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Elijah Turner Turns Heads At 121st Utah State Amateur

BY ZAK HICKEN, KSL SPORTS

MIDWAY, Utah – The Utah State Amateur is the longest continuously played golf tournament in the world and in its 121 year history, there have been plenty of impressive performances.

This year, it was Elijah Turner who was turning heads after advancing to the tournament semi-final just three weeks after returning from his Mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Elijah’s love for golf began at an early age.

“We moved right across the street from Alpine Country Club when Elijah was four,” said Elijah’s dad, David Turner. “He used to put his bag on a push cart and would go by himself to the range, or the chipping green. He spent numerous hours hitting golf balls when he was a little kid.”

And he took full advantage, continuing to refine his craft and perfect his game.

“He would leave at probably 8:30-9 a.m. and return at 8:30-9 p.m. at night,” David added.

But, he spent the last two years in Ghana, Africa away from his home, his family, and away from golf. He hit the pause button on a successful junior career where he played in some of the biggest junior tournaments in the country like the IMG Junior World Championship and the U.S. Junior Amateur.

Locally, his prep career thrived winning four team state championships with Lone Peak High School and finishing as runner-up for the individual championship as a senior.

Despite his accolades, when he picked up a golf club for the first time in two years, he had to shake off some rust.

“It felt a little weird,” said Elijah. “My swing wasn’t up to par, but I think I got it back pretty quick.”

“It’s actually pretty amazing,” added David. “You never know what’s going to happen to these return missionaries when they come home. Some get their swing back [but might struggle] scoring but its been amazing for him to come back to find not only the ability to hit a golf ball, but the ability to make putts.”

Just two days after returning from his mission, he shot a 73 in the State Am Qualifier to earn a trip to the tournament. A few weeks later, he was facing defending champion, Preston Summerhays in the match play semi-final.

“Setting up on one tee, three weeks back from a mission, against the defending champion, it could get intimidating,” said Elijah.

After falling behind by three holes on the front nine, Elijah pushed Summerhays on the back nine after birdies on 13 and 15 to get within one hole. The match came down to the final hole, and in the end Summerhays got the win and advanced to the final.

Even though he lost in the semi-final, Elijah still sees the tournament as a win.

“It was a win-win situation that I made it,” he said. “My expectation was to go out and have fun. Coming back and doing what I did was really fun, a great experience, great learning moment.”

His summer plans consist of golf, golf, and more golf, and in the fall he’ll head down to Provo to play at the collegiate level for the BYU Cougars and hopes to continue his strong play at the next level.

“Overall, I’m really proud of myself,” he said.

Story on KSL Sports