BYU golfer Lila Galea’i talks to herself all the way to 115th Utah Women’s State Amateur championship
Lehi’s Galea’i overcomes two-hole deficit late in the match and makes a birdie on the first extra hole to edge BYU commit Berlin Long of Alpine at Oakridge Country Club
Soft-spoken BYU golfer Lila Galea’i didn’t have much to say after winning the 115th Utah Women’s State Amateur golf tournament Thursday at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington with a birdie on the first playoff hole.
That’s because the 18-year-old sophomore from Lehi had done all her talking on the course — literally.
Her tap-in birdie on the championship match’s 19th hole, Oakridge’s 500-yard par-5 No. 1 hole, gave her the win over Lone Peak High rising senior Berlin Long.
The big-hitting Galea’i never led the well-played and entertaining final match until the 19th hole when Long’s 25-foot birdie putt just missed the hole and the 17-year-old conceded the match. Galea’i trailed by two holes on the 17th tee, but won three straight holes to take the title in one of the better comebacks in tournament history.
“I was going to have a caddie, but decided not to (late). I think the only thing that got me through this whole week was my self-talk. If you saw me on the course you know I self-talk. … I did a lot of talking to myself, and it probably looked weird. But it worked.” — Utah Women’s State Amateur champion Lila Galea’i
“It was definitely a roller coaster. It wasn’t easy,” Galea’i said. “I knew it wouldn’t be easy this whole week, especially going up today against Berlin. … We have been friends ever since we were little.”
Indeed, in 2017 Galea’i defeated Long in the 13-14 age division of the Utah Junior Amateur’s championship match.
In the end, history repeated itself, as Galea’i’s superior length was likely the difference. Galea’i who can routinely bomb drives 300 yards or more, was able to get home in two on No. 1, while Long’s tee shot found the rough right off the fairway and she had to lay up.
“I knew it was going to be a good match,” said Long, who was often 75 to 100 yards short of Galea’i with her drives. “Me and Lila have been playing together since we were, like, 11. So we always push each other. I just knew it was going to be a fun (match). ... So to be able to make it here was just an accomplishment itself. So, I am really proud of myself.”
Playing without a caddie, while former U.S. Public Links champion and two-time Utah Open champion Clay Ogden was on Long’s bag, Galea’i missed plenty of birdie putts before hole No. 17 that would have allowed her to catch her friend.
“I was going to have a caddie, but decided not to,” Galea’i said. “I think the only thing that got me through this whole week was my self-talk. If you saw me on the course you know I self-talk. … I did a lot of talking to myself, and it probably looked weird. But it worked.”
On no hole was that more evident than No. 17.
After both golfers made pars on the par-5 16th and Long went 2-up, Galea’i crushed a drive on 17 to within 50 yards of the green, then stuck a gap wedge to within 8 feet of the hole. Dormie, she needed a birdie to win the hole and stay alive.
“I didn’t want to change the way I was playing. I didn’t want to lay up or do anything like that,” she said. “I just told myself, ‘Hey, just knock the heck out of the ball, see where it goes. It went good.’
As for the birdie putt that trimmed Long’s lead to one hole, Galea’i said if she had missed the putt it probably would have gone off the green.
“It was super slopey,” said the daughter of Ray and Mili Galea’i of Lehi, proud parents who marveled after the round about the tenacity of both players in the championship match.
On 18, Galea’i hit her tee shot right of the fairway and almost into the practice area. She made a great recovery, however, chipping to the fringe of the green about 12 feet past the hole.
Long hit a better drive, but her approach was “a little chunky” and landed in a bunker. Her third shot barely got out of the bunker, but her long putt for par — which would have won the match — lipped out.
She said she thought she had made the lengthy putt.
“I hit it right where I wanted to, and I thought it has a really good chance (to go in),” she said. “It is kind of a bummer.”
That was Long’s only bogey on the back nine, but it was costly, as the match moved to match play’s version of overtime. And that’s where Galea’i shined.
Having played in all of BYU’s tournaments this past spring, Galea’i said the lessons learned from college golf helped her all week.
The pressure “is probably not the same, but it is definitely up there,” she said. “Every tournament I try not to think about how big it is or how much the tournament (means). I just try to go out and play my own game. I think I did pretty good with that.”
BYU women’s golf coach Carrie Roberts and her assistant, Lea Garner, watched every shot on Thursday with great interest. Galea’i is one of their rising stars, obviously, while Long has committed to play for BYU after she graduates from Lone Peak.
This is just the continuation of an ambitious summer schedule for Long that also includes Junior Worlds in San Diego, the Girls Junior PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky, the Junior America’s Cup in Wyoming (a team event) and an AJGA event in Colorado the first week of August.
Long also lost in 19 holes in the Utah Junior Amateur championship match last month, to Provo’s Sunbin Seo.
“Yeah, very similar (matches),” Long said. “I came up a little short in both of them. But I played good golf in both of them, so I can’t be too mad about it.”