14 years after winning his first State Am, former UVU golfer Nick Nelson wins medalist honors
On the other end of the cut line, 11 golfers survived a 16-way playoff to advance to match play on Wednesday at Alpine Country Club
Utah County father of four Nick Nelson might want to petition the Utah Golf Association to hold the remainder of the 123rd Utah State Amateur golf tournament at Thanksgiving Point instead of Alpine Country Club.
Nelson, who won the State Am in 2007 at Thanksgiving Point and then basically dropped off the state’s golf radar, resurfaced in stroke-play qualifying Monday and Tuesday and won medalist honors with a 36-hole total of 6-under 138.
Nelson jumped atop the leaderboard Monday with a 66 at Alpine, then held on Tuesday at the more difficult Thanksgiving Point course with an even-par 72.
“It was a grind,” Nelson said. “It was tough being in that situation because it has been quite a while for me, being a dad of four and being kinda outside the golf world, being put in a situation where you are just trying to hold on to a lead. That takes a different mentality.”
BYU golfer Spencer Dunaway, having recently exhausted his eligibility in Provo, tied for second at 5-under 139 with a bunch of other current or past collegians: BYU golfer Elijah Turner, former Utah Valley golfer Jake Godfrey and Dixie State golfer Camron Saunders.
Dunaway, from Mililani, Hawaii, was at 8-under Tuesday at Alpine on the front nine but made a double bogey on the par-3 12th hole to fall back into a tie with Nelson, who had finished hours earlier.
Bogeys on 14 and 15 took Dunaway out of the running for medalist honors.
“I kinda just got a little guidey out there with the swing,” Dunaway said. “There are a couple tough tee shots out there and I tried to force some shots that I probably shouldn’t have. I tried to play smart and kinda got into some trouble and just tried not to make some big numbers. I kinda gave a few shots away.”
Saunders, a Box Elder High product, moved up the leaderboard Tuesday with a 69 at Thanksgiving Point, which experienced a lightning delay of more than an hour.
Turner, a former star at nearby Lone Peak High who just finished his sophomore season at BYU, had a downhill putt for birdie on No. 18 at Alpine to tie for medalist honors but left the putt in the jaws, inches from the hole.
“I am not mad about it, though,” Turner said. “Just as long as I make match play, I am fine.”
Dunaway and Turner have to be considered contenders to win it all considering both made the semifinals a few years ago at Soldier Hollow.
Kelton Hirsch, another former BYU golfer and State Am champion, shot the round of the day, firing a 5-under 67 at Alpine to move into a tie for eighth. It was a good day for past and current Cougars, as sophomore Brock Goyen of Gilbert, Arizona, finished stroke play at 4-under to tie for sixth with another likely contender for the crown, former SUU standout Jake Vincent.
Can the 33-year-old Nelson contend?
Having played only four times this year before Monday, the current Vineyard resident who works in operational management for Northstar Homes isn’t sure himself. The only tournaments he plays in annually are the Art City Amateur and State Am, and he believes he might be the rustiest golfer to make match play.
But he might have some magic left in him after coming out of seemingly nowhere 14 years ago to knock off Scott Clark for the title.
“Playing at Thanksgiving Point today brought back a lot of memories,” Nelson said. “Obviously, it is fun to be back there. I have only played a couple times there since I won it. It was nice to just be competitive with all these young guns who are out there just changing this game. It is crazy.”
Nelson turned pro briefly after wrapping up his career at UVU, but “life got in the way” and he regained his amateur status. He’s now got four children, ages 11, 8, 3 and 18 months.
“I guess the conditions were right,” he said. “I came into it just hoping to enjoy myself and get back in the competitive flow.”
As usual, much of the drama at Day 2 of the State Am revolved around the playoff, as 16 golfers who finished at 4-over tied for 54th and battled for the last 11 spots.
Teenager Carter Frisby of Lehi was the only golfer to birdie the first playoff hole, No. 1 at Alpine, and advanced.
When Cannon Robison, Stewart Rutter, Willard Richards, Shane McMillan and Braden Price bogeyed the first playoff hole to eliminate themselves, no additional holes were needed.
Advancing with pars were University of Utah golfers Martin Leon, Colton Tanner and Oscar Maxfield, along with Preston Cheney, Zachary Dallimore, Brock Sivulich, Christian James, Tyler Jones, Ron Davis and two-time Mid-Amateur champion David Jennings.
Among the notables missing the cut were seasoned amateurs Brandon Hargett, Paul Winterowd, Clark Jones, Jeff Jolley and Dana Nelson.