For BYU golfer (and former Pleasant Grove basketball star) Keanu Akina, staying alive at the 2021 Utah State Amateur Championship at Alpine Country Club in Highland on Wednesday came down to a pressure-packed two-foot putt on Hole No. 18.
Recent Skyridge grad Carter Frisby’s putt was similar but longer — maybe seven feet out.
It was tougher for BYU golfer Brock Goyen, who had to rally from a disastrous showing on No. 18 to win a sudden-death playoff on Hole No. 1.
Then there was Cougar golfer Max Brenchley, who forced extra holes by winning the last two and found a way to survive on the 20th hole
Such is life in match-play golf.
Sixty-four golfers competed in 32 matches and while some were blowouts — former Lone Peak golfer Braxton Leetham and former UVU golfer Jake Godfrrey only needed 14 holes to get 5-and-4 victories — but most of the duels came down to the end.
The pressure of the moment resulted in a golfer angrily firing his ball into the trees, another tossing his club 20 feet into the air, others pounding clubs on the ground or venting frustration through colorful language.
Others, however, got to experience the elation and the relief of surviving to play another day.
Goyen, for example, endured some highs and lows at the end of his round against Zach Dallimore before being able to get the victory.
“It was just an up and down battle,” Goyen said. “It was very close. He made putts on top of my thoughts and so it was really consistent all day long. It wasn’t one person up by a lot. It was just consistent and it was a lot of fun.”
With the match tied on Hole No. 17, Goyen hit a brilliant second shot, knocking it close to the flag and making the birdie putt to take the lead.
The next hole, however, was the complete opposite as his drive went in the bushes and he couldn’t recover, sending the match to the playoff.
“If I did get angry today, I tried to bottle it up right there and then just let it go and continue on,” Goyen said. “That’s all match play is. It’s hole by hole, so the next hole can be totally different. Coming to the playoff hole I was like, ‘well, I’m going to play my game and hopefully in the end I comes out on top.”
He was able to get the par to defeat Dallimore and move on to the Round of 32.
Goyen’s Cougar teammate, Brenchley, found himself in a hole against David Jennings and needing to make plays down the stretch.
“It’s definitely not the spot you’re looking to be in,” Brenchley said. “I felt like as long as I just kept fighting and made a couple of good shots down the stretch, make a birdie or two on 17 or 18, I would give myself a chance.”
After making the rally, Brenchley still found himself watching Jennings hit a great putt that would’ve won the match on Hole No. 1 (the 19th hole of the match) if it had gone in.
“If he would have asked me four feet out, I’m saying that’s dead center and taking my hat off to congratulate him on the match,” Brenchley said. “Fortunately he just burned the edge and we got to go with one more hole. But yeah, it’s nerve racking for sure.”
Hole No. 2 is a par 5, which allowed Brenchley to take advantage of his ability to hit the ball a long ways. He was on the green in two, then two-putted for birdie. Jennings wasn’t able to get his birdie putt to drop and Brenchley had the victory.
Those short putts with the match on the line may be makeable but Akina and Frisby agreed they aren’t easy.
“It wasn’t that far so I felt OK,” Akina said. “I just knew as long as I got a decent stroke on it, it should go in. There was a little ball mark right in front of my ball that I was trying to fix. I was really scared about it but luckily it didn’t affect the shot.”
Frisby — who made a clutch birdie putt on a playoff hole on Tuesday to reach match play — said he was apprehensive as he stood over his last putt.
“I was nervous,” Frisby said. “It was probably seven feet out and I had missed every single one of those during the match. I don’t think I’ve ever been that nervous over a putt, so it was a cool experience to be able to make that.”
In addition to those four, other golfers with Utah Valley ties who made it to the Round of 32 were former BYU golfers Kelton Hirsch and Spencer Dunaway, BYU golfer David Timmons, former UVU golfer Jake Godfrey, Lone Peak golfers Cooper Jones and Evan Lawrence, former Lone Peak golfer Braxton Leetham, former Salem Hills golfer Brock Nielson, Provo’s Darrin Overson and Alpine Country Club’s Carl Jensen.
The second round of match play will take place on Thursday morning starting at 7:30 a.m., with the winners moving on to the Round of 16 on Thursday afternoon. All of the action will be at Alpine Country Club in Highland.
For complete details and match brackets, go to http://UGA.org.