SALT LAKE CITY — As the story goes, many decades ago, Utah Golf Association officials took a look at weather records and concluded that the driest week of the summer was the second week of July. So they determined to hold their annual Men’s State Amateur tournament that week when the sun shone and rain was rare.
Ever since, the State Amateur has been held the same July week — until this year, when it will be played in the middle of June, nearly a month earlier.
The State Am, which is the longest continuing golf tournament in the world, will be played this week, beginning Monday and concluding Saturday when a 36-hole match-play final will determine the champion.
The reason for the change is because of the PGA Tour’s Web.com Utah Championship will be played the second week of July. That normally wouldn’t be a problem — it has overlapped with the State Am three other times in recent years — but this year the two events are scheduled to be played at the same venue — Oakridge Country Club.
The State Amateur reserved the course a few years ago before the Web.com event decided to switch venues from Thanksgiving Point to Oakridge in 2017. The Web.com Tour wanted to return to Oakridge this year in early July, causing the conflict.
The UGA decided it could move its event up a month and Oakridge was still willing to host the State Am along with the Web.com, so everyone is happy.
“It’s an honor to be chosen to play host to two big events,” said longtime Oakridge pro Rick Mears. “Oakridge has a rich history and we’re proud to put our best foot forward. We’re glad the PGA was willing to let us still hold the State Am. We’re certainly looking forward to it and consider it an honor to be capable of hosting two big events.”
This will mark the sixth time the State Am has been held at Oakridge since it was opened more than 60 years ago. The first time was 1958 when Lou North won, and in 1966, Bruce Summerhays was the winner. Mitch Hyer took the title in 1979 and Bruce Brockbank followed in 1988. Then in 2000, 16-year-old Daniel Summerhays was the winner.
Since 2000, the course has undergone several changes, mostly with water hazards being added or expanded at holes 1, 3, 5, 6, 7 and 15. One of the biggest changes is the par-5 11th hole, which is some 60 yards longer with a new green.
“This is a great venue for match play,” said Mears.
The defending champion is BYU sophomore Kelton Hirsch, who won last year at Ogden Country Club, defeating Braydon Swapp 7 and 5 in the finals. The 22-year-old Hirsch is back after playing his first season at BYU following an LDS mission.
“It’s been fun (being the champion), everybody recognizes it, especially here in Utah,” Hirsch said.
Hirsch will be playing on his home course as his father joined Oakridge when he was in high school.
“It’s fun to be here at home with a lot of members to support me,” he said. “It’s a pretty straightforward course and being comfortable is a big advantage. Just like anywhere else, the key is making a lot of pars and staying patient.”
Besides Oakridge, nearby Davis Park Golf Course will be used for the first two rounds of the tournament with amateurs playing one medal round at each course. The field of 288 golfers will be cut to 64 after medal rounds Monday and Tuesday after which match play begins. The field will be whittled to eight by Friday when two rounds will be played, leaving two players to compete in Saturday’s 36-hole final.
CREDIT: Mike Sorensen, Deseret News
Copyright Deseret Digital Media Jun 10, 2018, source Newspapers