LOGAN — The two best golfers in the Utah Women’s Amateur made it to the match-play finals Thursday afternoon and put on quite a show at Logan Country Club with a bushel of birdies and a close match for 18 holes. In the end Kerstin Fotu was just a little better in the battle of teenagers with their “Daddy-caddies,” and took a 1-up victory over Grace Summerhays.
Fotu is a 19-year-old middle child of 13 children who will attend BYU as a freshman later this month. She was the golfer to beat right from the start of the tourney as she won medalist honors with a 3-under-par score, won her first two matches by large margins, and held off a tough challenge by Southern Utah golfer Kyla Smith in the semifinals before edging Summerhays with a par on the final hole in the afternoon finals match.
“It feels good,” said Fotu, whose father, Manase, was on her bag Thursday. “It was definitely a goal of mine. I’m excited.”
Fotu relied on a superb short game in the final match and made several putts in the 4- to 6-foot range, including a nerve-wracking 5-footer at the final hole to end the match. She had come to the 18th green with a 1-up lead, but she needed the putt after lagging up from 50 feet to avoid extra holes.
“Oh my gosh, I didn’t want to think about it too much,” she said. “Just hit it, because I had been making them all day, the same putt. I just wanted to make sure I hit it firm because a lot of these putts break a lot.”
Fotu never trailed all day, but never led by more than two holes. She went ahead at No. 4 with a birdie, but bogeyed No. 6 and the match went back to even. Fotu felt the turning point came at No. 9 when she hit her wedge shot within 6 feet and sank the putt to go ahead for good.
At 11, she hit an 8-iron within 3 feet for a birdie, but Summerhays won the next hole with a birdie putt from 8 feet. Summerhays felt No. 15 was the turning point for her when she missed a 7-foot putt for par and Fotu made hers from 4 feet to push the lead back to two.
Still Summerhays, whose father, Boyd, gave her advice throughout the match as her caddy, came back to birdie 16 with a nice up-and-down from a greenside bunker to cut the lead to one. However, Fotu sank one of her 6-footers to halve the hole at 17 and then closed out the match at 18.
“You can’t really ask for a better match,” said Summerhays, who lives in Arizona, but spends her summers in Utah. “We were getting birdies and there weren’t holes given. She played great and her short game was amazing. She played awesome, so I can’t be too mad.”
Summerhays, who had qualified for match play in the Men’s State Amateur last month and made it to the round of 16 at the U.S. Junior Girls Amateur last week, was trying to become the youngest ever to win the Women’s Amateur (Terry Norman in 1980 and Tess Blair last year were both 17 as winners).
Her brother, Preston, had already become the youngest-ever to win the Men’s Amateur at age 15 a year ago. But she’ll have another chance to match his feat at next year’s Women’s Am at Soldier Hollow GC.
She had begun the week with an uncharacteristic 80 in the first round when she took five penalty shots on the tricky Logan layout, but settled down with a 71 the next day to make match play as the No. 6 seed. She won both of her matches Wednesday easily.
In Thursday morning's semifinal, Summerhays broke away from University of Idaho golfer Laura Gerner with a birdie at No. 8 and won hole 11 to go 2 up. Then she closed out the match with three straight wins at 13, 14 and 15 for a 5 and 3 victory.
In the other semi, Smith, the 20-year-old SUU golfer, matched Fotu shot for shot and the two were still tied after 16 holes. That’s when Smith found tree trouble and made bogey and then Fotu birdied the final hole for a 2-up victory.
Fotu plans to play in next week’s Utah Women’s Open at Thanksgiving Point GC, while Summerhays will play in a Nike event in North Carolina in two weeks. Then it will be back to school for Fotu for her freshman season at BYU and, for Summerhays, her sophomore year of high school in Arizona.