The 2021 Senior PGA Professional Championship is set to begin Thursday October 21st at PGA Golf Club, in which six Utah PGA Professionals will compete.
Best of luck to Bloomington and Sun River’s Scott Brandt, Park City’s Jeff Brehaut, 2020 Utah PGA Player of the Year and rookie senior Joe Summerhays, 2016 Senior PPC Champion Steve Schneiter, Utah PGA Senior Section Champion Mark Owen and Stonebridge Golf Club’s Paul Phillips.
The Utah Section is well represented in Port St. Lucie, Florida, as they compete in a full field of 246 senior PGA Professionals from across the country.
Other than the $26,000 first-place winner’s check to play for, several exemptions are on the line:
The low 35 scorers earn a berth into the 2022 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores Golf Club in Benton Harbor, Michigan, May 26-29.
The Senior PGA Professional Championship’s top five finishers also garner an exemption into the final stage of the 2021 PGA Tour Champions Qualifying School – Final Stage.
Those who finish in the top eight, including ties, will automatically qualify for next year’s Championship at Twin Warriors Golf Club at Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa and Santa Ana Golf Club, both in Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico, October 13-16, 2022.
Ryder Huish stood over his ball in the 18th fairway, half of his Team Utah (Lehi) teammates waiting for him near the green with the 2021 National Car Rental PGA Jr. League Championship waiting to be secured.
Adding to the pressure, Huish’s teammate’s ball had found the water near the green seconds before. So Huish grabbed his 5-iron from 180 yards, landed the ball on the front of the green and watched it roll out … and roll out … and roll out, until it came to rest inside 10 feet from the hole, putting Huish and teammate Austin Shelley, 13, from Salt Lake City – and their six other teammates – in position to lock down the title.
After two-putting the par 5 for birdie minutes later, the Championship belonged to the team from Utah with a 7.5-4.5 win over Team Connecticut (Torrington) at Grayhawk Golf Club on Sunday afternoon, which aired live on ESPN2.
“When I saw Austin’s ball in the water, I cried inside,” Huish, 11, from Highland, joked. “I said, ‘I have to hit a good shot here or it’s over.’ I pulled out my 5-iron, I felt confident, and I executed well.”
Joshua Leddy may not have followed through on his victory in the Utah Assistant PGA Championship as well as he hoped, but he certainly assisted Matt Baird on the way to a third title in the Utah Section PGA Championship.
In one of those breaks that champions sometimes need, Baird luckily learned to play enough break on what became the winning putt Thursday at Toana Vista Golf Club in West Wendover, Nevada. Baird benefited from Leddy’s having putted on a similar line on No. 9, their 18th hole of the final round. Baird knocked in a 20-footer for a birdie that gave him an 8-under-par total and a one-stroke victory over Pete Stone and Tommy Sharp.
That’s how the Riverside Country Club teaching pro concluded his round of 7-under 65, bouncing back from what he labeled a “chili-dipped” tee shot on the previous hole, leading to his only bogey of the day.
If not for Leddy’s coincidental lesson, who knows what may have happened in a playoff involving Baird? “Honestly,” Baird said, “when he hit the putt, it broke more than I thought.”
Baird adjusted his aim, made the putt and was proud of his final round. In that moment, though, Baird was thrilled just to have qualified for the PGA Professional Championship. As three more groups finished, it became apparent that there was much more in store for him.
Having earned the $5,000 first prize, Baird celebrated by pouring Mountain Dew into the crystal trophy that will join Section Championship awards from 2010 and ‘15 on his shelf.
Every win is rewarding, but this one meant the 46-year-old Baird had succeeded in overcoming the putting problems that held him back during an opening-round 71, He stood four strokes behind Chris Moody, Riverside’s head professional, and three shots back of Stone.
“I just had this feeling of, ‘You can get the job done,’” Baird said. “That was my main thought all day.”
He needed some reminding after failing to birdie his first hole, the par-5 No. 10. “Oh, great,” he wryly told himself, but that’s how the day turned out: Great.
He birdied seven of the first 15 holes and moved into the lead, only to make one of the worst swings of his pro career with a short iron. His shot on No. 8, a hole measuring 174 yards, left him with a 96-yard second shot after he tried to finesse that 8-iron.
