Nathan Lashley grabs 4-stroke lead at Utah Open golf tournament
SALT LAKE CITY — Nathan Lashley has enjoyed playing in the Siegfried and Jensen Utah Open golf tournament ever since 2009 when he came up from Arizona and won the tournament by coming from behind with a final-round 63.
After winning in 2009, Lashley nearly won the next year when he came up just short, finishing second by a shot to Nick Mason. The following year, he was in contention before finishing in a tie for 15th place. Last year when he had a back injury, he didn’t play in Utah.
This year, Lashley is back at it again, firing a 6-under 66 Saturday at Riverside Country Club to go with his first-day 65, which puts him atop the leaderboard, four shots ahead of first-day leader Zahkai Brown of Colorado and last year’s runner-up, Jesse Mueller of Arizona. Six golfers, including former PGA Tour regular Dean Wilson, who played at BYU, are five shots back.
Play was delayed by two hours Saturday morning because of a fierce overnight thunderstorm that left puddles on the Riverside layout. Six groups will have to finish their rounds Sunday morning before final-round play begins. Utah amateur Kurt Owen has the best score, at 8-under-par through 15 holes.
Lashley, who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, was pretty low-key in talking about his play so far this week and what he needs to do to win.
“I played pretty solid — I had three or four good really up-and-downs,’’ he said. “I need to go out and play my game (Sunday) — hit good shots, make some putts and see what happens.’’
Lashley, who grew up in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and played collegiate golf at the University of Arizona, has aspirations to play on the PGA or Web.com tours, but has succeeded in mini-tour events and state opens in the meantime.
He’s won the Waterloo Open twice, the Colorado Open and the Wyoming Open, in addition to the Utah Open. When he played well in this event previously, it was at Oakridge Country Club, but he had never seen Riverside until this week.
Brown started with a bogey and ended with a bogey and had three birdies in between. Mueller had four birdies on the day.
Joining Wilson at 136 are Riverside assistant Chris Moody, two-time Utah Open champion Clay Ogden, Houston pro Clint Barnes, Arizona’s Brian Vranesh and longtime Web.com regular B.J. Staten.
Wilson said he’s played the Riverside course “probably more than anyone around,’’ since he played for BYU for four years and worked in the Riverside pro shop for a few years.
“It feels fun to be back at Riverside and see my friends and everybody,’’ Wilson said. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to do something (Sunday).
Wilson is playing in the Utah Open for the first time since winning it in 1999 at South Mountain Golf Course. He was a regular on the PGA Tour for several years, but is in the “twilight of his career’’ at age 44 and plans to mostly play for fun now.
“I’m going to try and relax and enjoy my life and try to play in some tournaments here and there and just come and have fun and not put so much importance on it,’’ he said. “I’ve had enough of the travel — 21 years, traveling the world and sleeping in hotels — that’s enough for me. I still want to be involved in the game, I just don’t want to go after it 60 hours a week.''
Reigning State Amateur champion Jon Wright sank a wedge shot from 138 yards on the 18th hole and finished with a 67. That put Wright in a tie for 11th place at 137 as the low amateur. Cole Ogden, the 2013 State Am champ, is another stroke back at 138.
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