Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
MIDWAY — When the 115th-consecutive edition of the Utah State Amateur golf tournament is played this week at Soldier Hollow Golf Course, it will have a new look.
Not Soldier Hollow, which has played host to three State Ams over the past seven years, or the fact that the field is almost double its usual size. That has been the case at past tournaments at Soldier Hollow, which is able to use two 18-hole courses.
However, this year the field for match play has doubled, meaning that for the first time, 64 golfers will get a chance to compete in the individual matches that determine the eventual champion.
As a result, the tournament has been extended and will now begin on Monday instead of its traditional Wednesday start. Also, the 36-hole two-man final will be held on Saturday rather than Sunday.
A field of 288 golfers will tee off on both the gold and silver courses Monday and the players will switch courses for their second day of play. The low 64 begin match play Wednesday with the round of 32 and 16 on Thursday. The quarterfinals and semifinals will be played Friday, with the finals set for Saturday at 8 a.m.
According to John Taylor, the Utah Golf Association president, the change has been a long time coming.
“We’ve discussed this over a number of years,’’ he said. “Some people were concerned about the depth of field. But we have so many great players now, especially when you start looking at those that are just past No. 32. It’s just kind of a coin flip who’s going to make it.’’
With 288 players in the field, 256 would go home early under the old format, but the new format gives more players a chance to experience match play.
“It’s a real accomplishment to make match play,’’ said Taylor, who did it himself four times in his younger days. “For most people who play in the qualifying, their whole goal is to make match play. It’s not necessarily to win the State Am but to make match play. That’s a goal in itself.’’
UGA executive director Bill Walker noted that the new format mirrors many big amateur events around the country, including the U.S. Amateur Public Links tournament, which was played last summer at Soldier Hollow. In that tournament, the No. 64 seed, Alex Edfort, knocked off No. 1 seed James Erkenbeck in the first round.
The No. 1 seed each year is the defending champion and in 2013 that honor goes to Jon Wright, who won the State Am last year at his home course, the Salt Lake Country Club. The 42-year-old Wright will tee off Monday at 12:43 p.m. with the two previous State Am champions Jeff Evans (2011) and Joe Parkinson (2010).
For Parkinson it will be his first State Am since winning at Alpine as an 18-year-old. He left later that summer on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and he’s been playing for the BYU golf team this past year.
Among the other former champions in the field are Dan Horner, Clark Rustand, Darrin Overson, Todd Barker and Steve Borget. Last year’s runner-up, Christian Jensen, and 2011 runner-up Stratton Schulz are in the field along with college golfers such as Devon Purser, Cole Ogden, Mike Jurca, Brandon Kida, Casey Halliday and Gentry Hicks.
Perhaps the state’s best amateur, 2009 State Am champion Zac Blair, will not be playing this week as he has accepted an invitation to play in the Buy.com Tour’s Utah Championship at Willow Creek CC Thursday through Sunday. Blair made it to last year’s State Am semifinals before losing to eventual champion Wright.
Utah State Amateur
Monday Morning Pairings
Gold Course No. 1 Tee
7:15 a.m.- Jacob Holt, Devon Purser, Dan Horner
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