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The Country Club plays hard on first day of State Amateur
No champions are crowned on the first day of a golf tournament, but if there was a winner on the opening day of the Utah Men’s State Amateur, it was the golf course.
It was no secret that the Salt Lake Country Club layout was going to play hard, in more ways than one, on Monday’s opening day of stroke play. And with some pesky winds added to thick rough, deep bunkers and lightning-fast greens, the course played more difficult than expected.
Of the 156 players in the field, well over half shot higher than 80 with 73 scores in the 80s, 11 in the 90s and one poor fellow, who shall go unnamed, who shot 101.
Only one golfer was able to break par — University of Utah sophomore Davis Johnson, a 20-year-old from Scottsdale, Arizona.
Johnson was out bright and early Monday morning, playing in the first group at the 125th annual tournament and he finished with a 3-under-par 68, which put him four strokes ahead of defending champion Zac Jones, David Liechty and Andrew Cottle. Six golfers came in at 73, including Peyton Hastings, Peter Kim, Devin Tovey, Oscar Maxfield, Cooper Jones and Justin Shluker, most of whom have college golf experience.
Johnson didn’t start great, with four bogeys in a five-hole stretch on the front nine, but recovered nicely and played his final 10 holes in 6-under par, highlighted by an eagle-2 on the par-4 11th hole, arguably the toughest hole on the course.
“I hit a good drive and it was a perfect wedge number for my gap wedge (135 yards),” he said of his eagle-2. He had birdied the par-5 9th hole and added birds at 13, 16 and 17.
“I put the ball in all the right spots and didn’t have any stressful situations today,” he said. “Nothing extraordinary, nothing terrible. I kept it pretty simple.”
He emphasized that the course wasn’t playing simple, just that he made it simple. He acknowledged his 7 a.m. starting time helped.
“It definitely played a big part in it,” he said of playing in more benign conditions before the wind kicked up and the course dried out.
Tee times for Tuesday’s second round will be reversed with Monday afternoon players getting morning tee times and vice versa. Johnson will tee off at 11:32 a.m. Tuesday.
After Tuesday’s round, the low 64 golfers will begin match play Wednesday. If multiple golfers are tied, a playoff will be held Wednesday morning to determine the final match play spots.
Because of the increased field for match play (64 vs. 32 spots) and tough conditions, the cut might be the highest since the State Am went to its stroke play/match play format in 1965. The record high cut number was 157 in 1984 at Wolf Creek.
Among the golfers in danger of missing the cut are two-time champion Jon Wright (82), and former champions Jordan Rodgers (78), Nick Nelson (79), Gregg Oliphant (82) and Brad Sutterfield (86).
Two rounds of match play will be played Thursday, two more on Friday and by Saturday, just two golfers will be left to compete in a 36-hole final.
Story by Desert News sportswriter Mike Sorensen. Photos courtesy of Fairways Media’s Garrit Johnson and Randy Dodson.