Winning Wednesday’s first round of match play in a 19th-hole sudden-death playoff at the 2018 Utah State Amateur Championship gave Jacob Wagstaff, 24, of Heber City, an intense and exhausting experience — but it also gave his family an extra reason to celebrate.
His victory will result in a little family reunion.
“My older brother Brandon Wagstaff (who is five years older and played at Dixie State) is going to fly in tonight from New York so he can be my caddie tomorrow,” Jacob said Wednesday afternoon.
It was a nice reward for the former Wasatch golfer and current UVU student, who faced not just opponent Reed Nielsen of Layton but also the challenge of a hot day at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington.
“It was pretty stressful,” Jacob said. “He went up by two holes after three, but I won the next two holes to even things up. The rest of the day neither of us led by more than one hole, so it was a close match.”
The match took an unusual twist on Hole No. 12.
After missing a putt, Nielsen hit his putter on the ground. While that isn’t exactly unusual, it turned out to impact the rest of the round.
“I didn’t know he had bent his putter,” Jacob said. “On No. 13, he called a rules official over and told him what had happened. The official said that since he bent it out of anger (changing the shape of the club), he couldn’t use it for the rest of the round.”
Golfers have a reputation for being a little loose with the truth when it comes to number of strokes and things like that but Jacob lauded Nielsen’s integrity.
“He could’ve kept putting with it for the rest of the round and I wouldn’t have known,” Jacob said.
Instead, Nielsen used his wedge to putt for his final six holes — and actually made up a hole when Jacob mis-hit a shot on No. 16.
After neither player could gain an edge on either No. 17 or No. 18, the match went to one of only two sudden-death playoffs out of the 32 matches.
“It was really stressful,” Jacob said.
Both Jacob and Nielsen hit good drives but Jacob was a little further out.
“I had an advantage hitting first on that second shot,” he said. “I hit it and it was just short of the green, but that put the pressure on him and he hit it into the water.”
Nielsen was forced to take a drop and then chipped onto the green, leaving him with a putt for par. Jacob knew that a two-putt would secure the win — but he faced a very long putt from the front fringe to the back of the green.
“The pin was 27 yards from the front, so it was an 80-foot putt,” Jacob said. “But it didn’t break a whole lot.”
He hit a gorgeous putt that settled within a foot of the hole. Nielsen conceded the hole and the match, giving Jacob a spot in the round of 32 for the second time in his career (he also was in the round of 32 at Soldier Hollow in 2013).
“Yesterday I barely made it into match play as I finished a 2-over-par, just one stroke away from being in the playoff,” Jacob said. “My parents kept asking me if I was having fun, but it’s the most fun when you win and it’s over. But you live for being in these situations.”
Jacob was one of nine golfers with Utah Valley ties who advanced to the round of 32 (see info box).
Jacob — with his brother Brandon at his side — will face Preston Summerhays, 15, of Scottsdale, Arizona, in the round of 32 match starting at 9:20 a.m. Thursday at Oakridge Country Club. The winner will play in the round of 16 that afternoon.