BYU's Parkinson on top at the Utah Open
Another 66 propelled the Former Utah State Amateur champion
FARMINGTON — Rarely does an amateur win the Utah Open golf tournament, but BYU sophomore Joe Parkinson put himself in great position to become one of the few with his second-straight 66 Saturday at Oakridge Country Club.
The 21-year-old Parkinson, who returned from an LDS mission last fall and played for the Cougar golf team this past year, used another sparkling round to grab a one-shot lead heading into Sunday's final round of the $115,000 tournament.
His two-round total of 132 puts him a shot ahead of Arizona pro Jesse Mueller, Colorado's Zahkai Brown and Salt Lake pro Zach Johnson, and two ahead of three golfers, including first-round co-leader Matt Baird of Provo.
Brown, a former Colorado State golfer who won the Colorado Open last month, had a chance to grab a share of the lead but lipped out a 12-foot birdie on the last hole. Johnson birdied the final hole to get to 11-under par.
For Parkinson, the key to his fine play has been his excellent putting, despite the less-than-ideal conditions of the Oakridge greens, which have had trouble surviving the hot summer.
"I haven't had any problem with the greens," Parkinson said. "I'm just putting really well. My speed is very good — no three-putts yet. I'm just ignoring that stuff and telling myself they're normal greens and the ball has been rolling really well for me."
In Saturday's round, Parkinson made three putts between 10 and 15 feet, and this was a day after sinking four straight putts in the 13- to 18-foot range on holes 1 through 4.
When he was 18, just before leaving on his mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Tampa, Fla., Parkinson won the Utah State Amateur and said he'd love to add a Utah Open title.
"It would mean a lot to win this," he said. "Before my mission my goal was to win the State Amateur, and after I accomplished that another goal I put down was to win the Utah Open and to try to win it before I turn pro."
Parkinson's mission president was Bruce Summerhays, who returned home in July and is playing this week (he missed the cut with scores of 72 and 77). Parkinson said he never got to play with Summerhays while on his mission, but played with him two weeks ago when Summerhays invited him for a practice round.
When asked who won, Parkinson paused for a few seconds before saying, "Yeah, I did. I shot 5 under."
Despite his fine first round, Parkinson was unhappy with some aspects of his swing, so he got some advice from Summerhays on the range Friday.
"I've been struggling with my swing a little bit and he helped me for five or 10 minutes yesterday," Parkinson said.
Mueller, a 30-year-old former Arizona State player, is playing in the Utah Open for the first time. He appeared to be running away from the field when he got to 13 under for the tournament through 12 holes, including an eagle-2 with a 100-yard chip-in at the par-4 seventh hole.
However, he admitted getting a little nervous down the stretch. Three missed putts from 3 feet dropped him back to 11-under par for the tourney.
Along with Baird at 134 are 2010 champion Nick Mason of Denver and Matt Montez of Sacramento.
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