SARATOGA SPRINGS — Fans, including the players’ family members, won’t be able to attend this week’s Utah Championship golf tournament, a stop on the PGA’s Korn Ferry Tour, due to the precautions put in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Cole Ponich isn’t as dismayed by that as most, however.

The BYU golfer at least will be able to wave to his family and friends as he passes the No. 2 hole at Oakridge Country Club, because he grew up in a home that borders the hole. Monday, Ponich qualified to play in the tournament that begins Thursday and runs through Sunday at the layout just north of Lagoon.

Ponich, who turns 20 on Tuesday, shot a 9-under-par 63 at Talons Cove Golf Club to become one of eight qualifiers for the tournament. Hayden Buckley, a former golfer at the University of Missouri, won the qualifying with a 10-under 62 at the course overlooking Utah Lake.

“It was kind of an emotional moment for me, because I have always dreamed of playing in a professional event, and it is kinda cool just finally seeing that happen. I knew I could compete with these guys and now I will be playing in a professional event on my home course that I have been playing since I was 13. That is pretty exciting.” BYU golfer Cole Ponich

Ponich was the low amateur and tied former Ole Miss standout Chris Naegel for second place.

“It was kind of an emotional moment for me, because I have always dreamed of playing in a professional event, and it is kinda cool just finally seeing that happen,” Ponich said. “I knew I could compete with these guys and now I will be playing in a professional event on my home course that I have been playing since I was 13. That is pretty exciting.”

The other Monday qualifiers were Washington’s Brady Sharp (64), former Utah Open champion Zahkai Brown (64) and three golfers who survived a seven-man playoff among those who shot 65: TJ Mitchell, Yuwa Kosaihira and Harry Hall.

Mitchell made a birdie on the first playoff hole to get in, Kosaihira birdied the fifth playoff hole to make it and Hall made a bogey on the sixth playoff hole at 9:32 p.m. as darkness fell to become the final entrant.

Jake Staiano, Peter Creighton, Patrick Flavin and Justin Suh made the playoff but failed to qualify. Suh four-putted for double bogey on the sixth playoff hole to lose his chance at qualifying.

The five best scores, and four of the seven scores that made the playoff, were posted in the morning when winds were noticeably calmer.

Utah Championship Qualifying


At par-72 Talons Cove Golf Club


Qualifiers


62 — Hayden Buckley (29-33)


63 — Chris Naegel (31-32), a-Cole Ponich (34-29)


64 — Brady Sharp (31-33), Zahkai Brown (33-31)


Playoff contestants


65 — Patrick Flavin (33-32), Justin Suh (30-35), Harry Hall (33-32), TJ Mitchell (33-32), Yuwa Kosaihira (32-33), Jake Staiano (31-34), Peter Creighton (33-32)


Note: Hall, Mitchell and Kosaihira advanced after a playoff

“I told my caddy everybody would have to go low to qualify, especially at a course that is known to be gettable with five par-5s,” said Ponich, who played the back nine first and shot a 29 there. “I went out and tried to be aggressive, tried to make everything.”

Ponich made birdies on four of the five par-5s.

“I made quite a few putts on my first nine, which really got me going, and then I cruised in on the back nine,” he said.

Buckley also played early. He was really close to finishing in the top five of the Mackenzie Tour in Canada last fall to earn Korn Ferry Tour status and avoid having to qualify on Mondays, but had a bad final round in the last tournament of the season and fell out of the top five. Former BYU golfer Patrick Fishburn won that particular event and became the No. 5 player, advancing instead of Buckley.

“It can be a cruel game,” Fishburn said.

Ponich, highly recruited a few years ago out of Davis High, described his first year at BYU as up and down, but mostly satisfying.

“I wasn’t pleased with the way I scored, but I felt like my game was good all year,” he said. “I never really played horribly. I was always in the lineup and I hung in there with some of the best freshmen in the country.”

He said he spent a lot of time during the pandemic working on his short game, and that work paid off Monday.

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“I didn’t feel like my game was near as good as it could have been,” he said. “So it was kinda motivating for me as soon as the year got over to really work on my short game because I felt like I left a lot of shots out on the course during my freshman year. But I’ve started to get a lot better.”

Among other qualifier hopefuls with Utah ties, former BYU star Rhett Rasmussen and BJ Staten of Cottonwood Heights, a former Utah Open winner, shot 66s.

Utah pros Dusty Fielding and Matt Baird shot 67s, while Gipper Finau, brother of PGA Tour star Tony Finau, shot 69.

Former Utes Kyler Dunkle and Brandon Kida also shot 69s.

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