Seven golfers with BYU ties will give Korn Ferry Tour’s Utah Championship local flavor
PGA Tour-brand event begins Thursday at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington and runs through Sunday; it will feature former Cougars such as Zac Blair, Patrick Fishburn and Daniel Summerhays
FARMINGTON — President and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Robbins and his staff at the Utah Sports Commission who team with the Korn Ferry Tour to run the Utah Championship golf tournament are living charmed lives these days.
Not only did the organizers get a couple of visits from PGA Tour superstar Tony Finau this week to bring attention to their PGA Tour-brand event, they also have the largest contingent of golfers with Utah ties entered this year since the tournament began in 1990 at Provo’s Riverside Country Club.
“It should be a tremendous tournament,” Robbins said last week when it was known that five golfers with BYU ties were in the field. Since then, two more are in via Monday’s 18-hole qualifying at Talons Cove Golf Course in Saratoga Springs, giving the event seven current or former Cougars in the field.
“It has been a crazy year. Slow start. Golf is a game that when you are playing well, you never think you will play bad. And when you are playing bad, you never think you are going to play well. So it has been a roller coaster of emotions.” — Former BYU golfer Patrick Fishburn of the Korn Ferry Tour
They are Patrick Fishburn, Daniel Summerhays, Zac Blair, Peter Kuest, Carson Lundell, David Timmins and Austen Christiansen. Of those, five are products of Utah high schools: Fishburn (Fremont), Summerhays (Davis), Blair (Fremont), Lundell (Lone Peak) and Timmins (Brighton).
The 72-hole tournament begins Thursday at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington and runs through Sunday; it will be televised by the Golf Channel. Wyoming’s Josh Creel, who shot a 24-under 260 last year to win by two strokes over Peter Uihlein, Hayden Buckley and Taylor Montgomery and drove off with the oversized $108,000 first-place check, has moved on to the PGA Tour and won’t be back to defend his title.
Instead, the focus will be on the seven current or former BYU golfers. This will be the sixth-straight year Oakridge has hosted the event, which has also been contested at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi and Willow Creek Country Club in Sandy. Officials are expecting some of the largest crowds yet.
“Certainly, we are thrilled to be back in Utah,” said Hal Geyer, a PGA Tour official. “This is the 22nd event of the season (on the KFT), of 26 (including the playoffs). The golf course is in great shape, and it always provides great drama here.”
Here’s a closer look at the seven men with BYU ties in the field, and how they got in:
• In his second year on the KFT, Fishburn played at BYU in 2011-12, served a church mission, then played for coach Bruce Brockbank again from 2015-18. The 6-foot-4 Ogden native was a multi-sport athlete at Fremont High, shining so much in basketball that he made the all-state team after the 2010-11 season.
Fishburn, 30, was one of three Utahns in the field last year, and the only one who made the cut. Summerhays and former BYU golfer Rhett Rasmussen were the others. Fishburn shot a 65 in the final round and tied for 35th.
This year, he’s 71st in the KFT standings and trying to remain one of the top 75 who will advance to the Finals. He shot 16-under two weeks ago to tie for 13th in Springfield, Missouri, matching his best finish of the season.
“It has been a crazy year. Slow start. Golf is a game that when you are playing well, you never think you will play bad. And when you are playing bad, you never think you are going to play well,” Fishburn said. “So it has been a roller coaster of emotions.”
• Summerhays, 38, who spent the spring volunteering as a BYU assistant men’s golf coach, is in the tournament for the fourth-straight year, this year on a sponsor exemption. In 2020, he rallied with a closing round 62 on his home course at Oakridge to make the playoff, but made a bogey on the first playoff hole and lost to eventual champion Kyle Jones.
“Super grateful to be playing on a sponsor exemption this week and looking forward to performing well in front of friends and family,” he said.
Can he contend this week?
“Contend to win? I would like to say yes,” he said. “Contend for a top 10? For sure, yeah, if I play well. I feel like I could shoot 15, 16, 17 under par. But these guys are really polished right now. If the wind stays down, the winning score could be in the mid-20s (under par).”
• The 24-year-old Kuest has limited status on the Korn Ferry Tour, but is also playing on a sponsor exemption because he doesn’t rank high enough for an automatic berth. A native of Fresno, California, he played at BYU from 2016-20, won 10 college golf tournaments, earned All-America status and claimed the Utah Open championship in 2020.
“I know I am not from Utah, but every time I see Tony (Finau) he jokes around that Utah golf has claimed me,” Kuest said. “So I am extremely grateful for that, and for (officials) giving me this opportunity to follow my dreams and follow that PGA Tour dream.”
Kuest, who currently lives in American Fork, will be playing in his 12th KFT event of the season; His best finish to date was a tie for 38th at the Live and Work in Maine Open in June and the AdventHealth Championship in Kansas City in May.
• Blair, from Ogden, played for BYU from 2009-13 and was an All-American in 2012, winning four college events. He started his pro career on the Web.com Tour (now the Korn Ferry Tour) and earned his PGA Tour card in 2014. He had surgery in November of 2020 to repair two tears in his right labrum and is slowly making a return to full-time playing.
This week’s tournament at Oakridge will mark his fourth Korn Ferry Tour start of the season.
• BYU’s Lundell, 24, won medalist honors at the NCAA’s Stockton (California) Regional a few months ago in his fourth year in the program, but has decided to take advantage of an NCAA rule that allows an additional year of eligibility due to COVID-19 disrupting the 2019-20 season. He’s also in the tournament via a sponsor exemption.
He’s played a lot of difficult courses this summer as part of the national Elite Amateur Series, but expects to have to make a lot of birdies to just make the cut at Oakridge.
“Honestly, I love all types of courses, hard ones and birdie-fests,” he said. “I feel like I can make a lot of birdies. So I love a birdie shootout. But I also love the tough, nitty-gritty courses, because I feel like I can hit it far and am an extremely competitive guy. So if even-par is a good score, I feel like I can shoot even-par anywhere on the planet.”
• A rising senior at BYU, Timmins shot a 7-under 65 and then survived a six-way playoff for one of the three final Utah Championship spots in Monday-qualifying at TalonsCove GC. He will be one of two current Cougars in the field, along with Lundell. A transfer from Westminster College, Timmins played in 12 of 14 tournaments in 2021-22 and was runner-up to Lundell at the 57th PING Cougar Classic in May.
• Christiansen, who played for BYU from 2015-17 before transferring to Sam Houston State in Huntsville, Texas, which is near his hometown of Houston, Texas, shot a 64 in the Monday-qualifying and will be the seventh player with BYU ties in the field this week. He won the Cougar Classic in 2016.