HURRICANE — Can Zac Blair three-peat as Utah's golfer of the year in 2012?
The BYU star is on his way after his weekend win in the 36-hole Coral Canyon Amateur, the first major Utah Golf Association (UGA) event of the year.
Blair fired a 3-under par 141 (70-71) to win the title by three strokes over Christian Jensen (and four shots better than Jared Overton) over the weekend.
"I didn't do anything special, just played consistent and hit the ball well," Blair told me on Sunday night as he drove back to Provo to resume classes.
Blair's win kicks off a continuation of a most remarkable year in 2011.
To highlight just how special it was last year, let me take you back to the kind of play that made his game so consistent.
It was the No. 9 hole in the finals of match play at the Pacific Northwest Amateur at Tetherow Golf Club in Bend, Ore., last summer. It was Blair against Tyler Raber of El Mercero, Calif., and Blair had just hit his tee shot on the tricky par 5 into the weeds that line the fairway.
Many a player would press and melt down at that point in a match with that kind of mistake. Not this kid from Ogden.
Blair chipped out of the weeds, but his ball ended up in a bunker, and he had to chip out once more to get it on the fairway. He then holed his approach shot from 165 yards for a birdie to tie Raber.
Blair went on to win the prestigious tournament with a 5 and 4 score. That shot may have been the best stroke of the year for Blair, who carded an ace on No. 4 at Wolf Creek in his victory in the UGA's Tournament of Champions this past fall.
The UGA named Blair, a junior at BYU this year, its "Player of the Year" for the second-straight season for his dominance as Utah's top amateur player in 2011.
Nationally in 2011, Blair finished second in the Sahalee Amateur in July in Sammamish, Wash., after failing to get up and down on the final hole. He finished behind Chris Williams of Moscow, Idaho. In June, Blair tied for first at the prestigious Sunnehanna Amateur at Johnstown, Pa., and lost in a four-hole playoff to Nathan Smith of Pittsburgh.
In Utah during the 2011 season, Blair won the weather-shortened Spanish Oaks Open, the St. George Amateur and finished second in the Coral Canyon and Sun River amateurs. He won the Cache Valley Amateur in Logan, repeated as champion of the Glen Eagle Amateur but missed defending his title as Utah State Amateur Champion at Soldier Hollow due to his national schedule.
"I got fortunate to get in a couple and play well and win a few," he said.
Blair is the son of Ogden's legendary Jimmy Blair, who still competes nationally as a professional after an All-American college career at BYU.
This past September, Zac Blair won medalist honors at the William Tucker Invitational in Albuquerque by four shots, a sterling kickoff to his college season.
That caught the attention of many, including Hall of Famer and NBC golf analyst Johnny Miller, who singled out Blair while doing a clinic during Cougar Day at Riverside Country Club in Provo in October.
Miller told the gallery that day during the clinic how much he respected Blair. I caught up with the NBC analyst an hour later and asked him to comment further.
"Zac is a special player, no doubt about it," said Miller. "He has a decent chance to be the best player to come out of the state of Utah, and he should be on tour someday. His dad, Jimmy, has basically given him all his time, talent and efforts into making him a super player.
"He's won a lot of tournaments, has a basic simple swing," said Miller, who pointed out Blair's size, 5-foot-7 and 130 pounds, works in his favor. "Smaller guys have the ability to move through the ball quicker than a taller guy. He has a compact swing that works."
Miller said Blair's confidence and attitude stands out. "He is a true superstar in the making. He hits it a good distance for his size. I don't know if being so small will hold him back, but I don't think so. He hits the ball far enough to be a great player."
Miller said Blair's father, Jimmy, knows enough to "teach him who not to pay attention to and who to ignore, somebody who'll try and change his swing, somebody like me. That's important. He is the real deal."
His college coach, BYU's Bruce Brockbank, said Blair hadn't slept in his own bed more than twice in a row most of the summer and competed at a high level, shaping his game.
It was as if something clicked and he felt he belonged.
"He left in May playing pretty good at the NCAAs, then he just elevated his game. He really stepped it up," Brockbank said. "He's on his way to competing with anyone in the country."
Now, after Sunday's win in the Coral Canyon Amateur, he's back on track.
This weekend he'll return down south to defend his title in the St. George Amateur.
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