FARMINGTON — For Zac Blair, it was the most heartbreaking of times, just two years ago, in August 2017 when he realized one lousy stroke over an entire season would have made a big difference in his future.
The Ogden native and former BYU star was in good position to earn his PGA Tour card for the fourth straight year, only to lose it by the slimmest of margins — one point — on the final FedEx Cup standings list and finish in the dreaded No. 126 spot. Only the top 125 earn automatic exemptions for the following year.
The way it happened was especially excruciating, as one player made a hole-in-one and a birdie on his final three holes to pass him up, another shot a final-round 64 to move past him and J.J. Henry, who ended up at 125, birdied his final hole to barely pass Blair up.
“It definitely stings,” Blair said at the time, “seeing a guy make a hole-in-one and another birdie on the last hole to keep you out by a point.”
Blair still had some partial status in 2018 and was able to play in 20 tournaments, but didn’t earn enough points to get back in the top 125, which put him on the Korn Ferry Tour this year.
As he plays in this week’s Utah Championship at Oakridge Country Club Thursday through Sunday, it’s Blair’s first extended experience on the “Triple-A Tour.” He played just two months on what was then called the Web.com Tour, thanks to a second-place finish in the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship.
The 28-year-old, who lives in Orem with his wife Alicia and their two dogs, tees off at 8:25 a.m. Thursday. He's played in 15 events this year, finishing in the top 10 twice, a tie for eighth in the opening event in the Bahamas and a tie for sixth in Alabama in April. He’s made nine cuts and stands in 62nd place on the Korn Ferry points list. If he can move into the top 25, he’ll regain his PGA Tour card and he needs to stay in the top 75 to qualify for the season-ending Tour Championship.
“It’s like any other tournament, you’ve got to go out and try to play well,” he said. “I’ve played here a lot, some Utah Opens and some other tournaments. If you play good, you’re comfortable, you know the course, but you've still got to go out and execute.”
Blair says he doesn’t look back and lament about his disappointment in 2017.
“You’d rather be up on the big tour for sure, but it is what it is,” he said. “It goes along the lines of how important every shot is. It’s part of golf, you’ve just got to play good and get back out there where you want to be.”
Two weeks ago, Blair played in the U.S. Open for the second time, after finishing in a tie for 40th place at the Open five years ago. This time it didn’t go so well, after he got off to a horrendous start, going 9-over par on his first eight holes and ending up with scores of 83 and 72.
Blair, a social media junkie, was criticized by some for posting pictures of himself playing on the beach with his dog the morning of his first round and later in the week he tweeted out that he was going to “retire” from being a golf course architect and merchandiser and “focus on professional golf.” That was referring to “The Buck Club,” a yet-to-be-built golf club that already has 15,000-plus Twitter followers with a wide variety of hats, belts and head covers that are already available for purchase.
However, Blair said he wasn’t being serious, as his Buck Club twitter account with new products showing up every day, attests, and that he’s as dedicated to golf as much as ever.
“It was more of a joke,” he said this week before a pro-am at Oakridge. “I’m pretty dedicated to golf. Anybody that knows me, knows I love golf.”
He said if he has a good week, no one says anything about his off-the-course activities.
“When you have a bad week, they wonder why you’re not out practicing or doing this,” he said. “People just don’t see it. It’s easy for people on the outside to look in and say stuff. I do what I do.”
His Buck Club course will be built somewhere in northern Utah at an undisclosed location, but still may be a few years away from realization.
“It’s been going good,” he said. “We’re in no big rush to get it done. It takes time and do the right things and (get the) right people involved and when it happens it will be a cool place.”
TOURNEY NOTES: Mike Weir, who is able to play the Korn Ferry Tour this year as a 49-year-old former PGA Tour winner, will not be back at Oakridge for the second straight year as he was able to get into the PGA Tour's Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit this week, which is just 75 miles from his hometown of Bright’s Grove, Ontario. ... Former U.S. Open and Masters champion Angel Cabrera is in the field. The 49-year-old Argentine who is gearing up for the Champions Tour, which he is eligible for later this year, tees off at 7:45 Thursday. ... Preston Summerhays, the 16-year-old reigning Utah State Amateur champion tees off at 9:15 a.m. Thursday, while his uncle, Daniel Summerhays, tees off at 1:20 p.m. Park City pro Steele DeWald goes off at 2:30 p.m. ... Nelson Ledesma, ranked No. 18 on the Korn Ferry points list, withdrew Wednesday.