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Former Women’s State Amateur champ now Utah Women’s Open title holder

The seventh annual Siegfried & Jensen Utah Women’s Open became part of Provo’s 100-year golf anniversary, as a homegrown champion added to the celebration Tuesday at Timpanogos Golf Club.

For the third straight year, a former Women’s State Amateur winner added a Utah Women’s Open trophy to her collection. The venue made this victory especially meaningful to BYU golfer Lila Galea’i. The recently remodeled course looks different, but the vibe was the same as the old East Bay GC where Galea’i first started playing at about age 10.

Lila Galea’i said, “I knew I would at least have a lot of fun here, so to walk out with the trophy, too, is a big plus.”

Winning in Provo “feels extra great,” Galea’i said. “I knew I would at least have a lot of fun here, so to walk out with the trophy, too, is a big plus.”

Galea’i posted 70-68 for a 6-under-par total and a three-stroke victory over Cougar assistant coach Lea Garner (72-69).

Garner also felt comfortable in the tournament’s return to Provo after four years at Thanksgiving Point Golf Club. Having won the first two Utah Women’s Opens on this property, she earned $2,000 as the low pro for the fourth time in the event’s seven-year history. That check lifts her career earnings in the tournament above $12,000.

The latest achievement was the most remarkable, considering this is the only competition Garner enters all year. “I love this tournament,” she said. “It’s so fun to play. … It helps remind me what it feels like to compete, which I think will help me with my coaching. Sometimes you forget that feeling.”

Utah PGA Vice President Craig Norman and Executive Director Devin Dehlin present Lea Garner with the low professional check.

Partly because two of Garner’s BYU golfers recently turned pro, the leaderboard of this Utah Women’s Open became a healthy mixture of pros and amateurs. Allysha Mae Mateo (72-71), the anchor of Cougar teams in this decade, tied for third place overall and finished second among the pros, earning $1,500. Defending champion Tess Blair (71-72), who claimed her second Women’s State Am title Friday, joined Mateo and junior golf star Ali Mulhall (70-73).

BYU graduate Kerstin Ngakuru (73-72), who turned pro after losing in the round of 16 last week, finished third among the pros to collect $1,200 in her debut.

We all know what high school (girls) golf has done around here the last 15 years,” said Devin Dehlin, Executive Director of the Utah Section PGA. “We’re starting to see it at the professional level, the collegiate level and onward.”

Galea’i won the Utah Golf Association’s Mary Lou Baker Open in June and is a contender for the UGA Women’s Player of the Year award, which she won in 2021.

Garner once lost in a Women’s State Am final match. Ngakuru, Blair and Galea’i each won that title and are the last three champions of the Utah Women’s Open (following two out-of-state amateur winners, Annika Borrelli and Veronica Joels). The irony is that Galea’i exited this year’s Women’s State Am early, losing to Kelsey Chugg in the round of 32.

2023 Utah Women’s Open champion, Lila Galea’i.

She regrouped nicely. “I moved on pretty quick,” Galea’i said. “I didn’t really dwell … I just went to the course and started working on my wedges.”

Ultimately, her long-hitting ability came into play Tuesday. The par-4 No. 14 was set up as driveable at about 245 yards and Galea’i needed only a 4-iron to end up just off the green on the left side. Mulhall, who was battling for the lead that stage, also played aggressively, but her ball rolled across the green and into the water. The combination of Mulhall’s bogey and Galea’i’s birdie proved decisive.

Galea’i parred the last four holes, with no drama. Maybe that explains this quote: “I don’t know why; I don’t feel like I just won. … I guess I did, and I’m just happy about it.”

Maybe it will hit home next week, when Galea’i uses the exemption into the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open at Provo’s Riverside Country Club that comes with her victory.

Click here for the Utah Women’s Open final leaderboard.


Written by Fairways Media senior writer Kurt Kragthorpe. Photos by Fairways Media/Randy Dodson.