MIDWAY — As a surprise finalist at the 121st annual Utah Men’s State Amateur, Chase Lansford couldn’t have played much better Saturday.
The 24-year-old Texas native, who will be a senior on the Utah State golf team this fall, shot under par for 30 holes and felt he only had one bad hole in Saturday’s scheduled 36-hole final. The problem was, he just couldn’t keep up with 16-year-old Preston Summerhays, who put on a spectacular show with a barrage of birdies in winning his second straight State Am title with a decisive 7 and 6 victory at Soldier Hollow Golf Course.
Summerhays made 10 birdies on his opening 18 holes, which would have been good for a 64 (and a 29 on the back nine) in medal play when he raced to a 5-up lead. Then in the afternoon round, he added four more birdies and closed it out on the 30th hole of the match with a two-putt par at the par-3 No. 12 hole.
“The entire day I was thinking attack, attack, attack and just make as many birdies as possible and that’s what I did,” he said. “That was the mentality all day, just get birdies, birdies, birdies.”
Yes, yes, yes, that’s what Summerhays did, did, did in winning his 12th straight match in the State Amateur over the past two years.
It came in front of an appreciative gallery that didn’t include the usual large crowd of Summerhayses. It was limited to just Preston and his immediate family — his father Boyd, who caddied for him all week, his younger sister, Grace, who competed in match play earlier in the week and his mother and younger brother. The rest of the clan, including grandparents, Lynn and Ann, and assorted uncles, aunts and cousins, had left earlier in the day for a long-planned trip to Hawaii.
Lansford, who was trying to become the first Utah State golfer to win the State Am since Jason Wight in 1995, described what he experienced Saturday as a “buzzsaw” on a warm, cloudy day on the well-manicured Gold Course at Soldier Hollow.
“I can’t say I lost, he truly just beat me,” Lansford said. “There’s not much you can do — what did he make, 14 birdies on 30 holes? He really played an amazing round of golf, especially on that back nine this morning when he shot seven-under 29 with no bogeys.”
In most of his six winning matches, Summerhays got off to quick leads and forced his opponents to play catch-up. That happened again Saturday when he birdied three of the first four holes to take a quick 3-up lead.
However, Lansford battled back with a birdie at six and won holes eight and nine when Summerhays made a couple of rare bogeys. Then came the turning point of the match when Summerhays responded with three straight birdies.
“After the ninth, when I beat him on the hole when he missed that short putt, I really felt like the momentum had switched in my favor,” Lansford said. “But then he rattled off three birdies in a row and that didn’t help my case.”
“I’m not going to lie, after I gave up holes eight and nine in the morning, that got me a little mad," Summerhays said. “I used that as fuel, so that pushed me to play well the back nine.”
After making birdies at 10, 11 and 12 and losing 13 to a Lansford birdie, Summerhays made three more birdies at 14, 15 and 17 to go into the lunch break with a 5-up lead. He kept the pedal to the metal with birdies on three of the first four holes in the afternoon and cruised to victory after that.
“I’m super excited,” Summerhays said. “This has been a goal of mine to win this, so I’m happy to have achieved this goal. I had this goal from the start of the year and wanted to make sure I was prepared and worked hard enough.”
He and his father were going to catch a flight in the evening to go back to the U.S. Junior Amateur, which begins Monday at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.Comment on this story
Last year, Summerhays became the youngest winner in State Amateur history at age 15 and by winning Saturday, he topped his uncle Daniel as the youngest two-time champion. Daniel had won in 2000 and 2001, the latter when he was 17.
So will Summerhays be back next year at Jeremy Golf and Country Club to try to make it three in a row and be the first to do so since Ed Kingsley in 1934?
Summerhays, who has chances to play all over the United States, didn’t hesitate and replied with an emphatic “yes.”