“I just laughed,” Baird said.
After that bogey, Tele Wightman, another member of Baird’s foursome, told him, “You’re hitting it good, just make birdie here.”
With the help of seeing Leddy’s line, Baird made it happen. And then he waited, as Sharp and Stone tried to catch him. Sharp, the 2017 winner, birdied No. 6 to reach 5-under for the day and 7-under for the tournament, before parring the last three holes. Stone, a perennial contender in this event, birdied No. 7 to tie Baird. But then Stone endured his own misadventures on No. 8, with a tee shot that sailed way right and resulted in a bogey.
On No. 9, Sharp and Stone had longer birdie putts than Baird, on similar lines. Each missed on the low side and walked off the green disappointed to have tied for second place.
As consolation, they also advanced to the PGA Professional Championship in April at Austin, Texas. So did Moody (67-71), Todd Tanner (69-70) and Casey Fowles (70-71), whose birdie on the last hole enabled him to avoid a six-way playoff for the last spot. Defending champion Joe Summerhays (70-71), who tied for sixth place with Fowles, is exempt after a top-20 finish in the 2021 event in Florida and Steve Schneiter has a lifetime invitation as the 1995 champion.
Bruce Summerhays Jr. became the first alternate after a playoff that involved Tracy Zobell, the Senior division champion. Zobell (74-68) played from the back tees in order to compete for the national berth, as did Mark Owen, who tied with Clark Garso for second place, one stroke behind.
Terry Outzen (76-69) and Scott Brandt (71-74) shared first place in the Super Senior (60-over) division. Don Branca (75-74) took the Legend (70-over) title, 46 years after posting his second consecutive victory in the State Amateur.
Promontory Assistant Professional Josh Leddy wins the 2021 National Car Rental Utah Assistant Championship with rounds of (-7) 70-65 at Logan River and Eagle Mountain Golf Courses on August 30-31, claiming his first professional victory.
Not only was it his first victory as a pro, but the win earned him a ticket into the Assistant PGA Professional Championship on November 11-14 at PGA Golf Club’s Wanamaker Course in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
“I just had a good feeling with my putter today, didn’t really try to change anything mechanically and visualize the putts. I had the speed down so I just trusted it all day,” Leddy said
“I’ve played the course before in college,” Leddy said about PGA Golf Club, “so I’ll just try to go out and put some good numbers up and compete with the best.”
Leddy finished one-stroke ahead of Red Ledges Pro Aaron Purviance, who earned exemption into the 2021 Assistant Championship based on his play in last year’s event in Florida, so the other qualifiers include Eagle Mountain Assistant Pro Chase Hansen and Clint Godfrey, who earned his spot in a playoff against defending champion Thomas Cook.
Best of luck to our Utah Section assistant professionals as they compete on the national stage.
Thank you to Jeff John and his staff at Logan River and Chris Marx and his staff at Eagle Mountain for hosting our championships this week.
Mountain View Golf Course Head Professional Mark Owen added another win to his 2021 season by capturing the 2021 Utah Senior PGA Professional Championship August 30-31 at Logan River and Eagle Mountain Golf Courses.
With rounds of (-9) 67-66, Owen’s victory qualifies him for the 2021 Senior PGA Professional Championship, which will be played at PGA Golf Club October 21-24 on the Wannamaker Course.
“I didn’t do anything crazy,” Owen said of his final round. “I made zero fives on the card, so I took care of the par fives. It was a stress-free round: just hit it, go get it and putt it. Playing with Joe (Summerhays) the last couple of days and watching a really good putting stroke was really fun. That guy putts the ball like you should putt the ball. Every putt seems to have a chance to go in.
“This is the first time qualifying for me, just looking forward to playing as good as I have the last few weeks. The courses are a lot different than home, but a little practice and we’ll see what happens.”
Other qualifiers for the Senior PGA Professional Championship include Summerhays, who actually had the low score of the tournament at (-12) 63-67 but is still 49-years old for a couple more weeks, making him ineligible for the Senior Section Championship, but able to qualify for the national event in October.
