VOLUME 27 • ISSUE 3 • AUGUST 2018

Utah State Amateur Champions

Preston Summerhays

Tess Blair

Bonneville Golf Course

Host Course of the Women's Utah State Amateur

Utah Women's State Amateur

A Convincing Performance

by Kurt Kragthorpe

The Blair Sisters' style of golf works equally well in stroke play. Yet there's something about the way their consistent ball-striking and ability to make one par after another wears down opponents in match play, and that was illustrated by the way Bingham High School senior Tess Blair dominated the 112th Women's State Amateur.

Blair made a lot of routine pars on her way to the title. Even so, one spectacular par turned the Aug. 2 final match permanently in her favor at Bonneville Golf Course. Blair's chip-in after taking a penalty stroke on the par-3 No. 9 started her run of winning the last five holes, giving her a 6-and-5 victory over Jessica Sloot.

Blair's win came during a big summer for teenagers in UGA championships. Preston Summerhays, then 15, became the youngest winner of the State Amateur in June. Blair, 17, is the youngest winner of the Women's Amateur since Terry Norman Hansen (also 17, but about three weeks younger) claimed her first title in 1980.

The Women's Am outcome followed the 2014 triumph of Blair's sister, Sirene, then a San Diego State golfer and now a professional. Tess Blair, who's committed to Sacramento State, was the qualifying medalist and never had to play beyond the 16th hole in any of her four matches.

That's impressive, for someone who wondered if she could compete with the college golfers in the field, including Sloot, a Davis High graduate who plays for Colorado State. “I didn't know if I had what it takes to win something like this,” said Blair, wiping her tears as she stood alongside the 13th green, after an emotional victory with her father, Robert, as her caddie.

Sloot ended Kelsey Chugg's bid for a fifth State Am title with a 4-and-3 win in the semifinals earlier that day (Blair defeated Xena Motes 3 and 2). Sloot was 1 down to Blair, having won No. 8 with a par, when they came to No. 9. That's where Blair's tee shot went into the hazard on the right side and Sloot seemed likely to win the hole and tie the match.

But then Blair holed her pitch shot from about 20 yards short of the green and Sloot ended up bogeying the hole. “In match play, you kind of try to expect everything to go in … [but] it definitely shocked me a little bit,” Sloot said.

“I was really shocked,” Blair said.

Blair then made three pars and a birdie to win four more holes, while putting troubles kept Sloot from extending the match.

“I was playing amazing all week,” said Sloot, who had beaten Carly Dehlin, her friend and best-ball partner, in the quarterfinals after finishing second to Blair in the medalist race. But her game “didn't quite stick around the entire tournament.”

Sloot was proud of the way she performed in match play, a format that she previously disliked. “So I think this year I tried changing my mindset and kept playing stroke play and my own game, instead of focusing on the match,” she said.

That approach worked well for three matches, as Sloot never had to go more than 15 holes. That level of domination was pretty much true for Chugg and Blair as well, but Motes had to go 21 holes to win each of her first two matches.

Blair and Sloot staged a preview of their final match two days earlier, competing for the medalist title. Sloot had a three-stroke lead after nine holes of the second round, but made three bogeys and one birdie on the back nine while Blair eagled the par-5 No. 12 and birdied the par-5 No. 16. She shot 73-71 for an even-par total, winning by two strokes over Sloot (74-72).

In match play, Blair staged an even more convincing performance against the field. So the Blair sisters have two State Am trophies to go with their collective six state high school tournament medalist awards. Tess Blair won the Class 6A championship in May and will try for her third title next spring.

The Blairs are now part of State Am history with the Newren sisters of Salt Lake City. Rachel (two), Nicole and Natalie combined for four titles in the early 2000s. Going back nearly a century, the Halloran sisters combined for seven titles, with Florence winning six times and Mary once.

In this era, Sirene's influence is “really good for me,” Tess Blair said. “A lot of people I know compare us a lot, and I'm OK with it. But in my mind, I don't think it's a fair fight. She's six years older than me. … I've learned so much from her.”

Asked what she discovered about herself over four days at Bonneville, Blair said, “I learned that I have what it takes to play clutch golf. I learned that I can compete with some amazing college girls.”

That's the confidence she will carry into Big Sky Conference competition at Sacramento State, after another year at Bingham.

 

Utah State Amateur

Sweeter at 15?

