Former BYU Golfer Peter Kuest Completes a Utah Open Runaway

Story By Kurt Kragthorpe for the Salt Lake Tribune

Organizers of the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship could have created a much more dramatic finish Sunday in the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open if they had awarded former BYU star Peter Kuest a sponsor exemption as a rookie pro.

Kuest instead returned to Riverside Country Club and turned the Utah Open into a runaway on the Cougars’ home course, claiming the $15,000 first prize. As the final round unfolded, the only question became whether Kuest could challenge former BYU teammate Patrick Fishburn’s tournament-record score — not that he was aware of Fishburn’s 26-under-par total for three rounds, prior to the post-round interview.

Peter Kuest with the historic Utah Open trophy.

“It would have been sweet to get the record,” Kuest said, “but a win’s good enough.”

Especially when the margin of victory is seven strokes, comparable to Fishburn’s nine-shot win a couple of weeks before starting his senior year in 2017. Kuest finished at 23 under, making three birdies and a bogey on the back nine after having given himself a shot at the 54-hole record with four birdies on the front side.

Kuest labeled the final round “a grind … but a lot of fun,” having posted a 66 to follow his 63-64 start. Kavan Eubank, a recent Texas A&M graduate who’s now a Boise State assistant golf coach, closed with a 65. Eubank took second and Colorado pro Zahkai Brown, a frequent high finisher in the Utah Open, tied for third during what became a disappointing day for some Utah club professionals.

Riverside Teaching Pro Matt Baird played in the final group and faded to a tie for seventh place overall (worth $4,233), although he earned a $1,500 bonus as the low member of the Utah Section PGA. Glenwild Golf Club Director of Instruction Craig Hocknull rallied to shoot a 75, after starting the day in a tie for third and going 7 over on the front nine.

Matt Baird, low Utah Section PGA member.

The amateurs provided most of Sunday’s intrigue. BYU golfer Kelton Hirsch shot a 14-under total for the second straight year and again lost a playoff. In this case, he was contending for low amateur honors. St. George’s Hayden Christensen topped him with a par on the first playoff hole, after matching Sunday’s low score of 65.

Christensen, who plans to turn pro after the State Amateur in early September, started the round 10 strokes out of the lead and briefly allowed himself to wonder about catching Kuest. That thinking was almost justified, considering Christensen chipped in for an eagle on the par-5 No. 5 and played the first seven holes in 7 under. That’s where he finished. Yet even after not fully capitalizing on his spectacular possibilities, he was hardly unhappy afterward, “because I’ve never been in that position before,” he said.

Hayden Christensen, Low Amateur.

Kuest’s closing 66 was not entirely satisfying, as he needed two shots to escape a greenside bunker on the par-3 No. 17 and made a bogey. He liked the way he started the round and separated himself from any potential challengers, though. And even amid his big-time ambitions in pro golf, $15,000 seems like a lot of money, at the moment. In five PGA Tour starts this summer, he earned only $7,525.

Asked what the return to Riverside did for his career, Kuest smiled and said, “It got me a little more money in my bank account, for sure. It just verified what I’ve been doing and that my hard work’s starting to pay off a little bit more, and that I can really compete and take it low.”

Peter Kuest with an up-and-down for birdie on hole 7.

The Californian is targeting more sponsor exemptions in September and October, as the Tour’s 2020-21 schedule begins. The 2017 West Coast Conference Championship at Riverside was the first of Kuest’s 10 wins as a collegian. He would love to have the Utah Open become the start of big things to come in pro golf.

Click here for Kurt Kragthorpe’s Salt Lake Tribune Story.

Click here for Final Round photos.

Click here for final results.

Veronica Joles Trophy Presentation

Joels Wins Siegfried & Jensen Utah Women’s Open; Garner Claims Low Pro

In the fourth running of the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Women’s Open, the field showed the event continues to grow and draw in not only local professionals and amateurs, but out-of-state collegians and professionals as well. In a season where collegiate golf is up in the air, the Utah Women’s Open provides a competitive outlet for many.

It was University of Nevada, Las Vegas incoming junior Veronica Joels that took control of the final round August 4th at Thanksgiving Point Golf Club in Lehi, Utah, with a closing (-6) 66, providing a three-stroke victory over Low Pro and two-time champion Lea Garner.

Veronica Joels

Joels started the day three-strokes behind Brigham Young University’s Kerstin Fotu, who held the first-round lead with a (-2) 70.

“I’m kind of just a go-getter,” Joels said of her three-stroke deficit to begin the final round. “Being three-shots back is like, it can flip at any time, it’s golf. You can flip it real fast.”

Joels becomes the second-consecutive collegiate amateur to win the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Women’s Open.

Joels got to work quickly on the front nine with birdies on holes 3, 4, 5 and 8 for a four-under 32. Though she sealed the deal with two closing birdies on 17 and 18, a great comeback from a bogey on 16.

“Putting was really working for me today,” she said. “I definitely made anything within 10-12 feet, it was just there for me. Putting was the difference for sure.”

Like many, Joels’ collegiate season was cut short in March. She’s substituted her time playing in 13 Cactus Tour events in Arizona. She competed in the Nevada Women’s State Am and then decided to give the Utah Women’s Open a run, and did it well.

With her victory, she earned an exemption into the 2020 Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open played August 14-16 at Riverside Country Club in Provo, Utah.