Park City’s Jeff Brehaut qualified and Bloomington’s Scott Brandt earned the last spot by one stroke over Paul Phillips, who lead the first round, and Ryan Rhees.
Thank you to Jeff John and his staff at Logan River and Chris Marx and his staff at Eagle Mountain for hosting our championship this year.
One swing with a 7-iron Sunday afternoon radically altered Derek Fribbs’ story of the 2021 golf season.
Internet search engines may forever distinguish himself as the witness of a fight in his threesome in the middle of a golf course in Kansas in June, but Fribbs created his own lasting impression of the year with a double eagle on Riverside Country Club’s 15th hole. The shot from 215 yards completed his 4-3-2 sequence (par is 5-4-5) in the northwest corner of the property and powered the Colorado pro to a victory in the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open.
“Just hit a perfect shot,” Fribbs said.
Fribbs posted 66-63-64 for a total of 23 under par, three shots better than Idaho pro T.K. Kim, earning a $20,000 check and a nice 31st birthday (Monday) present for himself a year that otherwise was memorable for the wrong reasons.
“At least, I’m the good guy in the story,” he said good-naturedly, when the fight during a Korn Ferry Tour qualifying event came up during the winner’s news conference. “I wasn’t beat up or arrested.”
The double eagle will have its own place in Utah pro golf lore as a highlight of a weekend when BYU golfer Kerstin Fotu of Alpine became the first woman to play the final round of the Utah Open, an event first staged in 1926.
“Honestly, I’m pretty proud of myself,” said Fotu, who received an exemption into the tournament as the Utah Women’s Open champion and shot 1 under par for two rounds before adding a 76. “I wanted to make the cut, and that’s what I did. It’s super motivating to see some things pay off that I’ve been working on and also to see what I need to work and sharpen up going into the fall season.”
After all he has achieved in Utah amateur golf and as a PGA Tour player, Daniel Summerhays of Fruit Heights also made a strong showing with a closing 65. In his first Utah Open appearance, Summerhays tied for third at 17 under with Matt Marshall, who settled for an even-par 72 after a 62-65 start.
“The second round killed me.” said Summerhays, who shot 63-71-65. “I knew I was going to have to be in the 20s [under par] to have a chance. … I was definitely frustrated [Saturday]. I mean, it would be pretty cool to have my name on the Utah Open trophy.”
BYU’s Cole Ponich of Farmington rode a 65-67 weekend to low-amateur honors at 13 under, tying for ninth place overall. Host pro Chris Moody tied with Tommy Sharp as the top-performing Utah Section PGA member at 10 under, earning $1,400 bonuses as they tied for 14th.
CBS Sports football analyst Tony Romo, the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback, tied for 42nd place at 4 under, finishing 11th among the amateurs with a 73 on Sunday. Romo earned a $180 merchandise credit in the Riverside golf shop to supplement his $17 million broadcasting salary.
Fribbs was thrilled to pack his oversized, cardboard check into the back of Zahkai Brown’s vehicle for the ride home to the Denver area. Brown, the Utah Open’s winner in 2016 and the low pro in ‘17, has turned this event into steady income. He tied for fifth Sunday, earning $5,500.
Picking places to play for golfers without any PGA Tour-brand status is a matter of “convenience,” Fribbs said, along with economics: “You don’t want to spend a lot of money to win a little bit of money.”
Fribbs’ money shot was timely, considering how Kim had just holed a 42-yard pitch shot for an eagle on the par-4 No. 14 to get within one stroke.
“I thought it was ‘Game on,’ ” Kim said. “I felt confident, until he made that albatross.”
Yeah, that “2” changed everybody’s outlook. “I was just telling myself to keep doing what I’m doing,” Fribbs said. “It worked for 50 holes, so I might as well keep doing it.”
That 51st hole will be the one he remembers for a long, long time.
During the post-tournament ceremony on the 18th green, a moment of silence was observed for Mike Stanger, a former Utah State golfer in the mid 1980s and a longtime golf manufacturer’s representative, working with Utah Section PGA professionals. Stanger’s sons, Brock and Dalton, were playing together in Friday’s first round when they were informed of their father’s death.
