Like pieces on a board during an aggressive game of chess, the Utah State Amateur Championship sees player after player get removed until only two remain.
Unfortunately for former BYU golfers Spencer Dunaway and Kelton Hirsch, BYU golfer Brock Goyen and Lehi’s Carl Jensen, they weren’t able to make it to the final pairing.
All four reached Friday morning’s quarterfinals at Alpine Country Club but only Dunaway was able to survive to reach the afternoon semifinal match.
There he ran into a buzz saw as Utah golfer Martin Leon got hot and never let up.
“Right off the bat, Martin started awesome,” Dunaway said. “He birdied the first hole. I hit mine to eight feet and just missed it, while he hit his to three feet. I got a bogey on No. 3, so I was down two after three holes. I missed an easy up-and-down on No. 7 and that kind of gave him another hole. Unfortunately, but so he was three. Then he made a great hit on No. 8 to six feet and made that birdie. I think I made the turn at even-par and he made it at 4-under-par, so I was four down through nine holes.”
That put Dunaway in a tough spot and he know he had to be more aggressive if he wanted to get back into the match. That hurt him on No. 10, as his first shot when just barely out of bounds and he ended up losing another hole.
His best hope to rally was after Leon hit a shot in the trees on No. 11 and Dunaway made a par to get one hole back — but he wasn’t able to maintain the momentum.
A bogey on No. 12 and a great sand shot by Leon put the Ute golfer back on top and Dunaway couldn’t get a tough chip to drop on No. 13, ending the match with the 6-and-5 loss.
“He put the pressure on me where I kind of had to change up my game plan a little bit,” Dunaway said. “I was trying to win the hole, trying to make something happen. I just couldn’t do it.”
Dunaway got his semifinal spot by building a lead on Goyen (his former BYU teammate) in his quarterfinal match and then holding on down the stretch.
“Brock’s a great player and he’s been playing good all week,” Dunaway said. “I just played really solid and I kind of just put a lot of pressure on him. I hit almost every fairway and I hit a lot of greens.”
Dunaway was three holes ahead with four to play when Goyens got rolling.
“He just turned it on,” Dunaway said. “He made a 30-foot putt for birdie on No. 15, then on No. 17 he pounded a drive 380 yards and then hit the ball to a foot from the hole, getting the eagle. That meant we had to play No. 18.”
Dunaway appeared to be in trouble as his first shot ended up with a bad lie in the left rough and his second found the sand trap guarding the green.
For Dunaway, though, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“I feel like a strength of my game is my bunker game for sure,” Dunaway said. “I’m very comfortable in the sand. I was able to hit that bunker shot to two feet so I put a lot of pressure on him.”
Goyens couldn’t get his birdie putt to fall and that ended his run as Dunaway got the 2-up victory.
Hirsch was in a battle with former Weber State golfer Luke Crapo in the quarterfinals, a match that required 20 holes to get a winner.
Hirsch nearly canned chip shots on both No. 18 and on No. 1 that would’ve given him the win, but they refused to drop.
Crapo made a nice birdie putt on No. 2 and Hirsch ended up just missing the putt to tie it, giving Crapo the victory.
Jensen had a strong start to his quarterfinal match against Utah golfer Blake Tomlinson and led by two holes at the turn.
Tomlinson flipped the script, however, winning holes No. 10, 11, 12 and 13 to take the lead. Jensen couldn’t find a way to rally and Tomlinson got the 2-and-1 win.
Tomlinson then knocked off Crapo, 5-and-4, in the semifinal, setting up a match with his Ute teammate Leon in Saturday’s championship.
Although Dunaway wasn’t able to reach the finals, he said he’s happy with how his golf game is going at this point as he prepares to turn pro.
“My game is pretty consistent right now,” Dunaway said. “I’ve been playing great. I think my irons got a little shaky today, but they were actually more solid than my driver on the rest of the days. I fixed the driver today but the irons were off. It’s one of those things but definitely I’m playing some good golf.”
He said it is weird to be thinking about transitioning from amateur golf but he hopes his timing is right.
“The next year, year-and-a-half, two years will be the most important years of golf in my life,” Dunaway said. “Because everyone at this level is so good, it’s all about timing. This is the time for me so I’m excited to get it going for sure.”
For complete details from the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, as well as live scoring from the 2021 Utah State Amateur Championship final round at Alpine Country Club, go to http://UGA.org.