MIDWAY With the quality of golf played at Soldier Hollow golf course on Friday, it would be hard to give any of the remaining eight at the Utah Men's Amateur the label of favorite.
The first thought might be to give the edge to 1998 champion Darrin Overson, who had 11 birdies in 30 holes in winning his first two matches with relative ease. But at least three other players posted similar scores Friday, including a couple who lost.
"I know there are guys out here very capable of making seven or eight birdies in a round, so anything can still happen," said Overson, who first knocked out Kyle Chappell on Friday before eliminating medalist and former champion Michael McRae. The reinstated amateur won both matches 4 and 3.
"Once I got the lead, I tried to keep my foot on their throats," said Overson, who lost only one hole to Chappell and did not lose any holes to McRae.
Overson gets former Delta High and UNLV star Casey Fowles in today's first match, with Fowles getting past Toph Peterson and then O.J. Ainsworth on Friday, 3 and 2 and 3 and 1.
"If I go out and play the course instead of getting caught up in what he's doing, I think I'll be all right," Fowles said.
Then there's Carl Jensen, the Lehi accountant who has reached the final match once before. He had what most feel was the tournament's toughest draw, but he responded by first eliminating Clay Bingham 4 and 2 and then sending BYU's Nick Killpack home 3 and 2.
Jensen was 6-under in 15 holes in his second match Friday, and getting past a Cougar and a former Cougar gives the former Ute a lot of confidence heading into today's quarterfinal match with Dan Horner.
"I'm stunned, to be honest," Jensen said of his two quality wins. "Those guys are both great players."
Horner, a former Rutgers University golfer, can be as hot and cold as any golfer in the state. He was both on Friday but still slipped past Layton teen Brandon Kida 4 and 2 before disposing of close friend Jeff Jolley 2 and 1.
"It wasn't pretty," said Horner, who reaches the quarterfinals for the third time in the past four years. "I'm definitely going to have to play better on Saturday."
Jolley earned the right to face Horner by knocking off Ogden teen Zach Blair, who lost despite making seven birdies and no bogeys Friday morning.
Two other players advancing for a match today, who also tore it up on Friday, were Utah State's Devin Daniels and BYU's Robbie Fillmore. Daniels, after knocking off Michael Curtis 3 and 1 Friday morning, found himself in a dogfight in Round 2 with John Owen. In fact, Daniels shot 5-under on the front side and began the back nine all square. He finally edged Owen 1-up with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 16th.
"Those were some of the best matches I've ever had," Daniels said. "The only way I was winning a hole was to make a birdie."
Fillmore again played steady in a 2 and 1 victory over Lance Richards, and then took charge of his afternoon match by winning holes eight, nine and 10 to eliminate Tyler Labrum 4 and 3. He and Daniels face off as the last two college golfers remaining.
"I'm hitting a lot of fairways and a lot of greens and not making any mistakes," Fillmore said.
OK, so there are two longshots still alive. Former Dixie State golfer Christian Jensen is playing in only his second State Amateur, rolling past Corbin Gale 6 and 4 Friday morning before toppling Southern Utah's Nathan Page 1-up in the afternoon.
"I feel like I'm a good match-play player so I knew if I got this far I'd have as good of chance as anybody," he said.
Next up for him is youngster-eliminator Steve Poulson, the 51-year-old Bountiful computer programmer who used some wicked putting on Friday to send home 15-year-old Patrick Fishburn in 19 holes and then later knock off defending champion Nick Nelson 4 and 2.
Poulson rolled in an 80-foot birdie in sudden death to beat Fishburn, and drained another handful of bombs to deflate Nelson.
"I might not be able to hit it like these other guys, but I can putt with them," Poulson said.
But can the senior in the field keep it for another match or two or three?
"I'm playing with this new just-go-for-it mental attitude, so I'm going to take dead aim, right at it," he said.Following this morning's quarterfinal matches, four golfers will advance to the afternoon semifinals to decide which two will face off in Sunday's 36-hole final.
Steve Poulson vs. Christian Jensen
Dan Horner vs. Carl Jensen
Darrin Overson vs. Casey Fowles
Devin Daniels vs. Robbie Fillmore