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Long, Galeai reach Utah State Women’s Amateur championship

By Jared Lloyd daily Herald - | Jun 30, 2021
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BYU golfer Lila Galeai watches her drive during the third day of the 2021 Utah State Women’s Amateur Championship at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington on Tuesday, June 29, 2021.

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BYU golfer Lila Galeai watches her chip shot during the third day of the 2021 Utah State Women’s Amateur Championship at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington on Tuesday, June 29, 2021.

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Lone Peak golfer Berlin Long watches her putt during the third day of the 2021 Utah State Women’s Amateur Championship at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington on Tuesday, June 29, 2021.

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Lone Peak golfer Berlin Long hits a drive during the third day of the 2021 Utah State Women’s Amateur Championship at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington on Tuesday, June 29, 2021.

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BYU golfer Lila Galeai watches her putt during the third day of the 2021 Utah State Women’s Amateur Championship at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington on Tuesday, June 29, 2021.

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BYU golfer Lila Galeai hits her drive during the third day of the 2021 Utah State Women’s Amateur Championship at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington on Tuesday, June 29, 2021.

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Lone Peak golfer Berlin Long watches her putt during the third day of the 2021 Utah State Women’s Amateur Championship at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington on Tuesday, June 29, 2021.

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Lone Peak golfer Berlin Long and her coach, Clay Ogden, line up a putt during the third day of the 2021 Utah State Women’s Amateur Championship at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington on Tuesday, June 29, 2021.

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Lone Peak golfer Aadyn Long watches her shot during the third day of the 2021 Utah State Women’s Amateur Championship at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington on Tuesday, June 29, 2021.

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Lone Peak golfer Aadyn Long smiles as she talks to other members of her group during the third day of the 2021 Utah State Women’s Amateur Championship at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington on Tuesday, June 29, 2021.

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BYU golfer Lila Galeai drives her cart during the third day of the 2021 Utah State Women’s Amateur Championship at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington on Tuesday, June 29, 2021.

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Lone Peak golfer Berlin Long watches her drive during the third day of the 2021 Utah State Women’s Amateur Championship at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington on Tuesday, June 29, 2021.

The Dominant Force vs. the Comeback Kid.

That should be how Thursday’s championship of the 2021 Utah State Women’s Amateur tournament should be billed after what the two finalists — BYU golfer Lila Galeai and Lone Peak golfer Berlin Long — did to get to this point.

Both Long and Galeai found themselves tied with their opponents heading into Hole No. 18 but finished strong to survive and advance.

Here’s how they did it:

The Dominant Force

No one has been as overpowering through the first five rounds of the tournament as Galeai.

After finishing second in the stroke play portion on Monday (shooting even-par), she went through her first three matches without ever trailing.

In Wednesday afternoon’s semifinal against 2018 champ Tess Blair, however, Galeai’s streak came to an end. Blair rallied from an early deficit and won Hole No. 16 to take the 1-up lead.

That put Galeai in a new position, having to come from behind.

“My mindset was to not change my strategy,” Galeai said. “I wasn’t going to try laying up and being safe, doing any of that. I knew that the strength for my game is just to play had. I just crushed my driver as hard as I could and trusted my chipping. My chipping has been pretty good all week.”

Her drive on the par-4 Hole No. 17 nearly reached the green and she followed it up with a gorgeous chip shot that nearly went in the hole. The tap-in birdie was enough to even up the match.

“I took my time to see the slope and then hit it pretty good,” Galeai said. “I almost made it.”

Neither golfer could get the upper hand on No. 18, forcing the match into a sudden-death playoff.

“I just knew just to play my own game,” Galeai said. “I thought my chip shot was gonna be good and it looked good but kind of hit to the left side.”

The ball ended up partly on the fringe and partly in the rough, forcing Galeai to make an unusual choice. Instead of putting the ball or chipping it, she grabbed her 3-wood.

“I honestly have never done that in my life,” Galeai said with a grin. “But I wouldn’t change how I played it.”

Her improvisational shot worked nearly flawlessly, almost hitting the flag. She was able to hit her putt, then Blair’s par putt skimmed the edge of the cup and Galeai had the win.

The Comeback Kid

Long took the opposite road to getting to the finals than Galeai. She spent much of the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds on Wednesday trailing her opponents.

After rally from four holes down to defeat Emma Winfree in the morning, Long found herself three holes down early in her match against four-time champ Kelsey Chugg.

“it’s not making it super easy on myself but I think just being down early helps me for my later matches because it just shows me that no matter where I am I know I can come back,” Long said. “Kelsey is such a good player, especially when it comes to match play and she’s clutch. She makes a lot of putts and so I knew that I had to get some thing going. Luckily I hit them in tight on No. 6, No. 7 and No. 8 and I birdied all three of those. That kind of gave me some momentum.”

Chugg, however, is a savvy veteran and she came back to build a two-hole lead with just three holes to play.

The key down the stretch for long was getting some big-time putts to drop.

“My putt on No. 16 was like 20 feet and my putt on No. 17 was like 25 feet,” Long said. “I made some long putts coming down the stretch. It felt so good to see that my work is paying off. It gives me confidence going into tomorrow.”

Long played Hole No. 18 solidly, hitting the middle of the fairway and the middle of the green, then making a two-putt to finish off the victory when Chugg’s par putt lipped out.

Anyone who has followed junior golf in Utah in the last few years probably isn’t surprised that Long and Galeai will be playing each other in the final. The duo have faced off for years in the junior levels of competition.

“Even if Lila wins or I win, I know we’ll be happy for each other,” Long said. “We’re such good friends and we have so much fun on the golf course. I know it’s going to be a fun round. It’ll be intense and it’ll be fun. I’m excited for it.”

Both golfers know the competition will be intense but the golfing will be as enjoyable as possible.

“I’ve known Berlin ever since we were young,” Galeai said. “I’ve seen her game improve and so I’m excited to go out there and just have fun.”

Berlin Long’s younger sister, Aadyn Long, was the other Utah Valley golfer to reach the quarterfinals but she lost to Blair on Wednesday morning.

While she was disappointed to not make it to the afternoon round, she felt like she learned a lot.

“It was really actually good for me because I feel like our games are pretty similar in the way that Tess is not a super-long hitter,” Aadyn Long said. “She still hits the ball well and she’s just really consistent. It was really fun to watch how she hit shots. It was a great experience. I’m excited for next year. Hopefully I can make it to the finals or to the top four.”

The 18-hole championship match between Galeai and Berlin Long is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. Thursday at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington.

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