"There comes a point when you're just not young enough to compete, so it's nice to get two [titles]. Now, I just need to get a couple more." —Jon Wright
OGDEN — Jon Wright won the opening hole of the final match in the 116th Utah State Amateur and never looked back. The 43-year-old commercial real estate agent from Sandy added his second Utah State Amateur title in three years on Saturday, beating Preston Richards 3-and-2 in the 36-hole final at Ogden Golf and Country Club.
Although Wright never trailed a single hole in the match, it was a tough battle with the 24-year-old Richards, who kept it within striking distance all day. Wright jumped out to a 1-up lead with a par on the par-4 first and then extended that lead to 3-up after winning hole Nos. 4 and 8 also with pars.
Wright's steady 1-under play over the first nine holes gave him a 3-up lead, which is where it stayed until a three-putt bogey on No. 11 (his first of the day) put the match at 2 up. The match looked like it might be ending early when Wright birdied the 16th hole to go 4-up, but sure enough, things got real interesting after that.
Wright, who had a 4-up lead after the 17th hole, lost three consecutive holes over the next hour-and-a-half to have his lead drastically cut.
On the final hole of the morning 18, he hit his tee shot on the par-3 right of the green down a steep hill to take bogey and have his lead cut to 3 up. Then when the players came out after lunch, the former University of Utah golfer lost the opening hole with a bogey and then saw Richards roll in a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-3 second to cut his once 4-up lead to 1-up.
"I got off to an awful start in this afternoon round, but I wasn't too worried about it because we had a lot of holes left to play," Wright said.
With new life in him, Richards' confidence was returning to the form that he showed earlier throughout the week, and he felt good about his chances of still winning the match.
"I felt like my swing was coming back [at that point]," said Richards. "I was very confident. I never felt like I wasn't going to win."
However, Wright got things back in order a few holes later, sinking a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-4 fourth and a two-putt birdie on the par-5 sixth to get the match to 3-up. From there, the closest Richards got was cutting Wright's lead to 2-up on the 15th hole when the rising UVU senior got up-and-down for par, while Wright failed to do so.
Then on the 16th hole, the match came to an abrupt ending when Richards hit a wrong ball out of the rough, which is a loss of hole penalty, according to the rules of Golf. With that, the players shook hands 150 yards away from the 16th green and the table was set up just off of the fairway for the awards ceremony.
It was an odd way for the match to end and something neither player was happy to see happen.
"The ball back there was buried and you could just see the white of it and that's the one the officials pointed me to," said Richards. "They made a mistake, I made a mistake, I walked up 50 yards further and saw my ball with markings on it."
Said Wright, "It's a stupid way to end a tournament, but I feel bad for him because I know he wanted to keep battling. It's just one of those things."
For Wright, this win means a lot to him as he joins some elite company as only a handful of golfers have won multiple Utah State Amateur championships, with the last player to do so being current PGA Tour professional Daniel Summerhays in 2000 and 2001.
"I'm just in awe of players like George Von Elm and players of the past," said Wright.
As far as winning another one, Wright knows that it will be a difficult task as he's getting up there in age and can feel his body breaking down, but won't stop competing anytime soon.
"There comes a point when you're just not young enough to compete, so it's nice to get two [titles]," said Wright. "Now, I just need to get a couple more."