Aug. 16, 2012
SALT LAKE CITY - Former University of Utah golf Jon Wright captured the Utah State Amateur Championship last month at The Country Club in Salt Lake City. Wright played for Utah from 1992-95 and is a member of The Country Club.
Wright defeated Christian Jensen, 3 & 2, in the final match.
"There is nothing like winning on your home course in front of family, friends and other members," said Wright. "It's a dream come true. I felt if I could get to the match play part of the event, I would be hard to beat. I was playing well coming into the event, hitting the shots I needed to and having a lot of fun."
Wright also spoke about managing expectations and reflected on this win in the context of his senior year at Utah.
"During my senior year we hosted the WAC championship," said Wright. "I was a first-team all-conference player and a large favorite to do well. But I did a poor job of managing expectations. I started believing what people said and I put too much pressure on myself, and had an awful first round. I took that experience and my professional experience and listened when people told me I could win this event, but made sure not to burden myself with anyone else's expectations."
En route to the state amateur title, Wright defeated two current BYU players, Zac Blair and Mike Jurca.
"Whenever there is an outside tournament at The Country Club, I always feel it's my course to defend," said Wright. "When you put BYU players into the mix, it just adds a little extra spice."
Another Ute who had success at the State Am was senior Joe Webber, who reached the semifinals before falling to Jensen, 2 & 1. Webber logged a stroke average of 77.8 for the Utes as a junior in 2012.
Sophomore Gentry Hicks also advanced through the stroke play portion of the championship and into match play, before falling in the Round of 32. Additionally, redshirt junior Casey Halliday and redshirt sophomore Michael Coopman qualified for the tournament but were unable to advance out of the stroke play portion of the competition.
Jon Wright became the first member of The Country Club in a half century to win the Utah State Amateur championship, and to say that he had a small advantage over each of his foes is an understatement. His triumph was accomplished on the comfort of his home course of which he holds the course record of 64 and is a four-time club champion and the current reigning club champion.
Still his road to victory was not easy. In fact, it was just the opposite. Along the way he faced the best amateur golfers Utah has to offer. It is hard to imagine a more difficult chain of pairings than the one he faced and conquered. In the championship match Christian Jensen, from St. George, battled even with Wright through the first 18 holes, and at lunch break they were all square. However, in the afternoon round Wright won the eighth and ninth holes and took control of the match with a 2-up lead headed to the back nine.
Wright birdied the difficult 11th hole to go three-up, the biggest lead of the day with only seven holes to play. Jensen won the 12th, but lost the 13th and found himself three-down with only five to play. He halved a hole and won the 15th, but he was still down two with only three to play.
Wright won the 16th with a bogey and that won the match, 3 and 2. Wright never showed a weakness all week. He was solid off the tee, hit most of the greens, and was comfortable with his putting stroke. He never seemed tired or bothered by the heat.
He started match play with a huge upset over Mason Casper, the hottest player on the amateur circuit and who had just received an exemption in the USGA Mid-Amateur championship based on his solid summer performances. Wright won that match 4 and 3. In the second match Wright was forced into sudden death by Nic Booth, but survived with a narrow win in 22 holes, and had to pull Houdini tricks to accomplish that. Wright then faced another of the amateur circuit's hottest players, Mike Jurca, and Wright edged him 1-up. Jurca had chalked up five wins on the amateur circuit in the past two months.
He then faced former champion Zac Blair in the semifinals. Blair had just been ranked 23rd best amateur in the world which tells you plenty about his game. Wright survived that grueling test, 2 and 1.
Wright, a former Ute, was particularly pleased to oust Jurca and Blair since they are both Cougars.
Jensen's final round credentials were also impressive. His ranking in Utah has earned him a spot on the Utah team for the Pacific Coast Amateur.
The last member of The Country Club to win the State Am was Joe Bernolfo in 1961 when he defeated Arnie Ferrin, the famous University of Utah basketball star. Don Branca, the son of the head professional Tee Branca, won the title when it was last held at The Country Club in 1975, 37 years ago, and although he had ready access to the course at that time he was not an actual member of the club.
Steve Brinton, this year's tournament chairman and a member of The Country Club, played in the finals of the 100th State Am, but lost to Darrin Overson.