Who are the favorites to win the Utah Women’s State Amateur golf tournament this week?
Plenty of defending champions are in the 44-woman field, including Grace Summerhays, Lila Galea’i, Kelsey Chugg, Tess Blair and Kerstin Fotu
OGDEN — The field for the 116th annual Utah Women’s State Amateur isn’t the largest in tournament history — not even close — but it might be one of the deepest.
The venerable tournament begins Monday morning at Ogden Golf & Country Club with one round of stroke-play qualifying for the 32 match play spots and concludes Thursday with an 18-hole championship match.
Match play begin Tuesday morning with the round of 32 and continues Tuesday afternoon with the round of 16.
The quarterfinals and semifinals will be played Wednesday.
“It allows more players to have an opportunity to compete and get a taste of match play. The quality of players coming up through the ranks in Utah is getting better and better, so I think it is a good move.” — Four-time Women’s State Amateur champion Kelsey Chugg on the move to 32 players qualifying for match play.
Only 44 women have entered after the field included more than 60 contestants the past two years, last year at Oakridge Country Club and the year prior at Soldier Hollow.
“It should be a really good tournament,” said BYU’s Lila Galea’i, the defending champion. “There are a lot of good players in it. Whoever wins it will have earned it.”
Galea’i will tee off at 7:30 a.m. Monday morning in the featured group with 2020 champion Grace Summerhays (an Arizona State golfer) and Tess Blair, the 2018 champion when the event was held at Bonneville Golf Course in Salt Lake City.
The 7:40 a.m. pairing includes BYU golfer Kerstin Fotu, the 2019 champion at Logan Golf and Country Club, four-time champion Kelsey Chugg and incoming BYU freshman Berlin Long, who lost to Galea’i in extra holes in the championship match last year.
Chugg, who grew up in Ogden and played collegiately at nearby Weber State, said this will be the second year that 32 players make match play, a move she applauds.
“It allows more players to have an opportunity to compete and get a taste of match play,” she said. “The quality of players coming up through the ranks in Utah is getting better and better, so I think it is a good move.”
It is shaping up to be another one of those “Chugg vs. the college golfers” tournaments, but the former U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion (2017) isn’t feeling like the odds are against her.
Another of the state’s top “older” golfers, Annette Gaiotti, 68, played in the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur over the weekend in Alaska.
Other golfers to watch include Lone Peak sophomore Aadyn Long (Berlin’s sister) and Adeline Anderson, a BYU golfer who was the medalist last year with a 1-under 71 at Oakridge.
Chugg, who has played Ogden G&CC “50 times, ballpark” in her standout career, said the golfer who can keep the ball out of Ogden’s many tree lines will have the advantage.
“I think accuracy off the tee is really big,” said the associate director of Salt Lake City’s golf division. “Knowing where to miss it out here is really big, especially around the greens.
“They are really slopey, so you need to put yourself in good position and then hope some putts fall.”
Chugg is still looking for “one for the thumb,” having won in 2017 at Davis Park, 2015 at Hidden Valley Country Club, 2013 at Wasatch Mountain and 2012 at Logan Golf and Country Club.
She had some back issues a few years ago that kept her out of contention but showed promise last year when she made the semifinals before losing to Berlin Long.
She said her game is “similar” to where it was in 2017, and her length has returned.
“I’m hitting it probably 280, 285-ish off the tee,” she said. “The full swing is feeling good. The short game is coming around. I am excited to be out here and compete.”
Ogden G&CC is 6,185 yards from the white tees, from which the tournament will mostly be contested. The red tees measure out at 5,487 yards.
Berlin Long, who had a two-hole lead over Galea’i with two to play last year, said she expects a mixture of tees and some tricky pins.
Last year at Oakridge, the first year of 32 golfers making match play, the cut came at 11-over 83. Fotu and Whitney Banz survived a three-way playoff for two spots; Amy Erickson was eliminated.
When match play rolls around, a key hole will obviously be the par-5 16th, which measures 456 yards from white tees and is reachable in two.
Ogden Country Club is one of the few courses in the state that ends with a par-3, the 158-yard 18th.