OGDEN — Just three years after being played here, the Utah State Amateur golf tournament is back at the Ogden Golf and Country Club for the 119th edition of the longest continuous golf tournament in the world.
The annual tournament begins Monday morning with 288 players vying for the title at Ogden Golf and Country Club and Hubbard Golf Course down the road at Hill Air Force Base. After two days of stroke play at two courses, the field will be whittled to 64 golfers, who will compete in match play at Ogden starting Wednesday until two golfers are left for a 36-hole final on Saturday.
The obvious favorite is defending champion Patrick Fishburn, who grew up playing the Ogden golf course and dominated last year’s tournament at Alpine Country Club. The long-hitting Fishburn completed a successful junior season for the BYU golf team.
Two of Fishburn’s top rivals this week will be a pair of his former teammates, CJ Lee and Preston Alder. Lee, who will be a senior for the Cougars this fall, ranks No. 1 among the state’s amateurs in Player Performance Rankings and won last month’s Salt Lake City Amateur, while Alder, who graduated in 2016, ranks No. 3 in PPR.
“I feel really comfortable on this golf course,” said Lee, who made it to the quarterfinals at Ogden in 2014. “What’s not to like here with the traditional tree-lined fairways and the greens, which are so good. I’ve been consistently getting better this year, but haven’t had my A-plus game yet."
Alder is a 26-year-old originally from Boise, who lives in Saratoga Springs. He came to BYU eight years ago, but after an LDS mission, he quit golfing for a couple of years, only to pick it up again and walk back on to the BYU team. He won the Art City Amateur at Hobble Creek two weeks ago.
Other top amateurs in the field include Jon Wright, a two-time champion, who won at Ogden in 2014, 2008 champion Dan Horner, who recently won the Utah Mid-Amateur title, Darrin Overson, the 1998 champion, who ranks fourth in the PPR, University of Utah golfer Mitchell Schow, Kurt Owen, the 2016 Mid-Amateur champion, Ryan Brimley, who tied for second at the Salt Lake City Am and ranks sixth in PPR, and Carl Jensen, who also tied for second at the Salt Lake City Am and is a former State Am runner-up.
Aaron Smith, who lost in last year’s finals to Fishburn, is back, along with 2014 runner-up Preston Richards and Kyler Dearden, who made last year’s semifinals.
Also, Naomi Soifua, an 18-year-old who will be a freshman for the BYU golf team this fall, is just the second woman to qualify for the tournament, joining Annie Thurman, who played in the tournament twice, most recently in 2005.
“We’re excited to be the host club again this year,” said Ogden Country Club head pro Bob Wallis. “It’s a good test of golf, and we’re known for our good greens. The course is in fantastic shape.”
Wallis said the keys to success at Ogden Country Club are hitting straight drives and staying away from the rough and trees and getting into proper position on the small greens, which mostly slope from back to front and will be fast this week.
“You’ve got to play for position and try to give yourself uphill putts,” he said.
STATE AM NOTES: This marks the ninth time that Ogden Golf and Country Club has hosted the State Amateur. One of the state’s top amateurs, Draper’s Rhett Rasmussen, is not competing because he is playing in the Trans-Miss Amateur in Kansas this week. Besides Fishburn, Wright, Horner and Overson, other former champions in the field include Nick Nelson, Mike McRae, Jason Wight, Jeremie Montgomery, Steve Borget and Mark Davis. The youngest player in the field is 14-year-old Jack Sargent, while 62-year-old Bill Probst is the oldest.