It seems as if two-time Utah Women’s Open champion Lea Garner will perpetually be in contention at this event, and she’s okay with that. She finished Low Pro at (-2) 72-70 and in second place overall, taking home the $2,000 check.

Lea Garner

What made her 2020 showing even more impressive is her typical travel schedule for this time of year has been put aside for precaution, leaving the Utah Women’s Open as a welcoming opportunity for the former BYU women’s golfer.

“Just being out here and competing is really fun,” Garner said. “Because of the circumstances of this summer I haven’t played in too many tournaments so I’m just excited to be out here and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.

“I’m always excited for this tournament and I’m really happy that the Utah Section decided to put it on for this year so it’s really exciting to compete and be in that spot again.”

This is the third Low Pro honors for Garner in the four-year history of the Utah Women’s Open.

It looks like this will be Garner’s last event of the year, “just because things have been kind of crazy.” Instead, she’s been giving lessons and teaching in Ogden and working on her own game when she has the time.

The Utah Section PGA would like to thank Siegfried & Jensen for their continued support of women’s golf in Utah and to Head Pro Tele Wightman and his Thanksgiving Point Golf Club staff for hosting.

Full Results.

Tournament Photos.


BYU Golfer Kerstin Fotu Takes Early Lead as Thanksgiving Point Hosts Utah Women’s Open

By Jay Drew, Deseret News

Original Deseret News Story can be found HERE.

BYU golfer Kerstin Fotu wasn’t able to successfully defend her 2019 Utah Women’s State Amateur title last month, losing in the semifinals to eventual champion Grace Summerhays at Soldier Hollow Golf Club in Midway.

Seemingly unfazed, Fotu jumped out to the lead on Monday in the fourth annual Siegfried & Jensen Utah Women’s Open at Thanksgiving Point Golf Club. Fotu, a Lone Peak High product who will be a sophomore at BYU this fall, fired a 2-under-par 70 and leads fellow amateur Tess Blair by a stroke heading into Tuesday’s final round.

Tess Blair

Blair, a Bingham High product who was the Big Sky Conference Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year at Sacramento State last season, is at 71. She’s followed by professionals Lea Garner and Sadie Palmer, and amateurs Lila Galea’i and Ali Mulhall at 72.

Lea Garner

Garner, the two-time winner of the event, is a former BYU and Bonneville High golfer who plays mini-tour events throughout the West.

University of San Francisco golfer Annika Borrelli, the 2019 champion, is not entered this year.

Five golfers shot 1-over-par 73 and are tied for seventh. That group is made up of Salt Lake City pro Haley Sturgeon, Ogden pro Xena Motes, BYU golfer Naomi Soifua, Las Vegas amateur Veronica Joels and Orem amateur Kiselya Plewe, a Weber State standout.

Fotu, from Highland, made a bogey on her first hole but birdied hole Nos. 5 and 7 to gain some momentum. She bogeyed No. 9, then got back under par with a birdie on No. 14 and finished with a birdie on the difficult par-3 17th hole to take the first-round lead.

First-Round Leader Board.

First-Round Photos.

Photos by Utah Section PGA/Jesse Dodson.

mark owens headshot

Owen & Rhees Finish Tied Low Pro in Wayne Volk Senior Open

By Randy Dodson, Fairways Media

For Mountain View GC Head Professional Mark Owen, the defending champ, the Utah Senior Open is more than a Utah Section PGA Championship.

“This has become one of my favorite tournaments because of the people, all the honorees that have made such an impact on my life and my career. I am happy to say that I have won this one but its always hard to defend, there are so many good amateur players as well as senior pro players.”

The putter was hot for Owen in the opening round, “It seemed all the eight to 10 foot putts were doable today,” he said. Owen made four birdies in a row on holes 4-7 after a bogey on the par 3 second hole. He added three more birdies on the back nine. 

On the final round, Owen finished with just three birdies on the day and carded two bogies, finishing in a tie for second with The Oaks Head Pro Ryan Rhees. The two Utah Section PGA members split the Low Pro money. 

Ryan Rhees

It was Kirk Siddens (a) who took home the crystal champion trophy with rounds of (-9) 66-69. 

Speaking of Siddens, Owen said, “Over the years we’ve had a lot of good games. We used to play a lot of money games together. He’s an excellent player and very capable. He’s had some really good scores this summer.”

Siddens had 11 birdies over his 36-hole performance in the Nevada desert rebounding nicely from his Mid-Am disappointment the week prior. 

“I couldn’t have asked for a better group,” Siddens said. “Mark and I have played many times over the years. I know Mark’s game and I know he can play. We putted out on 18 and had to ask each other, who won?”

Fellow senior amateur Rob Bachman turned in a (-3) 141 to win the Super Senior Division, two shots better than pros Brad Stone, David Hall, Terry Outzen, Scott Brandt and amateur Mike Hacker.  Amateur Richard Bradley won the Legend Division at (+3) 147, two shots better than professional Chip Garriss. 

Kirk Siddens & Rob Bachman

Retired Utah Section PGA Professional Wayne Volk, who had worked for over 40 years at Hill Air Force Base’s Hubbard golf course was this year’s honoree. Volk was honored by his son Dustin Volk, head pro a Valley View and current Section president in a small ceremony outdoors on the clubhouse balcony at Toana Vista GC. 

Randy Dodson is the president of Fairways Media and a frequent contributor to Fairways.