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Transplanted Utahn B.J. Staten wins Utah Open in playoff

Published: Sunday, Aug. 24 2014 9:35 p.m. MDT

B.J. Staten hits the ball out of the rough. Staten won a three-hole playoff Sunday to win the Utah Open.

Fairways Media/Garrit Johnson

PROVO — B.J. Staten, a 36-year-old transplanted Utahn who plays golf both left- and right-handed, has been a regular on the Web.com Tour for much of the past decade. He's also played on the PGA Tour, where he's had a couple of top-10 finishes.

Yet Staten had perhaps his best day in golf Sunday when he came from behind to win the Siegfried and Jensen Utah Open at Riverside Country Club, beating former champion Nathan Lashley in a three-hole playoff.

“This is the most rewarding because of the stage I’m at in my career,” Staten said. “From a mental standpoint and a competitive standpoint, I will take a lot from this win."

Staten started the day five shots behind Lashley, but fired a final-round 64 to catch him, rolling in a 5-foot birdie putt at No. 18. The two went back to 18 in the playoff and tied twice with pars, before moving to the par-4 No. 10 hole.

There, Staten hit a “perfect” wedge from 144 yards to within 18 inches. When Lashley’s 50-foot putt just lipped out, Staten tapped in for the victory.

Las Vegas pro James Drew, the 2012 Utah Open champion, matched Staten’s final-round 64 and tied for third with Houston’s Chase Barnes, one shot back at 215.

Staten, who met his wife, Alisha, while playing in the 2010 Web.com Utah Championship and now lives in Cottonwood Heights, said this past year has been the toughest of his career. He lost his status on the Web.com Tour after making less than $34,000 last year and hasn’t played in a full tournament in 10 months. He has tried Monday qualifiers and worked for friends as a caddy on the PGA Tour.

“It was a very trying year,’’ he said.

Staten got into the tournament with help from the Utah Section PGA and took advantage. After rounds of 69 and 67, he played bogey-free golf, getting three birdies on the front nine, another at 10 and birdies at 13, 15, 16 and 18.

Lashley began the day at 13-under par with a four-shot lead over first-day leader Zahkai Brown and Barnes. Although he didn’t make a bogey, Lashley only managed three birdies, at holes 6, 10 and 11.

“I just didn’t make any putts today,’’ Lashley said.

He did make a 7-footer on the first playoff hole to stay alive and just missed on his 50-footer on the third playoff hole.

“I tried to give it a chance, but it lipped out,’’ he said.

Cole Ogden, who knows Riverside well from playing the course often as a BYU golfer the past three years, finished as the low amateur at 203 after firing a final-round 65. Steve Schneiter finished as the low senior golfer at 214. Riverside assistant Chris Moody was the low Utah Section pro with a 205 total, which put him in a tie with former BYU and PGA Tour player Dean Wilson.

Staten is unusual in that he plays golf left-handed, but putts right-handed. He said he’s ambidextrous, doing some things with his left side and others with his right. But he changed to right-handed putting for a good reason.

“I got the yips in 1999 putting left-handed,’’ he said. “If I wanted to keep playing golf I had to make a switch.’’

It’s served him well for most of 15 years and now he hopes the Utah Open win will be a catalyst for his career.

“I don’t know if it will sink in for a while,’’ he said. “For me, mentally it gives me stability to come out here and tell myself I can still play.’’

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