Preston Summerhays becomes youngest champion

in State Am History

by Jay Drew

One of the many cool things about the Utah State Amateur is that when the championship match of the longest continuously held golf tournament in the world concludes – be it on the 36th hole or any hole before or after that – Utah Golf Association officials turn the green into a makeshift stage.

The champion literally hoists the silver trophy just feet away from where he just sank the winning putt. Newspaper, TV and magazine photographers love the photo op, as do family members.

And that’s exactly what 15-year-old Preston Summerhays, an Arizona resident who was born in Utah and spends his summers here, did on an unseasonably cool day in mid-June after defeating University of Utah golfer Kyler Dunkle, a Colorado native, 3 and 2 at Oakridge Country Club.

“Just amazing,” said Summerhays, after kissing the trophy. “Just a dream come true.”

The youngest champion in the 120-year history of the State Amateur uttered those words while standing exactly on the spot where 15 minutes earlier he had rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-5 16th hole to make history.

“Honestly, I got over the putt and I just wanted to drain it,” he said. “There is nothing else I wanted more. I just wanted it to go in.”

As the golf ball settled at the bottom of the cup, Summerhays let loose with a Tiger-esque fist pump and dozens of his family members, neighbors, friends and fellow Oakridge Country Club members roared their approval, including his father, Boyd, who had flown back late Friday night from the U.S. Open to witness his oldest son do something the former PGA Tour player never did.

Boyd Summerhays thoroughly enjoyed his 39th birthday that weekend. He is also rising PGA Tour star Tony Finau’s swing coach, and returned to New York on Sunday to watch Finau finish fifth at Shinnecock Hills.

“I’m just proud of him,” Boyd Summerhays repeated several times amidst the celebrating gallery of onlookers. “Just so, so proud of him.”

And so Preston Summerhays, who still wears braces on his teeth and will be a sophomore at Chaparral High in Scottsdale, Ariz., this fall, replaced arguably the best golfer the state has produced – George Von Elm – as the tournament’s youngest champion.

As The Salt Lake Tribune detailed, Von Elm was 16, having been born in March of 1901, when he won the first of three State Am titles in 1917. PGA Tour regular Daniel Summerhays, Preston’s uncle, was also 16 (and slightly older than Von Elm in 1917) when he won his first State Am in 2000. That win came at Oakridge, just as his grandfather’s brother’s win came there in 1966. Bruce Summerhays beat his brother and Preston’s grandfather, Lynn Summerhays, in a semifinal match en route to the title.

Bruce Summerhays also won the Utah Open in 2008 at Oakridge at the age of 64.

So the tree-lined layout just north of the Lagoon amusement park is a special place for the Summerhays family.

“He’s going to have the gallery in his corner,” Dunkle predicted good-naturedly Friday evening before Saturday’s championship match. “They should change the name of this place to Summerhays Country Club.”

Dunkle, who was trying to become the first current Ute golfer in 40 years to claim the State Am, was right. Accurate shots and birdies from Summerhays were greeted with roars on Saturday, while the rising Utah senior’s good shots drew just polite applause.

Whatever the case, the winner would be considered the first non-Utahn to take the State Am since BYU’s Billy Harvey, a Las Vegas native, won in 1999.

Asked if he considers himself a Utahn or an Arizonan, Summerhays smiled broadly and said, “both.” His family moved to Arizona when he was 8 years old.

Before Saturday, Boyd stayed abreast of Preston’s play through live video feeds on cell phones as he tutored Finau in New York. Also, grandparents Lynn and Ann Summerhays stayed in the loop from New Zealand, where they were doing service for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

All this was actually started by the “first” Preston Summerhays, the father of Bruce, Lynn and another accomplished golfer, Gary. The original Preston first competed in the 1926 State Am, according to the Tribune. The 2018 winner, who is referred to as “P” by his caddie, Mitch Meyers, and family members, is named after his great grandfather.

“I am excited to have the title of State Am champion be a part of my life now,” 15-year-old Preston Summerhays said. “Honestly, I have wanted to win this tournament for a while, so winning it feels just great.”

 

A Champion Emerges

The 36-hole championship match was Summerhays’ second championship match in a week, but had a better ending this time around. The previous Saturday, Summerhays fell in the finals of the Utah State Junior Amateur, also at Oakridge, to BYU signee Cole Ponich on the first playoff hole. The No. 2 seed after finishing second behind Utah sophomore Blake Tomlinson for medalist honors in stroke-play qualifying, Ponich was eliminated by fellow Davis High teammate Jack Sargent in the Round of 64 on Wednesday.

