B.J. Staten keeps Utah Open trophy in the state

Author: By Kurt Kragthorpe

Provo The Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open is not the Utah professional golf tournament that B.J. Staten ever expected to win.

He’s not giving the trophy back, either.

Having lost access to the Web.com Tour that includes a stop at Willow Creek Country Club near his home in Cottonwood Heights, Staten found a place to play at Riverside Country Club and took full advantage of the opportunity Sunday. So maybe he needed three playoff holes and had to withstand Arizona pro Nathan Lashley’s last-chance putt that rimmed out of the hole from 50 feet, but Staten produced a victory that he labeled “probably the most rewarding” of his career.

He’s earned considerably bigger checks than $21,000 for his two top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour and three playoff defeats on the Web.com Tour, but he was thrilled to perform so well in his first tournament of “a very trying year,” by his account.

Staten, 36, birdied No. 18 in regulation to complete an 8-under-par 64 and post a 16-under total for three rounds. Lashley, the 2009 champion, settled for a closing 69 after reaching 16 under through 11 holes Sunday.

In the playoff, Staten had two chances to win with 12-foot putts in consecutive tours of No. 18, but missed both times. So they moved to the par-4 No. 10, where Staten knocked his 144-yard approach shot a foot from the hole with a pitching wedge. Lashley’s desperation 50-footer caught a lot of the hole before spinning away.

“Just tried to give it a chance,” Lashley said.

Staten, who swings left-handed and putts right-handed, then completed his victory.

Staten appeared at Riverside after caddying for his friend Brice Garnett in the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship last week, with the tight schedule preventing him from entering the Utah Open’s Monday qualifying event. Devin Dehlin, the Utah Section PGA’s operations director, gave Staten a spot in the field, in exchange for fielding a pro-am team.

Good move. The PGA administrators love keeping the “Utah” in the Utah Open. Staten is an unconventional winner, compared with Davis Park Golf Course pro Zach Johnson, the 2013 winner, or other homegrown champions. But the Tennessee native and self-described “Texan at heart” is a genuine Utahn now, having met his wife, Alisha, while playing in the 2010 Utah Championship at Willow Creek.

Staten opened the 2013 Utah Championship with a 63, but faded to a tie for 45th place during a rough season that resulted in his lack of Web.com Tour access this year. That explains how he went so long without playing competitively, but he responded well at Riverside with Utah Championship tournament director Mike Smith as his caddie.

Conversations with friends have made him realize “everybody’s allowed a bad year,” he said, and he’s determined to get back to the Web.com Tour by competing in the annual qualifying tournament this fall.


Twitter: @tribkurt

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