Forty-eight golfers survived the first of five qualifiers for the Men's State Amateur finals Monday at Murray Parkway Golf Course.
A score of 76 or better was required to move on to the finals which will be played July 11-15 at Alpine Country Club. Approximately 150 golfers will eventually tee it up in search of Utah's top amateur prize next month.Two unknown players with hard-to-pronounce names playing in their first State Ams led the way Monday with 2-under-par 70s. Richard Chiara (Key-ARE-a) defeated Fred Chucci (Chucky) on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff to claim medalist honors.
The 23-year-old Chiara is a native of Sacramento who came to the University of Utah last summer after playing No. 1 for the Sacramento Junior College golf team. So he came here to play for the Ute golf team, right? Well, actually he came to Utah because of family tradition. His father went to the U. - in fact, the tradition goes back four generations. He said he plans to try out for the Ute golf team next year.
Chiara's round Monday included five birdies and three bogeys. His putter was working well as he sank a 35-footer at No. 14 and a 25-footer at No. 17. He won the playoff with a par on the second playoff hole.
The 39-year-old Chucci is a West Virginia native who moved to Utah three years ago. He qualified three times for the West Virginia Amateur, but said its tougher to qualify in Utah.
Putting was his strength as he needed only 29 putts on the day. "It's the weakest part of my game, but it was the strongest today," he said.
All alone in third place with a 71 was young John Owen. Four players, Tom Kleinschmidt, William Clark, Brett Taylor and Rick Bodell, all came in with even-par 72s.
The field for Monday's qualifier was the largest of the five scheduled in the next 10 days with 179 golfers competing.
The next State Am qualifier, the North Central, is set for Wednesday at Valley View Golf Course in Layton.