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Still hungry: BYU golfer Simon Kwon looking to defend Utah State Amateur title

By Jared Lloyd - | Jul 7, 2024
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BYU commit Simon Kwon watches his drive during the finals of the 2023 Utah State Amateur Championship at The Country Club in Sugarhouse on Saturday day, July 1, 2023.
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Cal golfer Simon Kwon hits a shot out of the sand during the final round of the 2022 Utah State Amateur at Soldier Hollow golf course in Heber on Saturday, July 16, 2022.
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Cal golfer Simon Kwon watches his shot during the final round of the 2022 Utah State Amateur at Soldier Hollow golf course in Heber on Saturday, July 16, 2022.
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BYU senior learning specialist Jim Hamblin (second from right) poses for a photo with his foursome — including Cougar golfers Brock Goyen (far left) and Simon Kwon (second from left) during the Coaches Legacy Tournament benefitting the National Kidney Foundation of Utah and Idaho at Hidden Valley Country Club in Draper on Monday, June 3, 2024.
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Cal golfer Simon Kwon watches his putt during the quarterfinal round of match play at the 2022 Utah State Amateur golf tournament at Soldier Hollow golf course in Heber on Friday, July 15, 2022.

When the 126th Utah State Amateur Championship gets to match play on Wednesday, there is one golfer that no one really wants to face — and who can blame them?

In the last two years, BYU junior Simon Kwon has won a stunning 11 of his 12 matches at the event. His only loss during that stretch was a 4-and-3 defeat to his Cougar teammate, Zac Jones, in the 2022 finals at Soldier Hollow golf course in Heber.

After coming in as the runner up, Kwon put together an impressive run to the top in 2023 at the Salt Lake City Country Club. He never played more than 17 holes in any of his first five matches, then rolled to the 6-and-5 win over David Liechty in the 36-hole championship.

But that success is now a part of history and Kwon is focused on doing his best this week as he competes against the top amateur golfers in the state at the Ogden Golf and Country Club in Ogden.

“Honestly, I still feel like I have something to prove,” Kwon said at the state amateur media day on Wednesday. “I redshirted last year (at BYU) and I’m really excited to get the chance to compete again. I love the competitive part of match play and I want to go out and prove something again.”

Kwon did enjoy taking a moment to recall winning the event in 2023 and all of the best moments that came with it.

“There were so many good memories,” Kwon said. “The best was maybe when my mom gave me a hug on the final hole. That was great. So was walking along with my dad the entire time and passing my house (in Salt Lake) all the time. That was fun too. There were a lot of good things.”

It was a time of change for Kwon at that point. He had been playing for Cal but was in the process of making a move.

“I was in the transfer portal,” Kwon said. “I knew where I was going to go but I didn’t want to say anything. It just felt good to come out and prove I was good enough to go to BYU.”

He explained that his biggest takeaway from that championship was confidence in his ability to handle those high-stress moments.

“It was good to see how mentally strong that I could be under pressure and the endurance that I have,” Kwon said. “It’d be very difficult to go through that tournament and not have some times where you are a little bit low mentally. To be able to get through that is really important to see.”

Kwon wants to demonstrate he can continue fighting through the hard moments, but he also knows he has a big target on his back. He said he can’t let that distract him from taking care of the things he can control.

“For me right now, it’s all about just worrying about the next shot,” Kwon said. “If I get ahead of myself and think that I’m the defending champion or that I need to do this and this, I’m not going to play my best. I still feel like I’m an underdog. I really do. I’m going to try to prove that I’m the defending champion for a reason and I’m going to really focus on the next shot. I think if I can focus on the next shot and stay in the present, that will allow me to compete to win again.”

He knows that back-to-back state champions are rare in Utah, with only two golfers managing the feat since 2000 (Daniel Summerhays in 2000 and 2001, and Preston Summerhays in 2018 and 2019), so he said that joining that group would be “really special.”

Kwon feels like his golf game is in good shape heading into the competition, so that’s encouraging.

“My strength right now is probably my mental game,” Kwon said. “I feel really good with my mental approach. I think I need to work a couple things with my irons, but nothing big. I feel really good with my wedges and that will be really important.”

Kwon might be as much of a favorite as anyone, although there are plenty of players in the field who are good enough to put together a run. Jones will also be in the field, looking to repeat his success of 2022.

This year’s state amateur will start with two rounds of stroke play to narrow the field of 156 golfers down to the top 64. That will be followed by five rounds of 18-hole match play (one on Wednesday, two on Thursday and two on Friday) to get down to the final two competitors to play in the 36-hole finals on Saturday.

All of the action will take place at the Ogden Golf and Country Club in Ogden. For complete details on the 2024 Utah State Amateur Championship including tee times and results, go to http://UGA.org.

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