The BYU men’s golf program has put together a pretty impressive run of success at the annual Utah State Amateur golf tournament in recent years, with Cougar golfers winning four of the last six titles:
- 2017: Kelton Hirsch, Ogden Country Club
- 2016: Patrick Fishburn, Alpine Country Club
- 2015: Jordan Rodgers, Soldier Hollow golf course
- 2013: Cole Ogden, Soldier Hollow golf course
The current and future BYU golfers would love to continue that trend at the 2019 Utah State Amateur at Soldier Hollow golf course — but the numbers indicate it won’t be easy.
Of the 288 amateur golfers who teed off on the first day of the tournament on the Gold and Silver courses on Monday, only two — Spencer Dunaway and Kelton Hirsch — were on the Cougar roster last season. Two more — Zach Jones and Cole Ponich — are set to come to BYU as freshmen.
“Everyone is kind of gone for the summer, doing their own thing,” Dunaway said. “Those of us who are here are playing. There is only two of us, which is really weird.”
All four current and future Cougars shot a good enough score on their first 18 holes on the Silver course to put themselves in position to compete for one of the 64 match-play spots.
“I think I will have to play well tomorrow,” Dunaway said. “But I hit the ball well, so I’m confident going into tomorrow. Hopefully a few more putts will drop and I’ll be right where I want to be. But it is going to be tougher.”
Hirsch and Jones were the top BYU performers with matching scores of 71 (1-under-par) on the Silver course, while Dunaway finished at even-par with a 72 and Ponich came in at 73 (1-over-par).
“I’ve never really played Soldier Hollow without wind, so playing in the morning was weird because there was no wind,” Dunaway said. “A bunch of the lines were a lot different to what I’m normally used to. I actually struck the ball well but I couldn’t get it going with the putter.”
Dunaway was in the same threesome as former Lone Peak golfer Nathan Ouimette, who had a phenomenal round and posted the best score of the day with a 65 (7-under-par).
“He had it going out there,” Dunaway said. “It was kind of fun to watch him because he was making a ton of birdies out there. It was good to get those positive vibes out there.”
Ouimette — who has been playing at Southern Virginia University — said he was pleased with how things went.
“I lipped out some putts but overall I played pretty good,” Ouimette said. “I struck the ball well. I’m kind of bummed I three-putted on No. 18 but overall I’m happy with the way I played. I read the greens really well and hit the ball well off the tee, giving myself chances. On any round of golf at any tournament, you hope to shoot a good score. To see it work out better that expected is really nice.”
He explained that he now just needs to continue to play well to secure his spot in the match-play competition.
“I need to stay focused, hit shots and make putts,” Ouimette said.
One of the constants in recent years at the Utah State Amateur is the consistent success of college golfers.
“We are just coming off of our season, so we have been playing non-stop since September,” Dunaway said. “We’re still in the swing of things. It’s warm, so we’re outside again. It’s perfect timing for us. With the amount of rounds we have to play during the year, everyone gets their practice in being here.”
It doesn’t always go as they would hope, however.
UVU golfer and former Timpanogos star Austin Yeates got the chance to play with Wolverine teammate Tanner Johnson and former Timpview star Josh Lillywhite for his first round on Monday.
“It was a lot of fun, playing with friends,” Yeates said. “We’re hoping to both play better and feed off each other but some days you just don’t have your best.”
But the Gold course took its toll on the group as they all finish over par, leaving themselves needing a big round on Tuesday to have any hope of making the cut.
“I have to make more putts,” Yeates said. “I left a lot out there on the greens. There were a couple of mistakes that cost me. I hope to clean those up and have a good round tomorrow, then see if I can make the cut and go to match play.”
The second and final round of stroke play on Tuesday will have the golfer switching courses, with the action teeing off at 7:15 a.m. at Soldier Hollow golf course.
For complete scoring and second-round tee time details, go to http://uga.org.