Check out what has been happening in Utah Golf.
The Journey Has Begun
By Beaux Yenchik, UGA Intern
Sandy, UT – It’s that time of year again for amateur golfers in the state of Utah – state qualifiers are in abundance for those both over and under the age of 50.
With the Utah State Amateur and Senior State Amateur Championships less than a month away, players have and will be coming out in droves from all corners of the state to take a crack at qualifying for the world’s oldest championship and its senior. Playing opportunities have become more difficult to grasp as several qualifiers have already passed. Many already have their golden tickets punched from the Sky Mountain, Dinaland, Hubbard and Fox Hollow Qualifiers.
Who else will get in? Only time will tell.
Sky Mountain State and Senior Amateur Qualifiers
For anyone who may be familiar with the St. George area in May, knows that the temperatures have usually begun to rise and play has almost started to become unbearable.
As some of southern Utah’s finest competitors arrived at the course, the temperatures turned out to be moderate and the wind was somewhat controlled. With 19 spots on the line – divided between the various qualifying groups – each competitor attempted to tackle the near 6,400-yard course.
Though not long, Sky Mountain showed its teeth as it forced its victims to think their way around the sneaky-difficult layout, said Jacob Miller, Utah Golf Association Executive Director.
Landon Anderson took the top spot for those looking to qualify for the championship. Dixie State University’s soon to be sophomore posted an impressive 5-under-par 67. He, along with runner-up Christian Jensen, were the lone individuals to post in the red.
The cut-line for the lucky 12 – State Amateur Qualifiers – was a 4-over-par 76.
With the Senior State Amateur consisting of three various qualifying groups, seven lucky individuals found themselves locked-in for the first week of June – two for the championship division, three for the super-senior division, and two for the net division.
Dinaland State Amateur Qualifier
The Dinaland Qualifier, though small in numbers, did not disappoint as six players secured their invite to Oakridge Country Club.
As all groups – consisting of 21 participants – cruised their way around the eastern-Utah terrain, players were met with scorable opportunities on greens that rolled nice and true. In addition to the good playing conditions, the weather turned out exceptional – even after all the rain that had bombarded the top half of the state.
With such great conditions and a congested leaderboard, players were forced to play their best. As the final ball dropped in the hole, six shots was all that separated Creed Stobbe and Blake Murray – both shooting a 1-under-par 71 – from the sixth-place finisher, Hunter Nielsen, at a 5-over-par 77.
Hubbard State & Senior Amateur Qualifiers
It is not every day that one sees a hole-in-one, but it was even more rare when an albatross decided to land.
Heath Jones had the shot of the day out of both qualifiers. Facing a blinded approach shot from roughly 250 yards on the par 5 12th, Jones went pin seeking as he nailed the perfect shot.
Other excitement around the course came from the need of extra holes to determine the lucky last few who made it to the State Amateur Championship. Darkness nearly settled as the final putt found the hole.
Then to top off the all the excitement, three individuals recorded a 2-under-par to lead all submissions: Boston Watts (State Amateur), Kurt Moore (Senior Championship) and Guy Child (Senior Championship).
The tree-lined course appeared to be a little tougher than what some may have expected. With beautiful-rolled greens and well-matured trees, players were paying the price for errant shots off the tee.
Bjorn Trejo, a Provo native, said he was surprised the scores weren’t lower – thinking there were more opportunities to snag a birdie or two. With Hubbard Golf course not being a long course, many players fell victim to the low hanging branches and thicker rough, he said.
Trejo, Drew Smith – a local boy – and others each felt putting was a key contributor to the overall struggle the field had to shoot low scores – only having four players in the gross divisions shoot under par.
Fox Hollow Senior Amateur Qualifier
A battle for the top took place at Fox Hollow Golf Course – birdies and pars were dropping left and right. On a course that the demanded the full attention of the golfer on every shot, showed some weakness as a 68 (4-under-par) was posted by Championship Division Medalist, Randy Hicken.
On a day that had nearly perfect weather, each division – Championship, Super-Senior and Net – required the need to host playoff holes.
Players were given the opportunity to attack quite a few hole locations, even those that were tucked, due to the receptiveness of the putting surfaces.
This specific qualifier also provided the opportunity for many first timers to make their way out amongst some of the more seasoned veterans. Each getting the opportunity to test out their tournament jitters and mental game.
Hicken, having taken first, won the medalist position by posting the only gross score under par on the day – winning by four shots over second place finisher, Scott Fairbanks.
Recap and Preview
Week one is in the books for the State and Senior Amateur Qualifiers, and what a week it was. We saw anything from an albatross to topped shots off the tee box and anything in between. Spots have been clinched, making it harder for those looking to try to find a spot in the championship.
This however, is not all. The season has just begun.
CLICK HERE to see complete tournament results for each qualifier.