Ravell Call, Deseret News
Former Juan Diego golfer Nick Smart took the opening round lead at the Utah State Amateur with a 68 on Monday.
I just wanted to shoot even par and some putts went in — I made a lot of putts today. —UVU golfer Nick Smart

MIDWAY — With double the number of spots available for the match play portion of the Utah State Amateur this year, there is a different dynamic for the medal play part of the tournament, which began Monday at Soldier Hollow Golf Course.

In the past, a high number — mid-70s or higher — in the first round would usually doom a golfer’s chances of making the final 32 for match play, making his second round almost meaningless. But now that the field has been expanded to 64, golfers can get by with a mediocre-to-poor first-day score and still have a chance to make it to match play with a decent second-day score.

The top score Monday was a 4-under-par 68 by UVU golfer Nick Smart, followed by four 69s by college golfers Casey Halliday, Cody Wass and Connor Van Gilder and 41-year-old Jeff Jolley.

Seven golfers, including 59-year-old former champion Todd Barker and last year’s runner-up, Christian Jensen, shot 70 and another six golfers broke par with 71s. Sixteen golfers shot even-par 72.

But the main goal for the 288 golfers competing on the Gold and Silver Courses Monday and Tuesday is to make it to Wednesday's match play, where a score in the neighborhood of 148 by the end of Tuesday’s play will be necessary. That’s based on the fact that 58 golfers shot scores of 74 or better Monday.

The average cut at the three previous State Ams at Soldier Hollow was 145, so a cut of around 148 makes sense. That means the 20 players who shot 78 Monday have a chance to make match play with a second-round score of 70.

The weather was picture-perfect most of the opening day except for a brief windstorm that hit the golf course in the mid-afternoon, causing some havoc for some golfers.

Defending champion Jon Wright and 2010 champion Joe Parkinson were on the 220-yard par-3 15th hole, hitting directly into the strong wind. However, neither player could come close to clearing the lake in front of the green with their tee shots and both finished with triple bogeys.

For Wright it didn’t matter, since as the defending champion he is the automatic No. 1 seed for Wednesday’s match play. He finished with a 73, despite the triple. Parkinson, who was 5-under at one point, finished with a 70.

Smart, who was a freshman at Utah Valley after competing for Juan Diego Catholic High School, started off well on the Silver Course with birdies on the first two holes before bogeying the par-5 No. 3 hole. He picked up a birdie at No. 9 to turn at 34 and added birdies at 11 and 18 on the back for another 34.

“I just wanted to shoot even par and some putts went in — I made a lot of putts today,’’ he said. “I wasn’t trying to push it; just hit it in the middle of the fairway.’’

Van Gilder, who will be playing at Dixie State next year, was 2-over par after eight holes on the Gold Course when he suddenly caught fire and birdied six of the next seven holes, including five in a row from 11 to 15. Only a bogey at the final hole kept him out of a share of the lead.

STATE AM NOTES: The Gold Course, where Match Play will be held, was slightly tougher Monday with an average score of 79.0 compared to 77.9 for the Silver. ... The hardest hole was the par-3 15th on the Silver with an average score of 3.9. The toughest on the Silver was the par-4 18th at 4.7. ... The most common score was 79, with 33 players hitting that number. Six players shot higher than 90.

State Am scores

at Soldier Hollow GC

(S - Silver Course; G - Gold Course)

First round

68 Nick Smart (G)

69 Casey Halliday (S), Jeff Jolley (G), Connor Van Gilder (G), Cody Wass (S)

70 David Cunningham (S), Christian Jensen (G), Todd Barker (G), Joe Parkinson (S), Stratton Schulz (G), Kenny You (S), Jordan Rodgers (S)

71 Seokwon Jeon (S), Greg Wojtkun (S), JT Timmons (G), Cole Ogden (S), Tommy Higham (G), Jordan Hammer (G)

72 Andrew Cottle (S), Conner Jones (S), Jacob Holt (G), Clark Jones (S), Dexter Edwards (S), Jeff Evans (S) Jacob Wagstaff (S), Joe Webber (S), Devon Purser (G), Ryan Brimley (G), Kai Ruiz (S), Matthew Bushman (G), Reed Nielsen (G), Dave Poggi (G), Jonathan Oettli (S), Kelton Hirsch (S)

73 Kalin Peterson (G), Charlie Duensing (S), Steven Croft (G), Brett Sampson (S), Steve Poulson (S), Kirk Siddens (S), Jon Wright (S), Hayden Christensen (G), Jordan Curtis (G), Kris Thomson (G)