Devin Dehlin, the Section’s executive director, became emotional as he spoke of a “melancholy day” framing the tournament. Dehlin also cited the observation of Dean Wilson, a former BYU golfer and PGA Tour player, who returns annually to Riverside and was this year’s low senior, tying for 11th place. Wilson labeled the event “a celebration of Utah golf.”
BYU golfer Kerstin Fotu hardly played like a former champion in this summer’s Women’s State Amateur, barely advancing to match play after posting an 83 and then losing convincingly to teammate Lila Galea’i in the first round in Farmington.
Fotu’s performance in the fifth annual Siegfried & Jensen Utah Women’s Open was an entirely different story. She became the third collegiate winner in a row, covering the event’s Thanksgiving Point Golf Club era. Fotu overtook California pro Gabrielle Gibson on the back nine Tuesday, posting 69-68 for a 7-under-par total and a one-stroke victory.
Gibson, a former University of Wyoming golfer, earned $1,500 as the low pro. Bingham High School graduate Tess Blair, a Sacramento State golfer, birdied Nos. 16 and 17 to finish third, another shot back. Haley Sturgeon, a pro from Bountiful, tied for fourth with Juli Erekson, the Utah Valley University women’s golf coach and a sister of Thanksgiving Point Director of Golf Tele Wightman. Galea’i, the State Am winner, finished sixth.
Fotu quickly overcame her State Am showing by going to California and shooting a 66 to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Amateur. She failed to reach match play at Westchester Country Club in New York (where Blair won a first-round match), but Fotu looked good at Thanksgiving Point, the course she primarily grew up playing.
Her iron game was especially sharp this week, with solid ball-striking and improved distance control. “That was something that really killed me at the State Am,” she said, “just [not] being able to score.”
Fotu thrived on Thanksgiving Point’s back nine, playing those holes in 5 under par for two days, while the rest of the field struggled with the wind. “I just tried to learn from last year,” she said, “because last year the wind kind of got in my head and I didn’t play as well. I just tried to club up and swing easy, and that helped my ball flight.”
Gibson’s one-stroke lead remained intact through Tuesday’s front nine, but then she made her first bogey of the tournament on the par-4 No. 10. Fotu birdied that hole to move ahead, and added another birdie on the par-4 No. 12.
In what became a two-woman duel, Fotu’s lead was cut to one stroke when she bogeyed the par-5 No. 14, but she recovered with a birdie on the par-3 No. 15. Gibson birdied the par-4 No. 16, only to have her tee shot barely clear the Jordan River on the par-3 No. 17, leading to a bogey.
With her two-stroke lead restored, Fotu was able to absorb Gibson’s birdie on the par-4 No. 18 – not that she was sure where she stood in relation to players in the groups ahead of them, even with on-line scoring updates available.
“Honestly, I didn’t pay attention at all,” she said. “I had no idea.”
She liked how it all turned out, though. Fotu followed San Francisco’s Annika Borrelli and UNLV’s Veronica Joels as amateur winners of the Utah Women’s Open, after current BYU assistant golf Lea Garner took the first two titles in Provo. Garner also was the low pro in 2020; Gibson is the first out-of-state pro to claim the tournament’s biggest check.
And while Garner came close to winning the State Am, Fotu has a place in history as the first champion of both tournaments.
Another edition of the Utah Senior Open has been completed, this year celebrating the long-time PGA Professional and retired Timpanogos Golf Club Head Pro Kean Ridd as the event’s honoree at Toana Vista Golf Course in Wendover July 28-29th.
A year after senior division sophomore Mark Owen finished as low pro, the Mountain View Head Pro returned to Wendover and left with not only low pro honors, but overall champion as well.
Owen finished the first round with a (-5) 67, tied at the top with Gladstan Head Pro Tracy Zobell. But a (-2) 70 in the final round separated Owen from the pack to win the championship, finishing at (-7) 67-70 – 137 total.
“This was an important one,” Owen said of winning the event. “One of my really good friends Joey Bonsignore passed away a few years ago, he was really good friends with the Ridds. When Kean was named honoree for this this tournament, I thought this would be a good one to win. I always look forward to this one, I seem to play well here and I look forward to the competition.”
