Stellar putting lifts BYU's Cole Ogden to Utah State Amateur golf championship
MIDWAY — Winning medalist honors at the Utah State Amateur used to be the kiss of death. That’s because the medalist has rarely gone on to win the match play portion of the tournament. It's only happened a handful of times over the past 50 years.
That didn’t mean anything to Cole Ogden, the 21-year-old BYU junior. This was his week — from the time he won medalist honors on Tuesday to his 6 and 4 triumph over 2011 champion Jeff Evans in the final Saturday at Soldier Hollow Golf Course.
Ogden had an all-around solid week of golf, but if there was one thing he could point to that was key to his State Am championship, it was his accurate putting.
“My putting was the best part of my game the whole week,’’ Ogden said.
Evans couldn’t have agreed more.
“He putted great all day, no question about it,’’ he said. “It’s hard to beat someone when they’re making everything.’’
Ogden didn’t quite make everything, but he made key putts to swing the momentum in his favor early in the match and made enough to keep his lead in the afternoon when Evans was trying to get back into the match.
Without his solid putting, Ogden might have been buried early by Evans after he went 3 down after just five holes of the 36-hole scheduled match. But he jump-started his round with a couple of long putts.
First he drained a 45-foot birdie putt at No. 6 and then had an unusual finish to a 25-foot par save at No. 7, with the ball falling in from the front after circling the hole.
“That was unreal. I’ve never seen a ball do that before,’’ he said. “It made a 360 around the hole, sat there on the lip and then fell in.’’
That gave Ogden some momentum, and even though he was still 2 down, he said, "It just kind of steamrolled from there.’’
Ogden won holes 9, 10 and 11 to grab his first lead of the day. Bogeys at 15 and 17 dropped him back, and the two golfers went into lunch all square.
In the afternoon, Ogden won the 20th and 21st holes with birdies to go 2 up and the 23rd hole when Evans had some bunker trouble. At hole 9 (27th hole), Ogden rolled in a 10-foot birdie to go 4 up.
At the par-4 10th, Evans hit the shot of the day, a knockdown wedge from 70 yards that ended up hanging on the lip for a birdie to cut Ogden's lead back to three. However, an errant shot by Evans at the par-5 12th opened the door for Ogden to win the hole with a 5-foot birdie.
A 10-foot birdie putt at the 31st hole made the match “dormie,” and Ogden closed it out at the next hole, hitting within 8 feet and clinching the match when Evans missed his 10-footer.
“I didn’t know where it was going for the second 18,’’ said Evans, who missed fairways to both the left and right. “I just started thinking about it too much. It happens in golf sometimes and unfortunately I had a few holes where I didn’t hit where I wanted. I just tried to hang in there as long as I could.’’
The 23-year-old Evans is working on his MBA and has a 1-year-old son. He said he hadn’t worked on his golf game much between last September and April.
“Just to get here (to the finals) was great,’’ he said.
Ogden, the younger brother of two-time Utah Open champion Clay Ogden, has had to try to live up to his brother’s name, but now he owns something his brother never had — a State Amateur trophy.
“This is the biggest tournament in Utah and it’s always been a dream to win the State Am,’’ he said.
Last fall he was playing what he called “the worst golf of my life” and didn’t play in any BYU tournaments. His coach, Bruce Brockbank, suggested he redshirt, something Ogden never thought he’d do, but he says it was a good decision and he has been able to get his game straightened out with hard work and a few tweaks to his swing.
After winning medalist honors with scores of 71 and 67, Ogden faced elimination in his very first match against 51-year-old Craig Wilson before winning on the 19th hole. He called that his “toughest match of the week,” and he then got going with a 2 and 1 win over Jonathan Oettli and a 5 and 4 victory over 16-year-old Kai Ruiz. In Friday’s quarterfinals he outlasted Jeff Powars and beat Jake Holt 2 up with an amazing tee shot on the par-4 18th hole that ended up 2 feet away for eagle.
So far this year, Ogden has won four local tournaments, missed making the U.S. Open by just one shot, and led the Southwest Amateur in Phoenix after 36 holes.
He hopes to play in the Pacific Coast Amateur next month and will try to qualify for the U.S. Amateur before playing in the Utah Open, where he hopes to be low amateur.
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