MIDWAY In the 110-year history of the Utah Men's State Amateur golf tournament, there've probably never been so many players happy about not having to be in a playoff or so many disappointed about not getting to be in a playoff.
As scores were posted late Thursday at Soldier Hollow for the final round of medal play, which determined the 31 spots available for the weekend's match-play portion of the tournament, about 2 dozen golfers on the cut line of even-par 144 were biting their nails. Those at 144 didn't want a playoff, while the 13 at 145 were also on the edge of their seats hoping to at least get to playoff for one or two final spots.
But when all the scores were posted, there were exactly 31 players at 144 or better, sending 10 players home relieved and 13 home a little heartbroken.
There was also one other key playoff avoidance that determined the tournament's medalist winner. Michael McRae and Devin Daniels finished tied for first at 8-under-par 136, and Utah Golf Association officials were prepping for a playoff when they learned that Daniels had left the course. The Utah State senior said he thought there was not going to be a playoff.
"I'm disappointed, because I would have been there for a playoff in a heartbeat," Daniels said later by telephone. "But it's my fault. I shouldn't have left the course. I should have made sure that I talked to the right people and got the correct information."
The medalist title is McRae's third straight kind of. When he fired two record scores two years ago at Soldier Hollow, he finished eight strokes ahead of the field. But because he was the defending champion and not vying for a match-play spot, he was not eligible for the honor. Last year, though, he won medalist honors at Thanksgiving Point.
To win medalist this time, McRae needed a torrid finish. Through seven holes he was even-par for the day and 2-under for the tournament. But he made birdie on six of his final 11 holes on the Silver Course to catch Daniels, who shot a Gold Course-record 64 on Wednesday and an even-par 72 Thursday on the Silver.
"Honestly, that was one of the best ball-striking rounds I've ever had," McRae said. "I had 17 very good looks at birdie out there today."
After winning the State Amateur crown in 2005, McRae lost in the quarterfinals in 2006 and in the second round last year. To be successful this weekend, the recent St. Mary's College graduate said he needs to focus more on the golf course than his opponent. "It's hard to do, though," he said. "When you're out there playing one guy, it's easy to get caught up in just playing that guy instead of playing the golf course. For me, the personal challenge is to go out there and play like I do in stroke play."
Finishing third at 137 were Andrew Barton and Zach Blair. Tied for fifth at 139 were Casey Fowles, Nathan Page and Robbie Fillmore. Christian Jensen and O.J. Ainsworth finished at 140. Three 15-year-olds were among those advancing to match play Park City's Taylor Haws, Farr West's Patrick Fishburn and Layton's Brandon Kida. The top first-round matches will be Clay Bingham versus Carl Jensen and Nick Killpack versus Andrew Barton. Steve Poulson, the oldest in the field at age 51, has a first-round match with Fishburn, one of the youngest. Defending champion Nick Nelson has a first-round match with Jason Hargett.Others who advanced to match play are Jason Labrum, Michael Curtis, Jeff Jolley, Lance Richards, Toph Peterson, Steve Borget, John Owen, Jeff Holmes, Darrin Overson, Kyle Chappell, Dan Horner, Tyler Labrum, Brady Stanger and Corbin Gale.
State Am leaderboard
Michael McRae ... 136
Devin Daniels ... 136
Andrew Barton ... 137