Bloomington Director of Golf Scott Brandt won the super senior division with consistent play of (-4) 70-70 – 144 and tied for second overall with Zobell.
Roy Christensen won the legend division with a (+4) 71-77 showing and Brigham Gibbs was the low-am finishing fourth with rounds of (E) 74-70.
Thank you to Kean Ridd for a special career in golf and the Utah Section PGA, specifically. Thank you to the Utah Golf Association, Toana Vista Golf Course Head Pro Charles Clinton and Superintendent Mel Duke.
And thank you to Gary Lewis, Jacky Price and Brian Ray from the Wendover Casino Group for making this event possible every year.
The culmination of the 2021 Utah PGA Junior Series Major season came down to the Promontory Major Championship, played July 26th on the Dye Canyon Course in Park City, with two entries into the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open and Utah Women’s Open on the line.
Spots were awarded to the champion of the boys and girls 15-18 divisions at Promontory and the season-long points leader as the Majors Player of the Year
KJ Ofahengaue’s highest score in the 2021 Majors was a 70. With such stellar play, it is to no surprise that he won the boys Majors Player of the Year and entry into the Utah Open at Riverside Country Club August 20-22nd.
“I know it’s very competitive,” Ofahengaue said about the Utah Open. “My goal is to go into it and try to prove myself and show that I can compete with the best golfers in Utah.”
To go along with Major Player of the Year, Ofahengaue shot (-2) 70 to win the boys 15-16 division at Promontory and finish runner-up in the boys 15-18 division.
It was Willard Richards’ (-3) 69 that won the boys Promontory Major Championship and the other exemption into the Utah Open.
A strong finish for Richards proved to be the difference, finishing two-under the last three holes to win by one and claim his first Utah PGA Junior Series Major victory.
“I just gave myself a lot of chances for birdies and was in play pretty much on every hole,” Richards said.
“Anytime you can play in a big tournament, it’s a lot of fun,” he said about his Utah Open exemption. “it gives you something to focus on and a chance to play with the best and show off your skills.”
Ellie DeMond’s game has proved consistent throughout 2021 and it shows by taking home the girls Major Player of the Year trophy and an exemption into the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Women’s Open, played August 9-10 at Thanksgiving Point Golf Club.
DeMond won by a mere 15 points over Cheyenne Hansen, who qualified for the Utah Women’s Open in 2020.
“I feel like I accomplished a lot,” DeMond said about earning a spot in the Utah Women’s Open. “It feels really good to win Player of the Year, I felt like overall I played good this year. I came into every tournament with the mentality to win.”
Staying true to the narrative of the Majors this year, the girls 15-18 Promontory Champion decision came down to a playoff between Navy Wood and Jacklyn Gonzalez, who both finished at (+5) 77.
Gonzalez found some trouble off the tee which proved to be the difference has Wood found the fairway.
Wood proceeded to find the greenside bunker on the par-five 10th hole, and successfully got up-and-down for par – forcing Gonzalez to make a 20-foot putt, which barely missed.
“I was nervous, so nervous,” Wood said about the playoff. “I was shaky, just trying to breathe.”
Wood looks forward to the experience of playing in the Utah Women’s Open as she prepares for college golf in Idaho.
Winning the girls 15-16 division with a (+6) 78 is Pati Uluave, earning her first Major championship victory.
“I’m so excited, this is my first win in a major championship,” Uluave said. “My putting helped a lot today, I was able to drop a lot of 15-footers.”
Rounding out the younger divisions was Jack Summerhays, who won the boys 13-14 division with an even-par 72 to earn his first Utah PGA Junior Series Major victory.
“It feels amazing to win, it’s really awesome to be here. It’s an awesome opportunity,” Summerhays said. “I putted lights out on the first 15 holes. Started off a little rough with a bogey on the first hole, but then the putter was really good.”
The winner of the girls 13-14 division is no stranger of first place – going for a clean sweep in all four Utah PGA Junior Series Majors, Kate Walker wins once again with a (+4) 76 at Promontory.
“I’ve improved a lot since last year,” Walker said. “It was awesome playing Promontory today.”
