Victory Lap Q & A with Match Play Champion Casey Fowles

On the road to capturing his second career Utah PGA Match Play Championship title, Sunset View GC Head PGA Professional Casey Fowles, who first won the event in 2020, had to get past three other former champions in Zach Johnson (Final Match, 5 & 4), Matt Baird (Semifinal Match, 2 & 1) and three-time champion Dustin Volk (Quarterfinal Match, 7 & 5).

Riding what Fowles called a “hot putter,” he made multiple birdies in each match on the way to engraving his name for a second time on one of the Utah PGA’s major trophies. 

With defending champion Jordan Gibbs move to Colorado earlier this year, Fowles was awarded the No. 1 seed and a bye in the opening round in the tournament of 64 Utah PGA Professionals at Hill Air Force Base’s Hubbard Memorial Golf Course. 

Utah Golf Radio host Paul Pugmire caught up with the champion for a victory lap Q & A.

Q: This is match play. But, let’s start with this; you are known for occasionally going stupid low, putting up really low numbers. Did you have any of those out there this week? 

A: Well, it’s funny, I haven’t really done that for the last couple years, so I don’t want to say I’ve been playing really well, but for some reason, this week, I hit the ball pretty well, and I made a lot of putts. And normally that’s a good combination. That’s a good formula. It doesn’t happen very often. But it was fun to play well all week. 

2024 Utah PGA Match Play Champion, Casey Fowles. (Photo: Fairways Media/Randy Dodson)

I got a bye in the first round which was huge coming from (home in) Delta, because that saved me a 4:00 a.m. wake up call to get up here. So that was really helpful. And honestly, every match I played was really competitive, and there wasn’t any match where I felt like, this is, you know, going to be a cakewalk. Everyone played well, and I just played really well. I made a lot of good putts, especially against Dustin Volk. 

Q: So yeah, Dustin has beat everybody in this tournament, on this course. 

Former three-time Match Play Champion and 2024 Quarterfinalist, Dustin Volk. (2023 photo: Fairways Media/Randy Dodson)

A: It’s like his own course where he grew up playing and stuff. His dad (Wayne Volk) was the Pro here for a long time. So yeah, he knows every nook and cranny. It’s interesting watching him play it, because he’s going to see where you want to hit it and which side of the hole you want to be on, and that type of stuff. He works his way around this place really well. I had to career-it it out there to beat him. I think I was like 9-under through 17 holes or something, to just barely beat him. 

Q: Dustin was the first of three consecutive former champs you had to go through to get to this thing. So you get through Volk, and that gives you Matt Baird, another tough lift. 

2022 Match Play Champion and 2024 Semifinalist, Matt Baird. (Photo: Fairways Media/Garrit Johnson)

A: Yes, sir. Matt’s a tough out. He’s very competitive, so you got to play well to beat Matt. There’s not going to be much given to you. And really, that’s kind of the same way with everybody out here, once you get past those first matches, those last three, four matches, you just have to play really well, because there’s not going to be much given to you. I played really well this morning (Semifinal Match) to beat him. 

Q: You did, and for your efforts, you get Zach Johnson. That puts an exclamation point on what you’re saying here. 

2019 Match Play Champion and 2024 runner-up, Zach Johnson. (Photo: Fairways Media/Randy Dodson)

A: Yeah, exactly. I mean, Zach is just uber-consistent. If he gets an iron in his hand, it’s going at or near the pin, and he’s a great putter too. We kind of went back and forth. I was fortunate this week, I got off to a great start in every match. I got up early, which always helps playing from that position where you don’t have to feel like you’re pressing and playing golf different than you would normally play. And that was kind of my focus. Was just trying to play the golf course, you know, play my own game, and just kind of let the chips fall. And so, yeah, we kind of went back and forth there for a little bit. And then I made a great birdie on a long, tough par three, (217-yard, No. 6). That kind of got me going a little bit. And then I just kind of went on a little run on him there in the middle of the round.

Q: Was that on hole six? One would expect that No.6 can be a beast. Tell me about making two on six. 

A: It was into the wind this morning, I smoked a five iron and then this afternoon, it was a little bit downwind, and I watched Zach hit his shot a little bit deep. So I hit a 7-iron, just launched it way up in the air with the wind, and it still went farther than I thought. I had about a 20-footer and just made a really good putt. It was one of those that I had to play a couple feet of break, because the greens out there are so, so quick, and they had some good pins out there. So it was just one of those putts that, you know, just got the right line, right speed, and went in. We were back to square at that point. Getting that one was huge, and gave me a little momentum. 

Teeing off on the par 4 9th hole at Hubbard Memorial GC, Casey Fowles had just a 1-up lead over Zach Johnson in the championship match. (Photo: Fairways Media/Randy Dodson)

Going into No.9, we both hit some close ones in there but he had a tougher putt than I did, and his just slipped by and I made mine. After that, I made a few more birdies. (Fowles made the turn 2-up.)

Q: So you closed him out on 14, 5 & 4. What was the turning point? 

A: If I’m looking back, we tied seven and eight … probably that putt on nine. I feel like when I made birdie and he made par…then he kind of got in some tree trouble on 10. So I think just a combination. He was right in there, 9-10, and then I made about a 20-footer on 11. So that was kind of boom, boom, boom. And then I made another birdie on 12. And so, yeah, it was just kind of right through there (middle of the round). I think after No.9, I just got on a run. 

“I hit the ball pretty well, and I made a lot of putts,” said 2024 Match Play Champion, Casey Fowles. “And normally that’s a good combination. That’s a good formula. It doesn’t happen very often. But it was fun to play well all week.” (Photo: Fairways Media/Randy Dodson) 

Q: That makes sense looking at the card, but one would expect Zach to cap your birdie on the par 5 12th. Were you surprised that (a birdie) four won the hole? 

A: He kind of got a bad break off the tee. We thought his drive was perfect, and it must of caught a tree and ended up in the fairway bunker. He had a terrible lie in the bunker, and then he actually had a great chip shot that took a bad bounce, so he had a couple tough breaks on the hole. He still almost made birdie, but yeah, that was one you don’t really expect to get with a birdie. Again, I kind of had the momentum on my side at that point, and he had a couple bad breaks on the hole so that was another big point in the match.

Q: Your name is already on this trophy, and on several others. It remains that this is one of the Section’s majors. This is one that all your colleagues in the Section talk about. What does it mean to you to win it again? 

A: That means a ton because it’s so hard. It’s so hard to win because it doesn’t matter how well you’re playing, you can run into a buzzsaw at any time. These guys can just go low at any point. To get all the way through it is awesome. It’s a great feeling to feel like you’ve played good and beat some really good players. So yeah, it means a ton, means a lot. 

Video highlights from the Utah PGA Match Play semifinals and championship match June 12th at Hubbard Memorial Golf Course by Fairways Media/Garrit Johnson.

Many thanks to tournament host Hubbard Memorial Golf Course and Utah PGA Tournament Director Aaron Goodman. For complete Match Play bracket scoring, click here. 

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