Summerhays tied for 21st in the medal portion of the tournament, shooting 71 and 70, before knocking off Dane Nelson 6 and 5 in his first match. He downed Jacob Wagstaff 3 and 1 in the Round of 32 and his second cousin, Tyler Savage, 6 and 4 in the Round of 16. He eliminated Utah State’s Andy Hess 3 and 1 in the quarterfinals and former Dixie State golfer Jayce Frampton 1 up in the semifinals. Frampton is transferring to Weber State.

Against Dunkle, who had eliminated his good friend and Ute teammate Tomlinson in Friday’s other semifinal, Summerhays won the fourth hole and held the lead to the finish. He was up three after 10 holes, and took a two-hole lead into the lunch break after the first 18.

 He had the same two-hole lead through 27 holes, but disaster struck on the No. 10 hole, the 28th of the match.

Dunkle drove the green on the par-4 10th (the tees were way up), and won the hole when Summerhays’ drive went over the road and out of bounds. On the par-5 No. 11 hole, Summerhays’ second shot was a grounder that didn’t come close to the green, and it appeared the teenager was cracking.

 However, he recovered to make par, and halved the hole when Dunkle’s 12-foot birdie putt just missed.

 “I don’t think it was quite nerves [on No. 10],” Summerhays said. “I didn’t quite feel the wind off the left. It was probably just a mental error and a bad swing. But then the topped one on 11 kind of shook me a little bit. I am kind of surprised about that.”

After No. 12 was halved, Summerhays stuck his tee shot on the par-3 13th hole to 10 feet, and Dunkle conceded the birdie because his errant tee shot found a bunker.

“I would say all of the par-3s,” Dunkle said when asked which holes he’d like to play over. “This morning, I think I bogeyed three of the four, and this afternoon I bogeyed both on the front nine and I bogeyed the first three and then birdied 15. Those definitely hurt me. Preston made one or two bogeys in the entire 34 holes. I made 6 or 7.”

Summerhays extended his lead to three with a birdie on No. 14, but Dunkle rolled in a 25-footer for birdie on No. 15 to cut the deficit to two. Summerhays’ heroics on No. 16 ended the action on the match’s 34th hole.

“It was a really tough day for me on the greens,” Dunkle said. “I didn’t really struggle with reading greens or hitting putts on lines. I hit almost every putt right where I wanted to. They were right on the verge of going in. I don’t know if I can count on my hands how many times I lipped out putts today. Everything was right there.”

Indeed, Dunkle’s drives were accurate and usually farther than Summerhays’ tee shots, but the teenager was superior on the greens.

“Up until No. 15 on the second 18, I hadn’t made a putt outside 5 feet,” Dunkle said. “That’s tough when you have an opponent who is making putts from pretty much everywhere. He made all the putts that he should have, and he also made some pretty long putts. It was pretty easy to shut the door on me when that happened.”

And shut the door is what Summerhays did, pouring in the 10-footer on No. 16 to bring on the tables, banners, chairs and trophy and victory celebration.

“Preston might be one of the best putters I’ve ever seen in my life,” Dunkle said. “What he was able to do today over [34] holes was pretty awesome. Yeah, it was a good day for him.”

 

Stroke-Play Qualifying

Five days before Summerhays made history, Tomlinson, 19, served notice that University of Utah golfers were not going to take a back seat to BYU’s golfers or any other instate collegians, as has often been the case lately at the State Am.

Tomlinson, a Skyline High product who grew up playing Oakridge because his parents were members there before moving to Salt Lake City, shot a 7-under 64 at Davis Park Golf Course in Fruit Heights. Fellow Ute Mitchell Schow shot a 7-under 65 at Oakridge on Monday and Dunkle was in sixth place after a 67 at Oakridge.

BYU golfer Kelton Hirsch shot a 68 at Davis Park and was tied for seventh.

Tomlinson remained hot on Tuesday, firing another 64 (at Oakridge) to give himself a two-day total of 128, the lowest stroke-play qualifying score in State Am history. The previous low score was 130.

Tomlinson was the medalist by four strokes, as Ponich and Frampton tied for second at 132.

“I just played solidly. I didn’t make many mistakes, and my putting was incredible,” Tomlinson said.

Tomlinson emerged as one of Utah’s most reliable players as a freshman, making the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team.

Utah Valley University golfer Carly Dehlin, the only female golfer in the field and just the third female to ever play in the State Am, finished at 155 and missed the cut for match play by nine shots.

