PROVO — Two years ago when he won the Utah Men’s State Amateur, Kelton Hirsch followed in the footsteps of BYU teammate Patrick Fishburn, who won the State Am in 2016.
This year Hirsch is trying to follow his former teammate and friend again by winning the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open as an amateur, a feat that has only been accomplished five times in the history of the tournament, which began in 1926. Fishburn did it in the 2017 Utah Open with a record 26-under-par score, becoming just the second amateur to win in the past 40 years.
The 23-year-old Hirsch, who will be a junior at BYU this fall, fired a 7-under-par 65 at Riverside Country Club to take a two-stroke lead over New Mexico pro Sam Saunders and Phoenix pro Blake Cannon with a 12-under 132 total. Saunders, the first-day leader, added a 69 to his first-round 65, while Cannon shot a 65 Saturday.
Another stroke back at 135 is 2015 runner-up Jordan Rodgers, a former BYU golfer from Salt Lake, Wisconsin pro Neil Johnson and Washington pro Ty Chambers.
Former BYU golfer Dean Wilson, who won the Utah Open in 1999 and was a regular on the PGA Tour for nine years, where he won one tournament, had the best round of the day, an 8-under-par 64 that puts him at 136 with 2013 champion Zach Johnson and BYU golfer Carson Lundell.
Hirsch didn’t have any explanation for his fine play, other than to say, “I hit a lot of good shots today.” Before tying for second at last week’s Salt Lake City Open, he said he wasn’t playing all that great. He lost early in the State Amateur and “took some time off” from golf but has come back strong.
Aa a member of the BYU golf team, Hirsch says it helps regularly playing Riverside, “which allows me to be a little more comfortable.’’ In Saturday’s round, he made four birdies on each nine and his lone bogey came at the par-4 14th on his initial nine. He finished in style with a birdie-2 on No. 9, his final hole.
Hirsch played in the same group with former Utah Jazz star Deron Williams and called him “a great guy to play with.” He said he especially enjoyed playing with Williams for two days, having grown up a Jazz fan. Williams played much better Saturday, finishing with a 2-over-par 74, but missed the cut with a 154 total.
OPEN NOTES: Reigning champion Dusty Fielding shot a 68 Saturday and is in a tie for 20th place at 140, along with 2014 champion B.J. Staten . . . The cut came at 146 with 65 players advancing to Sunday’s final round . . . The two women pros in the tournament, Sirene Blair (79-71) and Sadie Palmer (75-80), both missed the cut . . . The leaders will tee off at 11:25 a.m. on Sunday . . . First prize is $20,000.
UTAH OPEN LEADERBOARD
(a- denotes amateur)
132 — a-Kelton Hirsch (67-65)
134 — Sam Saunders (65-69), Blake Cannon (69-65)
135 — Jordan Rodgers (67-69), Neil Johnson (66-69), Ty Chambers (67-68)
136 — Dean Wilson (72-64), Zach Johnson (69-67), a-Carson Lundell (69-67), Matt Baird (70-66)
137 — Mitch Carlson (68-69), Justin Keiley (68-69)
138 — Joe Summerhays (70-68), Dalton Stanger (69-69), Mark Baldwin (68-70)
139 — Steele DeWald (70-69), Zahkai Brown (70-69), Chris Moody (69-70), Dustin Volk (70-69)
140 — Phillip Ready (71-69), B.J. Staten (71-69), Dusty Fielding (72-68), a-Brock Stanger, a-Rhett Rasmussen (71-69)
141 — Derek Butts (71-70), Nick Mason (69-72), Josh Anderson (70-71), Seokwon Jeon (72-69), Tommy Sharp (69-72), Russell Grove (68-73), Brandon Kida (70-71), Chris Dompier (69-72)
142 — John Greco (71-71), Luke Vivilo (71-71), a-Elijah Turner (69-73), Zachary Primavera (72-70), Mark Owen (69-73), George Markham (66-76)
143 — Jacob Holt (69-74), CJ Lee (69-74), Clay Ogden (73-70). Jere Pelletier (70-73), a-Kirk Siddens (69-74)
144 — Craig Hocknull (72-72), Shawn Edwards (70-74), Brian Thompson (71-73), a-Ryan Brimley (74-70), Ben Bryson (72-72), Nick Norton (72-72)
145 — Glenn Workman (76-69), a-Mitchell Schow (74-71), Eddie Stewart (73-72), a-Tyson Shelley (72-73), a-Blake Tomlinson (76-69), Tele Wightman (73-72), Cannon Robinson (75-70)
146 — a-Dan Horner (73-73), Joel Skarbo (71-75), a-Spencer Dunaway (75-71), Aaron Purviance (74-72), Pete Stone (72-74), Thomas Cook (76-70), a-Tommy Forsman (74-72), Tyler Fullerton (69-77), Andrew Garner (75-71)