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2021 UGA MEN’S PLAYER OF THE YEAR
The numbers tell the story of Cooper Jones’ 2021 golf season.
The scorecard highlights for the Utah Golf Association Men’s Player of the Year start with his closing 65 at Bloomington Country Club in the UGA Winterchamps, with seven birdies helping him compile a 50-point Modified Stableford round. Then came his final-round 63 to win the Fox Hollow Amateur, followed by eagle 3 on the first playoff hole of the Richard C. Kramer Salt Lake City. And then there was his first-round 68 in the Provo Open, eventually resulting in low-amateur honors.
For history’s sake, the most impressive number attached to Jones’ season is 17, his age. Since the award’s first presentation in 1983, the Lone Peak High School junior is the youngest golfer to be named the UGA Player of the Year.
Tony Finau (2006) and Preston Summerhays (2019) were slightly younger than Jones, but each shared his award with another golfer in an era when the Player of the Year selection was somewhat subjective. The move to follow the Player Performance Rankings validates Jones’ performance, as he posted 397.5 points to 348.5 for runner-up David Jennings. In any format, his four victories in PPR events would have earned him the 2021 honor.
Let’s call his success a case of keeping up with the Joneses. There’s no discounting how much Cooper’s modeling of older brothers Tyler and Zach has driven him to improve. Zach Jones was the 2019 Co-Player of the Year (with Summerhays), even while leaving on a church mission in the middle of the season, and now plays for BYU. Tyler is a Southern Utah University golfer.
“It’s pretty cool competing with my brothers,” Cooper Jones said. “We make each other better.”
As established by their golfing father, Clark, the PPR events are important to the Jones boys. Cooper started the season with a goal of winning a UGA event. Once he checked that box with the Winterchamps victory, he tracked the standings. Asked where the Player of the Year award eventually ranked in his priorities, Jones said, “Definitely at the top … this is a pretty big achievement for me.”
The Fox Hollow Amateur was fun, because Jones was playing with his father in American Fork when he posted that 63 (then a career-best score, to be topped in August by a 62 in a high school tournament at Riverbend Golf Course). The Salt Lake City Amateur also was a big checkpoint, as Jones shot 65-67 and defeated Zack Neff with the eagle in the playoff to emerge above the usual strong field at Bonneville Golf Course.
If anything was left undone in Jones’ season, it would be missing a chance to advance beyond the round of 32 in the State Amateur at Alpine Country Club his home course. Jones was eliminated by Jake Godfrey, failing to win any holes in an uncharacteristic performance.
He bounced back with a solid showing in the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open, shooting a second-round 67 and ranking fourth among the amateurs, then posted 6 under par for 54 holes in the Provo Open and beat Steven Croft in a playoff for low amateur.
Those events came in the middle of the Jones’ high school season, which ended with a second-place finish behind Lone Peak teammate Kihei Akina as they led the Knights to another Class 6A championship.