With Tomlinson taking the drama out of the medalist race fairly early, attention shifted to the playoff for the final match-play berths as the field of 288 was trimmed to 64.

Twelve golfers who shot 3-over-par 146 returned to Oakridge for the last seven spots.

Last year’s runner up at Ogden Golf & Country Club, USU golfer Braydon Swapp, and SUU’s Ali Hameed birdied the first playoff hole to advance, as did Andrew Cottle and Preston Wallace. Mike McRae, the 2005 champion, and Mark Breese were eliminated with bogeys.

Ron Davis and Tristan Gardner parred the second playoff hole to advance.

That left two-time champ Jon Wright, Preston Hansen and teenager Jack Sargent to battle for the final berth on the third playoff hole. Sargent, 15, made a birdie to advance.

“It was a good experience to be in a playoff and test my nerves and make good shots,” Sargent said.

 

Survive and advance

Utah amateur golf’s version of March Madness usually happens in July, but the State Am was moved to June in 2018 because Oakridge is also hosting the Web.com Tour event, the Utah Championship, this summer.

Still, the theme in the opening round of match play Wednesday was survive and advance, and some notable players weren’t able to do that.

Energized by his birdie putt the night before in the playoff, Sargent upset No. 2 seed Ponich 2 and 1 and fellow 15-year-old Summerhays – the eventual champion – walloped the seasoned Dane Nelson.

Playoff survivor Tristan Gardner, a Snow Canyon High product who will play for Dixie State this fall, upset Utah’s Schow, the Salt Lake Amateur champion. Among the notables who also advanced were medalist Tomlinson, defending champion Hirsch, 1998 champion Darrin Overson and 2008 champion Dan Horner.

In one of the more intriguing matches of the opening round, veteran John Owen dumped 1992 champion Brad Sutterfield of St. George, 3 and 2. Sutterfield, 49, is now Dixie State’s golf coach and was on the PGA Tour in 1997 before regaining his amateur status recently.

 

Field Shrinks From 32 to 8

Pressure is intensified on Thursday at the State Am, as the field is reduced from 32 to eight and the real contenders emerge.

In 2018 at Oakridge, that meant several thoroughbreds – 43-year-old Overson, 40-year-old Horner and 46-year-old John Owen – rose up and made it to the Elite Eight. They were joined by teenagers Frampton, Tomlinson and Summerhays and aforementioned collegians Dunkle and Hess, a native of Idaho Falls, Idaho, in the quarterfinals.

“I am getting older, for sure, but I don’t feel it is over,” Overson told the Deseret News. “I am doing my best to stay relevant here in Utah.”

Meanwhile, 2017 champion Hirsch was eliminated, upset by Utah Valley University golfer Aaron Yeates in the Round of 32.

“Kelton didn’t have his best game today, and I was able to capitalize,” said Yeates, 21, who would lose later in the afternoon to Frampton, the former Viewmont High golfer who fired a 63 on Tuesday to get the No. 3 seed for match play.

 

On To The Finals

Summerhays and Dunkle were both tested on Friday in the quarterfinals and semifinals, but both advanced.

After knocking off Overson 1 up in the morning, Dunkle had to face his Utah teammate Tomlinson in the afternoon. What’s more, another Utah golfer, Schow, was on Tomlinson’s bag.

Dunkle, who started his college career at Colorado State near his hometown of Larkspur, Colo., won No. 17 with a birdie to take a 3 and 1 victory over the stroke-play medalist after leading most of the match.

“It’s never fun playing one of your best friends,” Dunkle said. “But I know he’s one of the best players in the this field, so it is really fun going up against him, because I know I’ve got to play great golf to beat him.”

Although he’s from Colorado, Dunkle appreciated the history and lore of the State Am.

“I’ve never played in this before, but it is always fun to go against the best players in the state,” Dunkle said. “It’s kind of cool. There are signs everywhere saying it’s the longest continuous tournament in [the world], which is fun to be a part of. And you look at the names who have won here – Patrick Fishburn, Tony Finau, Zac Blair – all those guys are making an impact in professional golf. It would be really cool to be a part of it.”

Summerhays fell behind Frampton in their semifinal match, but neither competitor led by more than a hole and it was all square going to the par-5 16th hole. Frampton hit his approach into a small pond, and Summerhays won the hole with a par.

That proved to be the difference after holes 17 and 18 were halved and Summerhays was on to the finals.

“It is super exciting, just to be in the mix, having a chance to win,” the phenom said Friday night.

Less than 24 hours later, he was holding the trophy on the 16th green – months before his 16th birthday.