A big thank you to Ryan Kartchner, A.J. Fetsko and Drew Kouns at Promontory for hosting our Major Championship, providing an excellent venue to the close of the 2021 Major season.
The 2021 Utah County Rumble Major, played July 19-20 at Timpanogos Golf Club in Provo and The Oaks in Spanish Fork, not only sent juniors to the season-ending Utah PGA Junior Series Promontory Major Championship, but also to the Faldo Hurricane Series Grand Final, which will be aired on CBS.
The top two finishers of the boys and girls 15-18 divisions earned the spots to play The Dye Course at Barefoot Resort on October 18-19 in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina – hosted by Nick Faldo.
It’s no surprise that in the boys 15-18 qualifying division, a playoff was needed to determine the champion, even when Perry, Utah’s Dyson Lish commanded the first round at Timpanogos with a (-8) 64.
Lish held his ground the second day, finishing tied with KJ Ofahengaue at 6-under for the event. Both earned the qualifying spots for the Faldo Series, but a three-hole playoff was needed to determine the overall and Boys 15-16 Utah County Rumble champion.
With pars on the first playoff hole, Lish drained a 35-foot par putt to stay alive with Ofahengaue in tap-in range on the second playoff hole. To close it out, he made another significant putt for birdie to win from about 15 feet.
“I’m pretty pumped right now,” Lish said about qualifying for the Faldo Hurricane Final.
“I was pretty relieved,” he said about the winning putt dropping, “I didn’t want to keep playing more playoff holes.”
No playoff was needed for the girls qualifying division with 2021 Drive, Chip & Putt champion Ali Mulhall going wire-to-wire to qualify and to win the girls 15-16 Utah County Rumble Major.
Mulhall had rounds of 73-74 to finish two-over for the event.
“It’s exciting, it’s going to be a fun tournament,” Mulhall said about the Grand Final. “It’s at a really nice golf course so I’m excited to go play. Anytime you get to play on TV, you know it’s pretty good.”
Mulhall will leave Saturday for Kentucky to compete in the Girls Junior PGA Championship, which she qualified for by winning the Utah Junior PGA Championship at Solider Hollow.
The second qualifying spot for the girls goes to Jacklyn Gonzalez, a Utah Valley University women’s golf commit from San Antonio, Texas.
With rounds of (+8) 78-75 she also won the girls 17-18 Utah County Rumble Major and redeemed herself after losing in a playoff in the same event in 2020.
“It felt great to win this year, I loved getting a second run at this course,” Gonzalez said.
“I’m so excited to qualify, I’ve heard so many good things about the course and the opportunities that come after playing the event,” she said about the Hurricane Grand Final.
Jack Kuemmel narrowly missed out on a qualifying spot because of a double on his 72nd hole, but with rounds of (-5) 69-70, he won the boys 17-18 division and now has his sights on winning the Promontory Major Championship to qualify for the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open.
“It was my first Major of the year, so it’s nice to get a one-and-done to get into Promontory,” Kuemmel said. “I haven’t been up there, so I’m excited to go. The new goal is to win and get into the Utah Open.”
In the girls and boys 13-14 divisions, getting into Promontory was the end-goal of the Utah Country Rumble Major, as this was the last chance to qualify.
Kate Walker of St. George, earned a hat trick in the Majors this year, winning her third Major with rounds of (+6) 76-75.
“I’ve worked hard for it,” Walker said about her three Utah PGA Junior Series Major victories. And with plans to play at Promontory, we’ll see if she can go for a clean sweep in Majors.
To round out the event it was Tyse Boman who earned his first Major victory with rounds of (+3) 75-72 to win the boys 13-14 division.
“It feels good, I’m happy,” Boman said about his win.
The Promontory Major Championship will be played Monday, July 26th in Park City with exemptions into the Utah Open and Utah Women’s Open on the line for the Majors points winners and the champions at Promontory in the boys and girls 15-18 divisions.
Best of luck to Lish, Ofahengaue, Mulhall and Gonzalez in the Faldo Hurricane Series Grand Final, Utah will be well represented.
Finally, thank you to Timpanogos Head Pro Brett Watson and The Oaks Head Pro Ryan Rhees for hosting and allowing our juniors to play great courses!