MIDWAY — After not making it into match play in four previous State Amateur tries, Ryan Ellis was determined to advance out of medal play along with 31 others at this year's Men's State Amateur at Wasatch Mountain State Park Golf Course.
Not only did Ellis make it this year, he also earned medalist honors with the low two-day score. And not only did Ellis win the gold watch for being medalist, he also tied Jay Don Blake's 21-year record for lowest score with a 131 total.
The 22-year-old from Draper, who recently completed his eligibility at the University of Utah, fired a 5-under-par 66 Thursday on the Mountain Course after shooting a 7-under-par 65 on the Lake Course the day before.
"I'm very pleased and excited to be where I am," said the soft-spoken Ellis shortly after learning he was the medalist. "Actually I'm very shocked with as many good players as there are in the tournament."
After making seven birdies with no bogeys the day before, Ellis kept his bogeyless streak alive most of Thursday, getting birds at 5, 8, 11, 13, 14 and 16, including a 20-foot putt at the 13th. He finally made a bogey at the 18th hole when his drive didn't get around the corner and he couldn't get up and down from the side of the green. He thought it might hurt his medalist chances, but all it did was keep him from breaking the qualifying record.
Getting lost in the glitter of Ellis' record-tying score was the outstanding play of defending match play champion Daniel Summerhays, who actually matched Ellis' 131 total with scores of 64 and 67. However, because he is the defending champion, he wasn't competing for medalist honors as the automatic No. 1 seed for match play. Summerhays' medal scores were basically for practice.
Shawn Edwards, who shot a first-round 64, finished with a 71 Thursday to finish second in the medalist race with a 135 total. Then came former medalist Scott Hailes and Danny Lopez at 137, followed by Bill Naughton at 138. For Lopez, it was a special day because his 67 came on his 18th birthday.
Usually the biggest drama of State Am Thursday comes at the end of the round when everyone crowds around the scoreboard to see where the cut will fall for match play. This time the drama was reduced when the cut came at even-par 143 (which also tied a record) with exactly 31 players plus Summerhays advancing to match play. No playoff was necessary.
But wait a minute. Just before all the golfers and family members started to disperse, UGA executive director Joe Watts announced that there was going to be a change in the procedure to determine match play seedings. Instead of determining the seedings by the order of names on the scoreboard among tied players, a blind draw was held among the names of players who were tied at a particular score.
"We decided there was too much confusion trying to keep track of which cards came in first so we made a pre-determination we would do it this way," said Watts.
That jumbled up the matchups that some folks had already penciled in by figuring out the seedings according to the way they had always been done in State Am play.
Perhaps the most striking thing about the group of 32 remaining players is the fact that four of them are named Summerhays. That has to be some kind of State Am record.
Besides Daniel are his older brother, Boyd, and his two cousins, Bryan and Bruce Jr., sons of Senior Tour pro Bruce Summerhays. Boyd bounced back from an opening-round 74 with a 66, while Bruce tied him with a 67 following a 73 and Bryan went 69-74.
The 33-year-old Bryan, who hasn't played much competitive golf in recent years because of commitments to his young family, was to be matched up Friday morning against Ellis. He was glad the match was going to be played on the Lake Course.
"I know every blade of grass on that course," he said. Summerhays grew up playing Wasatch when his father was head pro there in the 1980s.
If Daniel and Boyd both win their first two matches Friday, they'll meet in the quarterfinals Saturday morning.
For awhile it appeared that the cut would come at 144 and that six players would be playing off for one spot. However, John Harris, playing in the last group of the day, came in with a 74 for a 143 total to break the hearts of six others and prevent a playoff.
"I've played in this tournament 12 times, but it's the first time I've made it to match play," he said.