Jon Wright, Preston Richards reach Utah State Amateur tourney title match

Published: Friday, July 11 2014 8:30 p.m. MDT

OGDEN — Preston Richards is 24 years old and, although he's never won the Utah State Amateur men's golf championship, he has all the confidence in the world that now's definitely the right time for that to happen.

Jon Wright, meanwhile, already owns one State Amateur title and would like nothing better than to win another one before he turns 44 years old next month.

Now, nearly 20 years apart in age with a giant-sized gap in both their golf and life experiences — one of them a wily veteran who was a professional golfer for 10 years and has shown he knows how to win under intense pressure, while the other's a very capable young man oozing with ability and self-confidence — yes, something's got to give between them.

And it will Saturday when they square off for the coveted crown in the 116th annual Utah State Amateur tournament finale at the Ogden Golf and Country Club.

"It's awesome," Richards said after advancing the State Am title match for the first time in his relatively young golf life. "It's been a long week and I've really put it together, finally put everything together.

"I know I hit the ball as good or better than anybody out here the past seven years; it's just my putting that's finally clicked this week, and that's made all the difference.

"It's hard for me to describe it. I haven't been here before. But I've qualified for the State Am every year I've tried, made it to match play just once — last year — and got past the first round before Jon Wright got me in the second round. So it'll be a little payback (Saturday). I think I'll take this one," he said.

Saturday's 36-hole tourney title match tees off at 7:30 a.m. at the OGCC layout, where Wright and Richards each won a pair of match-play matchups on Friday to reach the State Am final.

Richards, who sent Kurt Owen packing with a 4-and-3 victory in Friday morning's quarterfinals, moved into Saturday's finale by beating 17-year-old Kai Ruiz, 2-up, in their semifinal match Friday afternoon.

"I'm feeling good for (Saturday). It'll be a long day, but I'm used to 36 holes from college golf, so I'm ready for it," said Richards, a senior-to-be at Utah Valley University.

He had a large group of family and friends following him around the Ogden Country Club course, cheering him on and offering words of encouragement, and he would like nothing better than to reward their support with a victory.

"I love 'em all so much and it's nice of them to drive up here, more than an hour for all of 'em," Richards said. "My wife's been there with me, too, which is always the most important thing, so I'm gonna win it (Saturday) for all of them, really."

Of course, standing in his way is the imposing presence of Wright, who won the 2012 State Amateur title on his home course, the Salt Lake Country Club, and would like nothing better than to add another much-coveted prize to his trophy case — but insists that's not necessary to validate his victory from two years ago.

"I don't really take too much stock in what people say," said Wright, a commercial real estate agent who lives in Sandy. "So if people want to diminish my win because it was on my home course, then that's fine. It doesn't bother me.

"I love that win and it's the biggest win of my life and it's awesome, and I have a nice trophy in my house. So if that's the talk then fine.

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