 

Utah Senior State Amateur

Former Tour Player Grabs

Utah Senior Amateur Win

By Mike Sorensen

Brigham Gibbs, who won his first Utah State Senior Amateur at Glenwild Golf Club in early June, isn’t well-known in local golf circles, even though he was born and raised in the Beehive State.

The 53-year-old Gibbs spent the last two-and-a-half decades living elsewhere before returning in 2017 to his home state, where he works in the mortgage/real estate business. He immediately made his mark, by earning a spot at the local U.S. Open qualifying tournament and he’s gradually worked his way back onto the local golf scene topped off by his win over the state’s top senior golfers.

Gibbs grew up in Salt Lake City and was a standout junior golfer some 40 years ago and became one of the top ski racers in the country as a teenager, eventually going to ski for the University of Utah and on the professional circuit.

As a youngster, Gibbs played junior golf alongside the likes of Bruce Brockbank and Steve Schneiter, who both went on to win State Amateur titles as teenagers.

 “When I was 10-11-12 I won a lot of things, but got bored and quit playing,” Gibbs said. “I was a better skier, probably No. 1 skier in country when I was 12.”

He still played high school golf at East High, where he helped the Leopards win the state title, but his main focus was on the slopes. However when he ruptured a couple of disks in his back in his mid-20s, he gave up skiing and turned to golf, where he was good enough to become a professional in that sport and played all over the world.

Gibbs played on the South African Tour, the South American Tour and the Asian Tour and even Monday-qualified for a couple of PGA Tour events, the Bell South in Atlanta and the Honda Classic in Florida. One time he finished a shot out of the qualifying spot, only to learn later that the qualifier had doctored his scorecard. However it was too late for him to get in the tournament.

Gibbs played pro golf all through the 1990s before quitting and pretty much giving up the sport.

“I just wasn’t playing well,” he said. “You go a little while, spend enough money and you say, ‘you know this is enough.’”

Gibbs had been living in Florida, where he would play mini-tours when he wasn’t playing overseas, He moved to California when he stopped playing regularly and got his amateur status back. When he moved to Las Vegas in 2012, Gibbs started playing consistently and moved back to Utah a year ago.

In the Senior State Amateur, Gibbs qualified for match play as the No. 8 seed and dispatched of Oakridge club champion Curtis Cook in the first round 2 and 1. Then he went up against 2015 Senior State Amateur champion Craig Wilson in the second round and also took a 2 and 1 victory.

For the quarterfinal round, Gibbs was matched up against No. 1 seed Randy Hicken of Talons Cove GC and Gibbs said later it was his best match of the week as they went to the final hole before Gibbs escaped with a 2 up victory. Then in the semifinals that afternoon, he outlasted Rich Stuart 1 up.

On the other side of the bracket, defending champion Brett Sampson arguably had a tougher road to the finals, beating former State Amateur champion Steve Borget in the second round, two-time Senior champion Steve Poulson in the quarters and two-time Senior champ and 2017 runner-up Kirk Siddens in the semifinals.

By the final match, whether it was exhaustion from three-straight days of playing or what, neither Gibbs nor Sampson was at his best.

Gibbs started off with a pair of bogeys to quickly fall two down, but got back to even at No. 6 when Sampson made one of three 6s on the front nine. By hole 11, Gibbs was 3 up before he “threw away” three holes and the match went back to even after 15 when Sampson birdied.

Then the match turned at the par-5 16th when Sampson’s drive found the water hazard on the left and Gibbs was able to win the hole with a par. Both players parred No. 17 and when Gibbs lagged a 40-foot putt at 18 to within inches, the match was over.

 “It wasn’t a very good ball-striking or putting round,” said Gibbs afterward. “Neither one of us played well. He just played a little worse than I did.”

Gibbs plays out of the Salt Lake Country Club and he was happy to see a fellow member, Heber Jacobsen, win the Super Senior title for golfers over age 65.

Jacobsen knocked off defending Super Senior champion Mike Hacker in the second round and defeated two-time Senior winner Doug Marriott in the semifinals before taking on Michael Wood, who plays out of The Ridge GC, in the finals.

While Wood struggled on the front nine, Jacobsen took advantage, winning seven of the first eight holes and cruising to a 7 and 6 victory.

Scott Burt won the net division with a 3 and 2 victory over Aaron Kennard. Burt, who plays out of Bountiful Ridge, won the last three holes of the match after Kennard had squared the match at 13.

 

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