HIGHLAND — Playing in his first Utah State Amateur, 17-year-old Colton Tanner had no idea who he was up against in the first round of match play Wednesday at Alpine Country Club, seeing how he only moved to Utah five months ago.
When told later his opponent, Patrick Fishburn, happened to be the hottest amateur in the state, with four victories in the last six weeks, Tanner said, "I didnt know that."
Perhaps his ignorance was an advantage as Tanner surprised the BYU junior at the start with four birdies on the first five holes. That prompted Fishburn to later say, "I thought he was going to shoot in the 20s on the front nine."
Tanner was 2 up at the turn and looked to be on his way to one of the biggest State Am upsets in years. However, Fishburn steadied himself, while Tanner cooled off and Fishburn advanced to the second round with a 3 and 2 victory.
"It was a tough match — he's a really solid player," said Fishburn, a 23-year-old from Ogden. "It shows you how deep this field is and there's no such thing as an easy match. You have to really grind to win every match."
Tanner said he has lived in "about 10 different places" and most recently lived in Connecticut before moving with his family to Park City. He attends the International Junior Golf Academy in South Carolina, where he will be a senior this fall.
He threatened to put Fishburn away early with those early birdies and he just missed a couple more at holes 8 and 9 from inside 10 feet. But Fishburn won 11, 12 and 13 to go 1 up and then won No. 15 when Tanner three-putted from 30 feet. The match ended at the par-3 16th when Tanner found a bunker off the tee and couldn't get up and down.
"I had a couple of bad shots on the back nine and that led to some losses," said Tanner. "He picked it up on the back nine and I kind of started losing touch on my putting on the back nine. It was a good day though."
Fishburn was one of 32 winners on the opening day of match play that saw a few upsets, although most of the top players advanced.
Among the upset victims were former State Amateur champion Darrin Overson, who made it to last year's finals at Soldier Hollow, 2014 State Am runner-up Preston Richards, and two-time winner Jon Wright.
Overson, who came in as the No. 7 seed, lost to 18-year-old Ryan Barber, who is the Alpine CC junior champion and a member of the Lone Peak High School 5A state champion golf team. Richards, the No. 4 seed, was knocked off by Draper's Aaron Smith, who had to survive a 13-player-for-5-spots playoff Tuesday evening.
Wright's 1 up loss to Steven Croft was just a mild upset as Croft has been a regular on the University of Utah golf team for the past two years. Wright had won the State Amateur titles in 2012 and 2014 and was hoping to keep his every-other-year streak alive, but made too many mistakes coming down the stretch.
Wright had a 2-up lead with five holes left, but lost three holes coming in thanks to a couple of errant drives.
"I just didn't execute down the stretch and he did," said Wright. "But I don't mind losing to a Ute."
"We didn't have our best stuff at all," said Croft. "I just gutted it out."
One of the more interesting matches featured a pair of young golfers from Arizona between 16-year-old Davis Evans of Phoenix and 13-year-old Preston Summerhays of Scottsdale. Evans, who has family in Utah, has already committed to play for Arizona State, while Summerhays is the son of former Utah phenom Boyd Summerhays, who also played in the State Amateur when he was 13, 24 years ago. Evans jumped out to an early lead and won 5 and 4.
Medalist Carson Lundell had little trouble with senior golfer Brett Sampson, jumping out to a 5-up lead at the turn and cruising to a 7 and 6 victory.
Another top senior golfer, Patrick Murphy, was three down to University of Utah golfer Gentry Hicks, but tied the match and won on the 20th hole. Another 20-hole match saw BYU golfer C.J. Lee defeat former BYU golfer Clay Bingham.
Golfers will play two matches Thursday with the round of 32 in the morning and round of 16 in the afternoon. By Friday, just eight golfers will be left for the quarterfinals and by Saturday the two surviving golfers will be left for a 36-hole final.
Among the top matches to watch Thursday are Lundell against 56-year-old former State Am champion Steve Borget, ex-University of Utah golfer Brandon Kida against former State Am champ Dan Horner and Ute golfer Jose Pelayo against BYU's Lee.
UTAH STATE AMATEUR
Alpine Country Club
First-round matches Wednesday
( ) indicates seeding
Carson Lundell (1) def. Brett Sampson (64), 7 and 6
Steve Borget (32) def. Rand Sargent (33), 1 up
Patrick Murphy (16) vs. Gentry Hicks (49), 20 holes
Kyler Dearden (48) def. Bradley Collet (17), 2 and 1
Ben Jorgensen (8) def. Clint Christiansen (57), 2 and 1
Cameron Crawford (25) def. Andrew Crockett (40), 8 and 7
Brady Stanger (9) def. Spencer Lillywhite (56), 6 and 4
Ariel Elftman-Hanson (24) def. Darrin Railsback (41), 6 and 5
Aaron Smith (61) def. Preston Richards (4), 3 and 1
John Owen (29) vs. Charlie Duensing (36), 3 and 2
Brandon Kida (13) def. Randy Hadfield (52), 3 and 2
Dan Horner (20) def. Tommy Johnson (45), 4 and 2
Clark Rustand (5) def. Ryder Velasquez (60), 5 and 3
Reed Nielsen (37) def. Glen Spencer (28), 4 and 3
Mitchell Schow (12) def. Joshua Rooker (53), 3 and 2
Zach Jones (44) def. Jason Hargett (21), 2 and 1
Jose Pelayo (2) def. Dalton Stanger (63), 2 and 1
C.J. Lee (31) def. Clay Bingham (34), 20 holes
Alex Stulce (15) def. Braydon Swapp (50), 2 up
Dana Nelson (18) def. Robert Mitchell (47), 4 and 3
Ryan Barber (58) def. Darrin Overson (7), 3 and 2
Tyson Tanner (26) def. Ryan Budge (39), 3 and 2
Alec Bone (10) def. Casey Halliday (55), 1 up
Davis Evans (42) def. Preston Summerhays (23), 5 and 4
Patrick Fishburn (3) def. Colton Tanner (62), 3 and 2
Kurt Owen (30) def. Austin Jaramillo (35), 5 and 4
Steven Croft (14) def. Jon Wright (51), 1 up
Tommy Forsman (19) def. Brigham Gibbs (46), 2 up
Carl Jensen (6) def. Cody Bassett (59), 3 and 1
Chris Cole (27) def. Brennan Coburn (38), 2 and 1
Kai Ruiz (54) def. Devery Stewart (11), 8 and 7
Ryam Brimley (43) def. Kenny You (22), 2 and 1