For much of their match at the 2019 Utah State Amateur golf tournament at Soldier Hollow Golf Course in Heber on Wednesday, former BYU golf stars Nick Becker and Cole Ogden slid under the radar.
They were just a pair of guys with no entourage or much attention, battling to make it through to the next round.
Times have changed for both ex-Cougars.
Instead of being the young hotshots, now they both have families and jobs. They have both played pro golf and regained their amateur status.
And they both are trying to figure out just where the sports fits for them right now.
“The old adage is that a bad day on the golf course is better than a good day at the office,” Becker said. “I try and take joy even in the bad shots because I would rather be hitting bad shots on the golf course than sitting in the office.”
It’s a similar situation for Ogden, who said he just doesn’t feel the same drive to spend hours honing his game.
“It’s tough to see that my game is not what it once was — but my priorities have definitely changed,” Ogden said. “When I’m done working, I don’t have the desire to go to the golf course and spend four or five hours there. I would rather go home and do stuff around the house or hang out with my wife and kids. But it’s tough.”
Even though neither is playing a lot of golf right now, they both had strong starts to the week at the State Amateur.
Ogden tied for 17th in the stroke play portion as he shot even-par, while Becker was 3-over-par through his first 36 holes and tied for 38th.
“I was impressed with how I did in stroke play,” Ogden said. “I was 1-under on the gold course and it was pretty stress-free. I bogeyed the first hole and then didn’t have another bogey the rest of the way.”
The result was a pairing of two former BYU golfers (Becker graduated in 2007, Ogden graduated in 2014) and although neither felt like they played great golf, it turned out to be a compelling contest.
Becker had the edge early, roaring out to a big lead by winning five of the first 10 holes.
“When you are 5-up through 10 holes, your nerves start to relax because you have a big lead,” Becker said. “Then you get a little complacent.”
Ogden started a big rally on the back-nine, winning four holes to close the gap and then having opportunities on the last couple of holes to even the tally.
“I had my chances,” Ogden said. “I know Nick really well and it was fun. I at least made it interesting towards the end.”
In the end, Becker held on to get the 1-up victory and advance to the round of 32.
“The results of not playing all the time like I used to means I’m going to get some good stretches and some bad stretches,” Becker said. “Luckily my good stretch got me a big enough lead where I could hold it all the way through. In match play, whether you win 5-up or 1-up, you move on and keep playing.”
Ogden said that he still hates to lose and that the defeat would sting, but added that he sees the game differently now than he did when he won the 2013 State Amateur title at Soldier Hollow.
“I haven’t been playing a whole lot of golf,” Ogden said. “I think this was my fifth 18-hole round this year. Coming in I didn’t know what to expect. Last time I played here I won but my goal was to make match play because I haven’t played and practiced. But we always remember what we were capable of doing. I’m just not as consistent.”
It’s a feeling Becker understands, since he now has five kids. His journey took him to Las Vegas and Missouri, to marriage to his wife Alicia and to a job in financial consulting.
“I stopped playing golf almost altogether,” Becker said. “A year ago I filed with the USGA to get my amateur status back. I decided it was time to play some more. I got my amateur status but got busy with work and family. This is my first event back as an amateur.”
Ogden now has a 16-month-old son with a second child due in September and works as a pharmaceutical sales representative.
“I played in one tournament in April and then I didn’t touch a club until Media Day for the State Am,” Ogden said. “There was going to be inconsistency there and we saw that today.”
Both Becker and Ogden said it is challenging to recall where their games were at earlier in their careers while still coming to grips with how things are now.
“It’s something I’ve experienced in the last two years and I don’t know if I’ve done it correctly,” Ogden said. “Finding the balance is tricky. It’s hard to expect what you used to do and do it under pressure.”
Becker said it’s much harder to have the same consistency.
“The toughest transition when I started playing again a little bit was knowing that my good shots are still there, my bad shots are still there, the good shots come less often and the bad shots come more often,” Becker said. “I had to be OK with it.”
Both Becker and Ogden believe that their golf time will expand if their kids get into the sport — but neither wants to force their kids to go that route.
Becker now advances to face Chase Lansford in the Round of 32 on Thursday morning, with the winner then playing in the Round of 16 on Thursday afternoon.
“It’s fun,” Becker said. “I get inklings of my former self, and then I get inklings of my ‘dad’ swing that comes and goes. I’m just enjoying it for the time I get to be out here. It’s a lot of fun to play again.”
Becker was one of 12 golfers with local ties to win through to the round of 32 (see info box).
The next rounds will take place on the Gold course on Thursday at Soldier Hollow Golf Course in Heber. Go to http://uga.org for complete details and pairings.