State Am pressure no problem for ex-Ute hoopster Chris Grant
As a University of Utah basketball player from 2004-08, Chris Grant knows all about pressure, and how to calm his nerves and make clutch shots when they are needed the most in front of sizeable crowds.
That happened Thursday evening, but on the fairways and greens of the wonderfully manicured Country Club of Salt Lake City, rather than the free-throw line down the road a bit at the Huntsman Center.
Grant made a birdie on the second playoff hole, The Country Club's signature ninth hole, as darkness was starting to set in, to grab the final berth for match play at the 114th Utah State Amateur.
"I love the pressure," Grant said as 50 or so onlookers walked away from the ninth green. "... I was totally at peace in the playoff."
Grant, 29, who now works for an investment manager in a sales role, eliminated 49-year-old Mike Jorgensen and Hill Air Force Base golfer Michael Membrila, explaining that he was comfortable because he often plays the course in the gloaming with his father and brother.
Jorgensen and Membrila missed long birdie putts, while Grant had a tap-in for four after sticking a 4-iron to about 15 feet of the pin from 228 yards out.
On the first playoff hole, Andrew Barton made a birdie to grab the 31st seed, while Nick Herzog and Alton Anderson were ousted with bogeys.
"It's gut-wrenching," Barton said of the playoff, almost always the most dramatic portion of the five-day State Am.
The cut for the playoff came at 8-over-par 152, perhaps the highest cut in the last 20 years, with six guys battling for the two berths.
So Grant moves on to play defending champion Jeff Evans when match play begins Friday morning at 9 a.m., while Barton gets the No. 2 seed, BYU golfer Devon Purser.
The Cougar sophomore easily won medalist honors with a 6-under-par 138 (70-68), while his BYU teammate, Mike Jurca, finished second at 141. Former Alta High golfer Kenny You posted a 68 to rise to third place.
"This course suits me really well I think I can do well in match play," Purser said. "It's in excellent shape, the greens are as pure as can be, and it is a great test."
Indeed, The Country Club has emerged as the star in the 114th iteration of this tradition-packed event, with players raving about the course's condition and the place's overall elegance.
It even yielded some low scores Thursday, after only four players bettered par on Wednesday.
Of the 149 golfers who turned in cards Thursday, 93 improved their scores, 42 played worse, and 14 shot the same number they did on Wednesday.
As usual, Friday's matches feature plenty of interesting storylines. There's the seemingly annual BYU-Utah battle, as Cougar golf superstar Zac Blair takes on Ute Gentry Hicks, from Oro Valley, Ariz.
Then there's Utah Valley's red-hot Mason Casper against former pro Jon Wright, the club champion here at The Country Club.
Top players who failed to make the cut are McCoy Willie (153), Darrin Overson (154), Kirk Siddens (154), Mike Branca (155) and Craig Woodward (156).
114th Utah State Amateur
R BYU's Devon Purser easily wins medalist honors, firing a 4-under-par 68 Thursday for a two-day total of 138.
• Andrew Barton and Chris Grant claim the last two match-play berths after six players shoot 8-over-par 152 .