After completing the first round of the 2019 Siegfried and Jensen Utah Open at Riverside Country Club in Provo on Friday, former Orem High and BYU golfer Dalton Stanger recalled the words of advice he got many years ago from his dad Mike Stanger about playing in multiple-day tournaments.
“My dad always taught me that you can’t win it on the first day — but you can lose it,” Stanger said.
More than 150 golfers started the three-day tournament with that in mind, looking to put themselves in contention with a solid opening round.
Stanger ended up pretty pleased as he went 3-under-par and tied for 12th, four strokes behind the leader in the clubhouse, Samuel Saunders.
“I drove the ball really well,” Stanger said. “If you watched me, you would wonder how I didn’t shoot 6- or 7-under-par. It takes a lot of pressure off when you are driving the ball well here at Riverside.”
He said he was happy with how he gave himself a shot to make a run over the next couple of days.
“For me to hang tough at 3-under-par was really good,” Stanger said. “It could’ve gone south and then you are battling to make the cut. Now if I go play a good round tomorrow, I’m right in the mix going into the final round. You’d love to go out and shoot 7-under in every round but being able not to lose it, that’s what I’m most proud of today.”
Things didn’t go quite as well for one of the youngest golfers in the field as Lehi sophomore Helaman Ofahengaue couldn’t get the putter going.
“I didn’t finish off too well,” Ofahengaue said. “I did a lot of good things and hit a lot of good shots.”
His 3-over-par put him tied for 83rd but said he is looking to come back strong on Saturday and make the cut by being in the top 60.
“I have to get it together tomorrow,” Ofahengaue said. “I need to hit more greens in general and drop more putts. This course is hard from the rough.”
Guys like Stanger, Ofahengaue and many other Utah Open participants have some familiarity with the course since a lot of them have played on it frequently over the years. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easier, however.
“The course was really wet still, which is unusual because usually by this time in the day it’s dried out,” Stanger said. “The course was playing a little bit longer but they have some of the tees up, so you have some different shots than you are expecting. It’s a little awkward but it’s definitely still gettable.”
Stanger noted that his familiarity with Riverside Country Club has in some ways been an added challenge in the past, but credited his group for helping him put together a good round.
“I’ve played in the Open in the past and I’ve always played bad,” Stanger said. “I think it’s because I’ve put too much pressure on myself to play well. Out here I had a great pairing with a couple of friends — Brandon Kida and Preston Alder — so it felt like we were just playing another round of golf and having fun. It didn’t even feel like a tournament. That’s awesome for me and I felt like it really helped me.”
He explained that he loves the reunion aspect of the annual event.
“I’ve played in a bunch of state opens and tournaments but for some reason the Utah Open is just better than everything else,” Stanger said. “Everyone knows each other, so there is great camaraderie. It’s just fun. You don’t get that anywhere else.”
Ofahengaue may have only started playing golf in the last couple of years but said he loves the experience of competing with such a diverse group of professionals and amateurs at the Utah Open.
“It’s awesome,” Ofahengaue said. “I’m grateful for everyone who is here. It’s good competition that is very close. One stroke can mean a lot.”
The top local performance on the first day was turned in by Chris Moody — the head pro at Riverside — who got a hole-in-one on Hole No. 17 and finished at 5-under-par (tied for fourth).
Former BYU golfers Jordan Rodgers (5-under-par, tied for fourth) and Justin Keiley (4-under-par, tied for eighth) are also very much in the mix heading into Day 2.
The second day of the three-day tournament will get underway at 7:30 a.m. today at Riverside Country Club in Provo.