out the match at No. 11, the 29th hole.
“It’s unbelievable,” Evans said. “I can’t put it into words.”
Evans had a large following Sunday, including his caddy/wife Heather, his mother, Pam, several siblings as well as golf coach at SUU, Richard Church and there were plenty of pictures to be taken afterwards.
The past two years, Evans has played in the U.S. Amateur as well as the U.S. Public Links Tournament. He says he doesn’t have big plans for the rest of the summer, except to go home and play in the Cedar City Amateur, which he hopes to win for the second year in a row.
The 2012 State Amateur will be played at the Salt Lake Country Club for the first time since 1975. It will be played later than usual, July 18-22, because the U.S. Public Links will be played at Soldier Hollow the week before.
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