Until Saturday morning, when he plunked down his entry fee and declared himself a professional, John Owen was one of the better amateur golfers in Utah. He wasn't the best amateur, as evidenced by his first-round ouster in the State Amateur a week earlier.
So it was more than a bit surprising that Owen was the guy carting home the giant check worth $5,000 along with a bronze trophy as the winner of the Simmons Group-City Parks Open in his first-ever professional tournament.The 25-year-old Owen fired an 8-under 64 Sunday at Bonneville Golf Course, which combined with his 69 the day before at Wingpointe, gave him a 133 total and a three-shot win over 1992 City Parks champ Roy Chris-ten-sen, Henry White and Nick Klassen.
Another shot back at 137 were Nike Tour player Steve Schnie-ter, 1995 City Parks champ Kury Reynolds and Jeff Green, who had to hitchhike to Bonneville to make his tee time after his car broke down near the Great Salt Lake on his way from Stans-bury Park. Jimmy Blair, Glen Spencer and Milan Swilor tied at 138
Ryan Job finished as the low amateur at 139, a shot better than Brock Padilla, Shaun Jepson and State Am runnerup Steve Brin-ton, who had led all golfers with his first-round 67.
So how did Owen go from losing in the first round of the State Am to beating the best professionals in the state a week later?
"It's a little different playing for $5,000 than $500 (the top amount of merchandise an amateur can play for)," he said. "I've been looking forward to this for a long time. I know I have the game - I just need to put it all together."
Owen, who lives in Sandy, said he has been targeting the City Parks Open all year and plans to pursue a professional playing career. He completed his eligibility this year at the University of Utah and said a victory at the Grand Canyon Invitational last year helped his confidence down the stretch Sunday.
Owen was right around the lead all day after shooting a 4-under-par 33 on the front nine as he battled Christensen, Klassen and Green, who started birdie-birdie-birdie despite his problems getting to the course.
The turning point for Owen came at the par-5 14th, where he hit a 4-iron to within 25 feet and sank the putt for an eagle. That moved him to 10-under for the tournament, ahead of Christensen, who fell back another stroke with a bogey at No. 15.
At that point, Owen knew he had a little breathing room, but he added a birdie for good measure at 17 with an 8-foot putt and then made a tough up-and-down par at the 18th hole from the hill behind the green.
"My putter was solid today and I just kept making birdies," said Owen. "Everything went well today. Surprisingly I wasn't as nervous as I thought I would be."